Being There

Theatre director (and good neighbour) Duncan was over for a beer the other day and we talked a bit about technology making things like sets and locations and actors redundant. (I’m exaggerating.) He looked forward to the future promised by Sin City and 300. I struck back with Stars Wars Episodes I-III, and misremembered/misquoted Roger Ebert‘s essay on Werner Herzog which mentioned the rapturous truth of being on location.

Even though we were only talking about hypotheticals, the discussion camped out in a corner of my head. Surely there was more to my response than cynical pop references?

As always, the universe provides: last week, Stevo patiently guided The Boy and I through an afternoon and evening of a pool game of the FIFA U-17 Women’s Football World Cup*. At first, all I could think about was the physical discomfit of the cold plastic seats, exposure to the elements (a cold wind, passing showers), and the stench of fried food and stale beer. But somehow this was overcome by the immediacy of the game playing out right in front of me, the roar of the sizable crowd, the chanting and singing of blocs of fans supporting the teams. I got caught up in the spirit of the game. I started watching.

I’m not a sports fan to the dismay of my longtime male friends but I’ve been exposed to enough televised sport that I know when a player’s off-side, where the gully and slip are, what a zone defence entails, and the joke that is ‘non-contact’. For all that, I don’t care for it, really. When it’s on the box, I’ll just as readily watch Banzai! as world cup rugby. But take me to a live game –

– where I’m a short physical distance away from the action with little to no possibility of instant replays –

– and there’s a polite controlled mob hysteria that I’m happy to be swept up in –

– where else could I be as exhausted and aghast with each and every close call that happens on the field? Where else could I not care for the shrieking from the woman in the seats behind me?

I can’t speak for actors but the wannabe filmmaker within me believes that the let’s pretend approach can only take you so far. The environment and your senses inform what you’re doing. Whether you’re fighting frostbite at a rugby game or racing against the light on location, nothing beats being there.

When Bern asked, What were you guys doing at a women’s football game?, I flashed on my niece’s look of Yeah, riiight when I tried to explain to her that I watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer for its brilliant and daring storytelling.

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