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  • Justin Cliffe

Dissecting The Frog


Last night, after two solid weeks of collaborating on an ACW funded R&D project that has been close to my heart (and locked in a cupboard of my control) for over four years, we shared a work in progress version of The TigerFace Show with an audience at The Reiverfront. So today, I am breathing deeply, whilst sitting back and reflecting on what just happened.


My early explorations of TigerFace were always completely solo. I'd think up some material, take a balloon and an egg out onto stage, play a pre-recorded track and see what happened. These early experiments would take place within the safety of Scratch Nights and/or Cabaret. They were a way for me to explore the rehearsed and the improvised, in an attempt to create a live dichotomy of ideas, and find a new relationship between me and my audiences. However, as the character evolved, so did the work and it's intentions.


Now, TigerFace is about a lot of things; success and failure, childhood and adulthood, expectation and event, joy and misery, and fiction and autobiography, as well as a daft and deft externalisation of my own mental health. The work grew quickly, and as soon as I started getting involved in story telling, making broader strokes and thinking up bigger ideas, I knew I had to get people in to help me with it, and so a pretty unique team started to form. There's a Theatre Designer (Kirsty Harris), who is not only in the show, but designs and makes a new and crucial element of it live back stage every single night. A Techie (Bob Condick) who sit's side of stage dressed as elephant just for the sake of one joke. And now a Director and Dramaturge who has stepped into the jungle to help me explore and redefine the work whilst searching for it's absolute truth.


I see the merits of collaboration in all the work I do with Tin Shed Theatre Co. and Georgina Harris. However, in my solo world of making, I think I had been otherwise blind to it. I knew why I was letting Paul in, but I didn't necessarily know what that would entail. I didn't anticipate it would be tough to have someone ask me so many questions, want you to explore so profoundly, and have certain ideas that may or may not feel entirely comfortable. One day, as a sub consequence of mild frustration caused by my own headiness, I got pretty upset when Kirsty and Bob wanted to scalpel, and insert some wires into a mechanical frog (Froggo) I've got. I let them, but not gladly. Anyway, Kirsty and Bob proceeded on their surgical mission, and as a result they created one of the most beautiful moments in the show. So that's what I'm thinking about today. Because I am an artist who likes to be close to each and every part of what ever it is I'm creating, I want to realise it, hold it, and mould it into shape, but I also need to learn that when/if I let go, something wonderful might happen, and actually the whole two weeks has been like that. As the lead artist and auteur of the work, I obviously want to see it as form as whole, but you cannot know and see everything, and so that's exactly why you bring people in. Eventually you gotta let people dissect the frog, so something otherwise unknown can happen.

From this round of R&Ding I want to give a huge thank you to; Catheryn McShane, Maggie Dunning, The Riverfront, Fez Miah, Bertie Harris, Chelsey Gillard, Jac Ifan Moore, Georgina Harris, Bongo Peet (for such timely feedback) and everyone else who came along to the sharing.


Mucho,


JTC

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