Last night, I put away my scripts, closed the tabs with my show notes on them, and settled in to watch the Where We’re Going films in my dressing gown. I was so captivated by the other pieces that I forgot I had even made something for it. I almost forgot to feel that weird stomach-stirring sensation of watching something you’ve made play out in front of you.
When the films ended, I realised that the festival was really coming to a close. I remembered my other pressing deadlines looming…how will I avoid those now?! How do I say goodbye to a festival that has completely transformed how I view this industry and my future more generally? How can you properly say thank you to people who have brought you so much joy without ever having met them? How can you feel so close to them but so far away at the same time?
Anyway, it ended, and this weird feeling starts creeping up on me. The same feeling I had when we released our work-in-progress show Vibrations earlier in the week. The same feeling when my scenes in The Choir ended…what did people think? Did they like it? Did they hate it? Do they hate me? Have I just got this all wrong? Are they laughing? In a good way? In a bad way? Will I ever work again? I hate this. I love this. I hate this. I need a wee.
Then came the anti-climax. I wasn’t in the theatre bar or laughing backstage with the team; I was in my dad’s house, sitting in the spare room, with a cup of tea that had gone cold.
Aside from the odd tweet or email, I had no idea what people made of the work we’d put out there. That’s partly why I’ve been so grateful to read the Noises Off criticism. I’ve found myself longing to see the audience. To see what, if anything, resonated with them. Which bits made them laugh, which bits they thought were wanky, jarring, which bits they checked their phones on…because we create to engage an audience, right? I wanted to eavesdrop on bathroom conversations. Or even to smile through a “wow, you all learnt your lines so well” or “yeah, yeah, the lights were great…”.
If I’m honest, I think a bit of me also craved the validation you can get from audience reactions. Part of me wanted people to tell me whether I was good or not. I know that’s so not helpful in making work, and it’s something I’ve got a lot better at not focussing on, but this week has made me realise how much I have previously fed off the audience.
So, if we couldn’t fully gauge the audience response, why did we do our projects? This week has taught me how important it is to genuinely believe in what you’re putting out there, even if it’s not yet ‘perfect’. To fully back your work and to back yourself. To tell stories with the aim of entertaining an audience, but to appreciate that it’s not their job to validate you or the work you’ve shared. I’ll try to take this forward. Somehow, I don’t think I’ll ever see those post-show drinks in the same way again.