“We’re fighting a war against anonymity” says Gob Squad’s Sean Patten.
The Berlin-based theatre group (now entering its 20th year) plans to get up close and personal with Calgarians tonight January 22 in their popular show Super Night Shot . Patten says the show is something between film and theatre what he calls “live film.” Four performers in the group synchronize their watches hit record on their cameras and take to the streets. When they return to the theatre the resultant film is projected on four screens and given commentary by the performers.
Patten says Super Night Shot was inspired by the movies. “You can talk to anyone in the world about film it’s universal” he says. The group realized that they like most people watch much more TV and film than they saw theatre and wanted a way to merge the two.
The narrative (so to speak) of the performance was inspired by author Joseph Campbell and his “hero” archetype (think Star Wars .) One performer is the hero whose job is to approach strangers on the street and ask “How can I improve the city or help you?”
Patten says this has involved everything from assistance in constructing Ikea furniture to a request for beer money. “That was recently in Vancouver” says Patten. “Quite a few homeless people asked for that. It was a moral dilemma.”
He adds that the climax is a big beautiful onscreen kiss with a stranger. Finding someone who’ll do that is the casting director’s job. “It can succeed or fail” he says. “It adds an extra layer of excitement to the show.”
The performers record all the action on simple hand-held recording cameras. “We realized you can’t go around with a big crew it makes people too anxious” says Patten. “The low-tech approach allows us to meet people eye-to-eye and invite them on an adventure.” He adds that more people are curious and happy to participate than you might think.
The performance isn’t without its risks however. Patten says members of the group have been physically assaulted and had cameras stolen though this is rare. “In France we were chased by the police in a car and they made us shut down and stop filming” he says. “It’s definitely risky but we have a sixth sense for potential danger.” Additionally it can prove to be a technical challenge. Patten says a performance in Quebec City proved to be a bust after the temperature hit -20 C. “The LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) on the cameras just froze solid” he says.
Gob Squad has 10 different pieces in their repertoire — if you miss this one Gob Squad’s Kitchen (You’ve Never Had It So Good) which uses the Andy Warhol film Kitchen as the starting point in its quest for authenticity in modern life is also showing at the High Performance Rodeo — though Patten says Super Night Shot continues to remain the most popular. The group has done nearly 200 performances of the show across the globe. Patten adds that the group might do a run of two or three shows in any given city but each film is only screened once.
“Each film is like a portrait of the city” he says. “Hopefully it’s one that people won’t expect. It’s always such a thrill. Every performance feels as new and nerve-wracking as the first one.”