Thursday, 3 July 2008

stand up storytelling & martin parr

above images from Signs of the times, a portrait of the nations taste, 1992, Nicholas Barker & Martin Parr. The blurb on the back of the book states, "A photographic comedy of manners...both hilarious and serious." I particularly like this work as a very wry look at people's personal lives, in the most intimate space- the home, association we have with objects and calls into question taste.

martin parr- new brighton-from here

ok- so as the MA scratch approaches need to shape up on the storytelling side of things-think about how i possibly want to work with stories- make them more engaging? this is not the actual stories themselves but their style,structure, devices, ways of working with the audience. am finding lots of good ideas and material in looking at stand up comedy- which very much focuses on being in the real moment between audience and performer. following the one day course i did in april which got me started on the idea that comedy for me brings martin parr's witty/sharply observational style of photography to life, i started another this week as an evening class for 4 weeks resulting in a show (yikes- but all good practice for the MA show in september.) stand up by its nature is intimate, spontaneous, and the style i am enjoying exploring is conversational, observational, autobiographical- the autobiographical, being yourself, a key feature of the non-matrixed performance style i employ. i am interested in how this use of humour (the darker the better- thinking about shredders in my MA work-haha!) can work as a marked contrast to my photographic process where images are erased, mortal, die, gone.

this new class is giving me lots of new ideas for ways of working with material, and how important is really in the way you present things to the audience- hooking them into my world. i haven't yet thought about which bits are going to be good for my MA work and which wouldn't work- we'll see :) i have over the two classes so far tried out a range of devices for telling stories, particularly thinking about jack dees style, techniques.

Things we have talked about;
  • Use of mime- drawing pictures through gesturing
  • Sound effects- of things breaking, exploding (this i'm not into particularly-naff)
  • Anthropomorphism- human voices or attitude to animal, machine etc (again not sure in my MA work)
  • Use of detail- incredible detail to the overlooked or insignificant and less so to the important things
  • Direct speech-taking you right into the situation
  • caricature- simplifying, exaggerating people
  • Is like- this is like that -arguing with partner is like arguing with a barrister
  • superimposing eg family situation is like being in the courtroom, or superimposing things/devices used in work onto family situation (or me- eg proforma of the office worker in leroy st, onto the exchange of personal items)
  • bathos- build something as really important that collapses into the trivial
  • Questions- opening up communication between you and audience-helps you relax?
  • Repetition- of phrases
  • Framing- starting with a frame of association that may connect you with your audience?
I developed a story i told at the start of the class about a situation that keeps repeating itself, suing the above. I worked with a really annoying inherited family trait I have- being a serial checker, verging on OCD, working with extremes of contrast and the above ideas- useful for me to find what styles/devices I like.
Feedback I got;
  • fabulous energy-hooks you into my world straight away
  • very detailed- eg wedgewood pot where i'm supposed to keep my keys
  • scene was set well, framed well
  • strong use of mime- drawing a picture- felt very visual
  • strong use of mixture of fast and slow, loud and quiet to keep you interested
  • very likable
  • make more eye contact
  • interesting use of lists
  • use of swearing was good- very funny.
  • possibly not moral ending- keep it ending on a strong visual picture
  • strong use of anthropomorphism
we also talked about how to write stand up- from scripting and learning the whole thing, to jotting down key points and heading of an order, or to do it all ad lib, in your head. i think i sit in the middle on this :) allowing room for responding to the audience.
and next week we have to look outward not inward which will be a good challenge for me to compare- am thinking about the floral tributes found on flickr-maybe working with using the visual image directly- and see how this alters things for me. this will help as in the post grad forum, the showing the cat wreath image was said by some to spoil the way i'd built up a mental picture and almost then ruined the punchline? what about now if i start with these- what happens?-will the image need little verbalising and speak for itself or verbally can i offer a marked contrast to what you see- eh superimposing something? more performative lecture?

am feeling that this class is giving me lots of confidence but that possibly many of the devices might not work in my MA context so well- but all great experience and lots more to learn and play with. the extreme contrasts between image being erased/fading and funny anecdotes , yes. its just a matter of finding a style that i feel best works without feeling too constructed and still natural, still me :) i think i continue to work on a set for the stand up gig and a story for my MA show and see how they link up. once i work out the story in relation to the camera obscura- need to consider situating the audience within it- active/passive etc, does it actually become a conversation?

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