AUDIENCES in Inverness are very important to theatre company Vanishing Point – and not just because it is always nice to have someone to perform in front of.
The reaction of the preview audience at Eden Court, as at this weekend’s performances of latest production The Destroyed Room, can help shape future performances or at least give an indication of how well the show will be received.
"Those early previews we do in Inverness will be a great opportunity to see how the show works with an audience," Vanishing Point artistic director Matthew Lenton said.
"It’s a two way thing. The audiences get to be first to see the new work and we the chance to try things out and see how a show changes in front of an audience.
"Theatre for me is a group of people coming together to share an experience and that group of people includes the audience as well as the performers. It always feels weird to me when plays pretend that the audience isn’t there. It’s very much a live event and a shared event."
This particular event takes its inspiration and its title from Jeff Wall’s famous photograph The Destroyed Room, which also appeared on the cover of the Sonic Youth album of the same name.
"We never really start from a script. We always start from an image or an idea," Lenton explained.
"This show is actually more like a conversation that happens on the stage. It seemed the best way to address some of the issues that we wanted to talk about, which are very contemporary and very much in the news at the moment."
The setting, partly inspired by Channel 4’s controversial and occasionally drink fuelled discussion show After Dark, sees three guests gathered around a table (Elicia Daly, Pauline Goldsmith and Barnaby Power) and discussing topics of the day such as the civil war in Syria and the resultant refugee issue in Europe.
While they talk, cameras zoom in on their faces and transmit them on screens at the rear of the stage, but as the discussion continues, the atmosphere changes and things begin to get darker.
It is a rather different approach from any other Vanishing Point show, but that should be just as expected from the innovative company.
"Every show is different because you have to find the form that suits the subject," Lenton said.
"Interiors, which is a show we have done a lot, happened behind a giant window so the audience were looking at the actors so they could see what they were doing, but couldn’t hear what they were saying. In Tomorrow, we used realistic masks that were pulled down onto the actors’ head, while with The Beautiful World of Ivor Cutler we had a live band. The form is very different and hopefully that keeps our audiences interested an intrigued enough to come back time and again."
The Vanishing Point approach also requires a special breed of actor, one able to perform without the safety net of a prior script.
"They need to be brave and have a sense of adventure," Lenton said.
"They are inventive and have an artistic curiosity, so a lot of stuff that goes into the show sometimes comes directly from them."
• Vanishing Point present The Destroyed Room at the OneTouch Theatre, Eden Court at 8pm on Friday 19 and Saturday 20 February