With the end in mind
30 March 2018
Louisa Doyle on Lights Over Tesco Carpark and the peak-end rule
The Peak End Rule: a psychological heuristic by which people judge an experience largely based on how they felt at its peak (i.e. its most intense point) and at its end, rather than based on the total sum or average of every moment of the experience.
An audience will likely remember a show based on the peak end rule - it’s best, worst and final moments. Crack them up. Make them cry. But most of all - stick the landing.
For an hour, Lights Over Tesco Carpark had us eating out of the palm of their hands because we wanted to believe in the story they told. We wanted to believe in aliens. We drew them, danced with them, felt the tingle in our fingers. And Robert (*Jack’s uncle) confirmed a sighting on the phone. Then, at the end, they flash up the facts; “None of this was true”, as if this might cross out the play with one big red pen. But it doesn’t - because like anything that happens on stage, seeing and believing are not the same thing. The peak end rule can be evaded. As director Jack Bradfield said, “something can be real for an hour and that’s okay”.
This week would not have been the same without our collective wishful thinking. Many of us probably didn’t imagine that we could ever get this far. Stretched for time, strapped for cash, NSDF is not an easy place to reach sometimes with only a creative vision for motivation. All the same, sixteen shows happened this week. Every single one of them shone.
NSDF is a bubble. It has its own kind of reality, one that Saturday will inevitably come to pop. But even if this year’s festival disappears, the ideas that have come out it don’t have to. Together, we came up with all the things we want for the theatre, how it could be accessible, innovating, rule breaking. That isn’t the case in our reality, but what’s to say that we can’t dream it could be in our industry?
And for some of us, there is a chance that the work made here won’t live on once the festival is done.
Photo credit: Giulia Delprato