To open a one woman show with a conscientious effort at elephant trumpeting is somewhat different. It set the mood for the whole show. Martha Pailing wrote, created and performed Background People, inspired by her curiosity to examine the imagined lives of those that inhabit the background in any picture, real or photographic. The show developed from blocking out people in the foreground of images and moving the frame to those normally not noticed. Imagination then took over as Martha gave them a life story loosely based on people she knows. She describes her show as:
‘… spoken word, theatre and live art detailing a series of short absurdist stories exploring commitment, obligation and the inevitable demands that accompany decision making. It is an unashamed celebration of human messiness.’
The result was an hour of surrealist snapshots, each captivating and watchable, as Martha performed in her stream of consciousness style. Each word was beautifully articulated and individually selected to create a succession of poetic images for our minds and before our eyes. Everyday activities put under the theatrical microscope and examined meticulously. The audience watched mesmerized – we all do these things – and acknowledged the intimacy of each task with pleasure or pain. Martha showed us out loud what we often think but would not dare to speak. The ordinary stuff of everyday took a starring role and its place in the scheme of things.
I saw the scratch performance of this piece at Bootleg Social earlier in the year and it was interesting to see the development and refinement that had taken place since. Having said that I won’t describe the details for it is those delights that make us smile, laugh, cry and generally feel in the moment as the show progresses.
Martha Pailing’s performance is beguilingly wide eyed and profoundly honest. She draws us in quickly and keeps us there until the end, as we relate and meditate in equal shares on the minutiae of life she presents to us.
Background People is supported by the Roundhouse, LeftCoast and Arts Council England with set design by Jonathan Van Beek, dramaturgy by Annie Siddons and produced by Katy McLeod. If you missed it in Blackpool, Background People is also being presented in London on Sunday 1st July at the Roundhouse at 6pm and Newcastle on 29th July at Alphabetti Theatre at 1:30pm.
Photograph by kind permission of Katy McLeod
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