HerStory – evaluating our scratch performance

On 22.10.2019 the company came together for a group evaluation of the scratch performance of HerStory: The Catchpole Chronicles that had taken place in August. We watched video footage of the performance, ate some scones, drank tea and spilled our thoughts, good and bad. All voices and viewpoints were heard, from the creative team, the cast and some audience members. The feedback is summarised below, and will be incorporated into the next iteration of the work.

Music

  1. Need to bear in mind acoustics of performance space
  2. Singers sometimes felt overpowered by musicians as they were so close by
  3. Repeated musical ideas keep consistency and tie narrative together

Scenes

The Cruel Sea section – could the music be elongated and get more dramatic, ‘crash and batter’ rather than be repeated? Might need more narrative movement or projection. Not sure what the dance is saying here.

The Revenue Man – started a bit slow, but then great sense of party and energy. Needs more hustle and bustle.

Hell Above Ground – although this was one of the most challenging/complex pieces it held great power – rhythmic sections were spot on, movements large and volume high. Could the ‘Bloody Code’ be embedded into the animation or read out?

Ev’ry Turn of the Tide a bit weak – not as well learned

Margaret Catchpole song and reprises – Could there be a really strong visual (dance/movement) theme?

Send Her to the Gallows – need separate groups for each character otherwise this is confusing. Could the judge address the audience as if they are Margaret? Could the judge be mic’d? Cast should stay standing after the walking to move into clumps for ‘arson, robbery, murder.

Words/lyrics

  1. Could some be shown on screen to help narrative? Maybe in repeated Margaret Catchpole song, as sometimes these were sung too fast to be heard. Need to be just enough to give the audience a clue, but not every word as this would be patronising
  2. Spoken word sections were very powerful. Could we use more of this, perhaps without music?
  3. Some spoken sections could be slower
  4. Silience was very powerful

Animation

  1. Used as scenery and to explain some of the narrative, a backdrop giving flavour to the story and setting the location for each section
  2. Could the animation ‘rewind’ at the end just before the film is played

Film

  1. All felt to finish on this was very powerful
  2. Drew sense of realism back into the piece
  3. Told the story of the letters well

Narrative

  1. Could more be made of the fact that a crime has been committed? Audience need to know gravity of this.
  2. Do we need to show Margaret as a separate character?
  3. Need to punctuate meeting of Margaret and Will more strongly
  4. Is an interval needed, or do we need to include more of the story?
  5. Could each scene end with a strong visual of the closing chapter, or introduction of the next chapter? Maybe parts of letters appear in the animation as though being written between scenes? Or the performers anticipate the next scene by moving into it at the end of the last, so not all scenes begin with the beginning of new music.

Staging

  1. Considerations to be made regarding type of chair, colour of costume (beige may be too light? Though offers potential for performers to be projected on?)
  2. Good to be bland, but could we add colour via scarves or accessories?
  3. Radio mic instead?

Lighting/ projection

  1. Can be used effectively between scenes (do we need a lighting designer?)
  2. Could we create Margaret’s ‘shadow’ to appear and disappear to help the narrative (could words turn into her shadow and back into words?)
  3. The beginning scene with the dancer, violin and projection could be enhanced with lighting and timing of who comes in when
  4. Could we also project onto the floor when the space isn’t being used by performers (only useful if we have raked seating, but could create more movement and narrative potential – projecting water/ horseshoe prints or a galloping horse/ flowers in Australia that might be more interesting projected on the floor than on the back, or as well as)