Jon carried off Gerard’s role admirably last night as the third of the replacement performers out here in Bucharest. Recasting the show has been an instructive process. Just listening in has taught me more about how things work back stage – I put these trousers on over these trousers so in the quick change that’s coming up all I have to do is take off these. You set this prop here so it’s ready for that. Make sure when you these off that you place them there so you can grab them easily later on. I have also become privy to more of the performers inner logics – when I look here I imagine I’m seeing that; you’ve just come from doing this so you feel like that; at this point such and such has happened which is why she responds like this. There have also been revealed some of the content of conversations that take place on stage between characters but are never heard by the audience. Telling other people what we do has caused us again to recall why we do it.
Both Gerard and Bernadette have found it a curious and at times emotional experience, handing over their roles and seeing others perform them. Inevitably the initial performances feel like copies of the original. Moves and gestures are altered more by vagaries of memory, biomechanics and the different presence bought by these new performers than active artistic interpretation. Yet extremely quickly, as spare processing power can be diverted from “what do I do now” to “how shall I do this”, fresh versions emerge. The once definitive performances of the devising cast enter a dialogue with alternative performances. It is a fascinating and often surprising thing to watch evolve – a reward for those crazy enough to watch the same show dozens of times in succession.
It turns out that Bucharest, despite presenting some challenges, is a great place to be performing these two shows. The country’s dramatic recent history provides both powerful content and an eager and engaged audience for Of All The People In All The World. Our sense is that Constance Brown is seen as more radical here than it is at home and responses in each direction thus feel heightened. However, what makes this almost the perfect city in which to perform this show is that when you leave the venue late at night and walk along the streets, there in the gutter, between the neon of the currency exchanges, casinos and sex shops on one side and streaking car headlights on the other, ignored by bustling pedestrians and screaming traffic alike, dozens of stooped figures, mostly women, in green work-wear, continually sweep leaves, litter and city dust from the streets. I look at each on of these and the flower sellers and prostitues and elderly beggers and think of Constance Brown in all her guises including those which never reached the show.