Radiolab got to the heart of what I've been trying to unpick about Birdman and maybe also Wolf Hall in the last few posts, in their new episode about pro wrestling. They talk lot about real and staged in wrestling, about how fans enjoy trying to distinguish between the two, watching for the unguarded moments. Wrestlers have a script and they usually follow it, but not always, and not in every moment. What they say about this on the show kind of sums it all up for me:
"what makes wrestling so powerful is the never-ending search for the reality within the unreal. The fact that we get to blend these things together"
"I just think there's a part of the human brain that wants to be confused between those boundaries, that wants to be slipping between what's real, what's fake, to feel that confusion."
I think this second idea sums up a lot of what draws me to the live art I like. For example, in Forced Entertainment's Quizoola you're doing the same thing, watching for truth to come through the cracks in the game.The incredible Wake Up Tomorrow at Circa was like this too- I was always asking myself "is this part of the plan?" When we watch stand-up we're looking for the truly off-the-cuff stuff that is really just happening for us, and we love it when we think we see it. In Birdman, there was the idea that maybe in the stark light of the long takes you'd see beyond the character of Riggan Thomson and glimpse Keaton. It's nice to think that this way of watching is not just some "high art" appeal to theatre wankers, but something that we all enjoy.
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