What an aching nostalgia it is to be reunited with The Cleansing of Constance Brown. We have memories and photos and videos but to see it coming alive in front of me again is breathtaking, a crushing reminder how inadequate those other forms are. The euphoria of seeing this show reanimating is given extra piquancy by the thought that this may be the last time that we will all be together; for of course the emotion of the show isn’t exclusively about the show, it is also about these people on this shared mission, bound in our joint endeavour, fused by the history of this thing we do when we are together.
Some theatre theorists would have this, our corridor, as a ‘sacred space’, it’s not. When the three phase power floods it with light and the four channel amp batters it with sound and the smoke floods into it then it is the crucible where the reaction happens. This space is a reliquary piled high with charged symbolic artefacts each of which must have its place in its prescribed position if the ritual is to work its magic.
This act is something that can never be repeated; it can only be recreated. We are haunted by elusive ghosts of the old show, old notes, old props, costumes that have worn out or no longer fit. Nina’s laptop shows the corridor populated with courtroom figures, but above Harry is in the same space quietly sweeping, which is the ghost?
The official written record is merely a schematic embellished by different people’s memories and performers’ personal notes, softened to tissue by touch. There are sheets of A4 pinned to the back of the set that everyone refers to but no one quite trusts and the video record is no more reliable, a flawed and outdated deity still turned to for guidance in times of trouble, obscure and difficult to decipher, helpful but only to a point. From this point on the re-creation is in our hands, to make of it what we can, anything that we mis-remember or choose to alter will be part of the show’s evolutionary change.
I was proud of Yarker Junior the other day, she was talking about seeing The Translation of Shadows for the umpteenth time and she said “I like seeing a theatre show lots of times because it’s always different, films are always the same”. How right she is.