Upstairs in the water room we had a combined conversation between Lee Simpson's session entitled “Who should we be talking to?” and the session I was holding on Extra Live, which meant that the result was more of a discussion rather than a list of notes and actions.
The reason I had put forward a session on Extra Live was in response to Phelim's shout out that if you left and hadn't talked about something today, would you be kicking yourself afterwards? I didn't really have a question as such, rather than a desire to discuss the idea, mainly because I'm really excited about it and because it seems to ignite both artists, venues and audiences whenever it's described to them.
The term originated from Devoted and Disgruntled 10, in the session hosted by Jess Thom and Jess Mabel Jones, called “Relaxed Performances”. Venues kept saying during this discussion that they'd been having various issues with “Relaxed” performances, as had artists, with people thinking it meant the show would be substandard or for children. Also the way they had been managed sometimes meant that they hadn't really worked. During the discussion Max Barton put forward the idea of “Extra Live” as a new term for “The unexpected things that can come from performances where everyone is welcome” (Backstage in Biscuit Land). Everyone agreed this stretched further than access needs. Jess Thom then wrote a blog entitled “Relaxed vs Extra Live” where she discusses the merits of both terms and highlights that there is a difference between the two. Relaxed performances have their place as she would like to be able to access theatre where her Tourettes tics are not going to necessarily be incorporated into the show, as an Extra Live performance would suggest. Equally Extra Live is not concerned with access in the same way that Relaxed performances are.
Thus “Extra Live” has begun its own journey.
At the Backstage in Biscuit Land, What Next? Open Space event run by Jess Mabel Jones at BAC the following day from D&D10, Max Barton fielded a conversation entitled “Extra Live - What next?”. During this conversation class came up a lot more and issues around exclusivity, in particular with regards to the “Theatre Charter”. Maddy Costa followed this up with an article in the Guardian. Since then the idea has spread throughout the theatre world like wildfire, with many venues are already eager to sign up to the idea of being known as an “Extra Live” and “Relaxed” venue.
At this session we talked about what made something “Extra” live and laughed at the idea of adding more and more prefixes to words to try and get across the idea. That in years to come we will be saying “Super, Amazingly, Unbelievably, Extra Live!”. Then Chris Harrison mentioned the “Cat Test” coined by Chris Goode. “The Cat Test discloses liveness: an ordinary domestic cat is released into the midst of a theatre event, and if the event can refer to and/or accommodate the cat without its supporting structures breaking down — the structures of the event, not of the cat — then the event is said to be ‘live’.”
As there are many live events where the cat would be an issue, then events that can withstand the onslaught of a cat could be said to be ”Extra Live“.
It some ways this all seems silly, especially to a performer who embraces improvisation, as it's almost just describing good theatre, but the response to the term has been so great that it appears to require some kind of exploration. It seems to be a concept that everyone can latch onto and could be useful as a reference point for re-branding art forms that might seem stale to or losing ground with audiences, like clowns or fools. Theatre in general is lagging somewhat in regional theatres, so could the term ”Extra Live“ help re-invigorate audiences in provincial communities too? And if is this case, then Improvisation IS ”Extra Live" and so is already at the forefront of this kind of work.
- See more at: http://www.devotedanddisgruntled.com/events/dd-iii/reports/extra-live-it-is-improv/#sthash.1mg1kk2L.dpuf