If there is a fictional back-story to The Cardinals it is that three cardinals have made a puppet/theatre and are taking it on tour to spread what they believe to be the word of God. Given this fact, it was peculiar to be performing the show at Greenbelt – a Christian Festival, exactly the place you might imagine The Cardinals performing their show. Though they may consider it ‘preaching to the converted’ there is probably sufficient at stake doctrinally for them to consider it a gig worth doing.
As with The Just Price of Flowers at Latitude my thoughts oscillated regularly between “this is great” and “we must never do this again”. I step into the venue, look at the crazy lay out of seating the rudimentary tech situation and think “we must never do this again”. The show starts and I get excited that this is theatre in some kind of raw elemental state – “this is great”. People wander in and out because they’ve bought tickets for the festival and not your show, they’re not committed so they don’t stay – “we must never do this again”. The crowd that stay are up on their bible knowledge, they get loads of the references that other audiences miss, they clap and laugh loudly and regularly at all the right points they’re here for a festival, to have fun – “this is great”. We get sound bleed from singer songwriters at every cardinal point, trampling all over the show – “we must never do this again”. At the end people cheer and shout and come up to say well done and post supportive messages on the website – “this is great”.
Ultimately, the detail that sums this all up for me is the wristbands. To enter the festival site everyone needs a wristband; as ‘contributors’ ours were green. Now the problem is that the wristbands are designed not to be taken off during the festival weekend, so the performers can’t take them off. This isn’t a great problem if you’re a singer songwriter but if you’re pretending to be a cardinal pretending to be the Virgin Mary or one of the prophets it becomes a bit distracting, it keeps reminding the audience that this is a performance at Greenbelt. It’s not that we expect people to lose all sense of reason and not know where they are, it would just be useful for them not to be reminded so regularly of where they are – the singer song writers are already doing a fair job of that. However, as well as being very annoying, the wristbands are also spot on. Ironically we are already using this device within the show. The Cardinal Graeme plays wears a rather ostentatious ring – which he expects Rochi to kiss at the top of the show. He doesn’t take it off and thus, intermittently through the show, within the beautifully composed, tightly framed stage pictures, we are distracted by this flashy ring apparently worn by Issac, Doubting Thomas, a Palestinian migrant worker Etc.. The festival is doing our own job for us – but more effectively than we may wish.