Reflecting on 200 Years of Autumn

Published by Cara Honey on

It’s been just over two months since I completed my commission with the University of Winchester. So I feel like this is the perfect opportunity to reflect on how it went, my artistic practise and what I’m taking away from the experience.

Over all the project was a huge success. We received some brilliant feedback on the night from our community partners and audience members. The show ran seamlessly to time (considering that we had never done a full run before the night, this was quite an achievement for the host and performers). Audience numbers were high which was brilliant for Play to the Crowd who hopefully did well on the box office and the bar. The cast and collaborators really enjoyed themselves and we got everyone in the mood for autumn. One element that we fell down on was our tech. We had a brilliant, dedicated team but we didn’t have enough time on the tech day and we were over ambitious. Although the performance was under two hours long (including interval) it was made up of over ten different, short performances. The resulted in a lot of light changes that didn’t always go according to plan.

Artistically this was an interesting project. I had over ten scripts, poems and short stories to edit, cast and stage. Each one was very unique in its style and atmosphere. During my two months on the project I directed a number of students with varying needs and expectations. It was exciting jumping from one script/cast to another and being able to realise the differences in pace and energy. For example we had one short storey which was called the Picking Party. Picking Party was about a couple who owned a vineyard and had family and friends help them collect their Autumn harvest. On my first read I knew that I wanted this to be a performance that included Physical Theatre and exaggerated movement. Once we started rehearsals however, I realised that my performers weren’t physically strong enough to do complicated lifts and that I wouldn’t have time to increase their fitness levels due to the time constraints of the project and my other commitments within it. So, I decided to get them moving as one and they created an imaginary vineyard, mining the picking of grapes and exaggeratingly gorging themselves on French bread and cheese, truly bring the language to life. It was a wonderfully high energy performance. Compared to the Coffin Walk, this was a very sombre short storey and due to the abilities the performer I had to once again compromise on my vision. This performance consisted quite simply of the performer orating the poem and connecting to the audience at moments of importance. It was very simple in contrast but the contrast worked brilliantly. In a showcase event like Two Hundred Years it is important to remember that variety is everything and the change in atmosphere is what makes the event entertaining and special.

The main thing that I will take away from this project is the confidence that I can successfully deliver a large scale performance event. Where I have worked with a number of different artists, contributors and collaborators successfully the thanks and appreciation that I have received from the students I have directed and the writers whose work I was lucky enough to stage have been incredibly heart warming.