Chris Goode & Company | West Oxford Community Association, 29th May- 8th June | #STANDOxford
Following on from Soapbox City, a 12 hour event that saw May Day revellers take to the microphone and address Broad Street for five minutes on a subject of their choice, STAND formed part of the Oxford Playhouse ‘Plays Out’ programme that for this season is focusing on Oxford as the home of radical thinking.
STAND is an act of storytelling written both by and for the city. Cultivated from an open call to Oxford residents to share their experiences of speaking up, six people were chosen to be interviewed and transcribed. STAND is the culmination of their words portrayed verbatim by six professional actors and in this way, begins an exploration of what it means ‘to act’.
The stage design is a dream in symmetry. The actors occupy six identically marked out grey spaces/interview rooms, where they each sit behind a music stand on which rests the performance text. On a side table, by a glass of water, each actor is accompanied by an object that comes to represent a part of their story: a pot of Rosemary, a hat, a photograph of a young woman, a model narrow boat, a globe and a book.
The six stories overlap and intercut each other in real time; all part of the same story; all a story in its own right. Tales of taking a stand on homelessness, climate change, fracking, animal rights – big issues that risk undermining the humanity of an intimate performance such as this. However, the respect for the truth of individual’s stories right down to an idiosyncratic level (at one point an actor apologises that she has to leave the stage space to ‘check on her puddings’), prevents this from happening.
The act of ‘standing up for’ or, ‘speaking on behalf of’ is rife with its own issues – authority and assumption not least of those concerns. That the stories represented in STAND are enabled by degrees of privilege I have no doubt. That the making of it, going to watch it and writing about it, stands for social capital, I am sure. We must not forget that this is Oxford, after all. Yet where Chris Goode & Company triumph is in the presentation of each person’s narrative on an even (and not disingenuously ‘equal’) platform, which filters down to the performers themselves – each sitting quite naturally as they listen and react to the others’ stories as they are told: ‘This is not my story… this is not just about me… I’m just here for company.’
Amidst the frantic electioneering of the recent past, we have perhaps had enough of being bombarded by flyers, manifestoes and personal agendas, of which this show had many. How appealing then, that none should come under the guise of red, blue, yellow, purple or green and what a reprieve for creators, co-creators and witnesses alike that there should be no concluding ballot either, but that cast by the presence of people and noise.
Broken Spoke Bike Co-op: www.bsbcoop.org
Climate Camp UK: www.climatecamp.org.uk
Crisis Skylight Oxford: www.crisis.org.uk
Reclaim Shakespeare Company: www.bp-or-not-bp.org
Refugee Resource: www.refugeeresource.org
Save Port Meadow: www.saveportmeadow.wordpress.com
SPEAK: The Voice for the Rights of Animals: www.speakcampaigns.org
West Oxford Community Association www.woca.org.uk