Bring on the mischief #dennis2018

Its been a crazy week in which Dennis and the Chamber of Mischief has moved on a bit.  As discussed, months of sitting on a laptop, thinking a story is now transistioning into presenting said story in libraries and that process has not been plain sailing.

My first stop was in Northampton where I worked through the material with Dan McGarry.  We did this last year with The Hundred Mile an Hour Dog but this year we’ve both been so busy the get together is happening in the same week as the test event.  While last year I had told the story at home prior to seeing Dan, this was more or less the first time through Dennis in front of anybody else.  It feels clunky and clumsy and it lacks the dynamism I crave but that I know will come in time.  It is full of stops and starts but we get through the whole thing.  Dan has a few pointers and then has a go himself.  Watching him go through the story lets me think about how I would do it if I were asked to the story.

The second hurdle of the week is the test audience.  I head to Woolwich Library to tell the story to a proper audience and at the end they offer their feedback.  This criticism is generally invaluable and will help me to shape the piece.  Yesterday’s rehearsal was ropey but I am not worried.  Storytelling is about finding a balance between an agreed structure and instinctively responding to the live scenario.  Besides previous test audiences have been very positive about my projects.  What can possibly go wrong?  Well, the Woolwich test audience don’t hate the story but they don’t love it either.  They make valid points about the clarity of the delivery, the opportunity to participate and the music.  As awkward as it maybe for me to hear this I must take on board very quickly because I have presentations the following day.

24 hours later.

The day after the underwhelming test event I am scheduled to do two presentations in Islington.  After the first one I asked the audience their thoughts on the story and half the audience love it.  Phew, what a turnaround.  So what’s changed in 24 hours?  Well, on the advice of the test audience I have made further edits to simplify the story.  I have tinkered with the soundtrack, built in more audience participation and I have pared back the use of props and hats.  The truth is that many of the things the test audience said I thought already I just needed to hear them.  Another useful by-product of doing two presentations on the same day is that I am getting to grips with the material and starting to search for the pace of the story (ie finding a way through the telling that doesn’t slow me down or tie me in knots).  The clunkiness of two days ago is already giving way to a more edgy, creativeness which in time will make way for the slick fluidity of practice and confidence.

My week ends in Hull at the Big Malarkey Festival 2018.  The Big Malarkey is a colourful mix of music and stories and circus and joyful innocence.  The sun is out and the people of Hull have smiles on their faces.  I have done a few festivals this summer already and although this is a fleeting visit it’s obviously a belter.  The positive atmosphere coupled with seeing familiar faces from Hull’s library service inspires me to give a very energetic delivery of the story.  There’s laughter and it’s playful.  When I finish I want to do it again because it was fun.

As I leave The Big Malarkey and head south again a very important week in the life of the project is over.  By October these early bumps in the road will be a footnote in the project’s history.  From the pilot I gained the necessary perspective to move things forward constructively and then the handful of presentations I have already done have allowed me to begin a process of consolidation.  This is an exciting time and I am looking forward to the summer.