Chris Goode On ... Saying 'Hello' at BAC
Goode's credits have spanned large-scale and intimate projects, text-based and devised pieces, as well as poetry, music and arts criticism (he blogs at beescope.blogspot.com).
Chris Goode: I’ve never loved performing a show as much as I love doing The Adventures of Wound Man and Shirley, and one of my favourite bits every night is the very first line.
To be honest, it’s a line I’ve used before, and will definitely be using again.
The line is, “Hello. Thank you for being here.”
If I told you how many rewrites that line has been through, you’d probably laugh. It’s not easy to get it right. But in that line, for me, is everything. Probably without their even registering it, it tells an audience so much about who I am and what the show’s going to be.
It places us all in a room together, here and now, and it reminds us that we haven’t suspended the relations of our everyday lives just by coming through the door of a theatre. Here we all are, it says. We’re all real and we’re all just going to carry on living, for the next 80 minutes, in each other’s company. It says, I can hear you and see you and it matters to me that you’re here. It immediately tells the audience that I’m not the only one who’s doing something important in the room. To a BAC audience who might think interactive theatre looks like Punchdrunk, say, it’s hopefully a reminder that by giving me their attention so generously, they are participating in the making of something. I have only anecdotal evidence to back this up, but my experience certainly suggests you’re much less likely to hear someone’s mobile phone go off in the auditorium when a show has begun with “Hello. Thank you for being here.”
Wound Man and Shirley is sort of a bedtime story for grown-ups. Actually it started out as an idea for a novel, in which Shirley was a New York waitress dreaming of stardom. And then, in 2008, when Queer Up North asked me if I’d like to make a show with them, Shirley became a geeky teenage boy with a girl’s name, and the story as I now tell it started to take shape.
It’s a story with some difficult things in it, some spiky emotions and complicated relationships, and it’s secretly trying to do something rather subversive; but because I start by saying hello and inviting an audience to “settle back” and listen, I can create a tone in the room that takes some of the edges off and allows everyone to let their guard down. If I explored the same issues in a serious fourth-wall play I think there’d be walkouts!
A lot of people talk about storytelling as if it were a kind of magic, but it’s not. It’s just about craft, and honesty, and what a friend of mine calls ‘wholeheartedness’. That’s all. But it’s not, ultimately, that I start by saying hello because I want to be able to tell a story. It’s the other way around. I keep going back to storytelling because I want to be able to say hello.
The Adventures of Wound Man and Shirley runs from 8 to 10 December at BAC as part of a national tour.