Sunday, 29 March 2015

secret: putting on a show

It's tough to put on a show when you're not sure anyone is watching. I could wax lyrical about performativity and Foucault and just so much of everything; all the things I should probably not be thinking about in that 20 minutes before I finally fall asleep... but because I am meant to be studying this evening I've instead gone with this glorious tangent. Humour me.

I've been putting on this fantastic performance for years now, the performance that is Helen's Life. It's interesting to watch myself as the star of my show: there are times when the ratings have dropped, or the scriptwriters have lost the plot (literally, figuratively, metaphorically). the level of self-observation wavers between clueless and committable at different points in my life, and I'm working towards arriving at the happy medium of 'alert but not alarmed' - I'll tell you how I get there, if I actually ever do. 

The highlights reel features all the usual suspects: "Lose a tooth", "Santa isn't real", "Hand-me-down overalls", quickly followed by: "You can't just shave the front of your legs", "Underwire", "There goes my virginity", "How do I use eyeliner?". Once we get to the 20s there's a whole season on dating someone with a mental illness, followed by key plot device "The time I moved to Canada and learned to snowboard", that favourite episode "So this is why people enjoy party drugs", and emotional season finale "Maybe it's time to go home before someone gets hurt".

The last few years of the show have been rich in friendships and character development, and I'm pleased about how they've come together. It's a lot to do with the lighting - soft afternoon sun in a beer garden here, dawn on the way to the gym for a spin class there. 

My supporting cast are all beautiful - I've noted elsewhere that I prefer to hang out with people who are intelligent and attractive (while putting up with the stupid ugly ones in a compassionate manner). It's a fairly white cast, but choices have been reasonably limited by the on-location casting options. There's a reasonably regular support cast who seem to be happy to pick up extra scenes here and there without much warning script-wise. The dialogue is mostly improvised with overarching themes to work with - the cast will often do their own makeup and wardrobe, with varying degrees of success. Mostly they are very beautiful (I compliment them because there have been literally no pay-rises in years).

casting includes a shit-tonne of intelligent and attractive couples (see above) who are all actively progressing their own shows, pursuing further education and academic and business-based careers; these cast members aren't just eye candy for the viewers! Strong parental figures make a regular appearance but you will notice are no longer featured in the opening credits, and other family members guest star, sometimes during filming at beach and holiday locations. There are also occasional spots by old cast members, oftentimes with dismissive things to say about the location. We move them along after a cameo.

Romantic interests have served to be a complete bust so far; it's often helpfully suggested to the production team that this might be an area where the show needs development. To these folk with the helpful suggestions, the response has been that while the casting pool is local to the country town, we really don't have much to work with. The other response has been to bitch about these folk and their dumb suggestions at writer's staff parties after a few whiskys. At this stage, there's far too much potentially awkward cross over with other regular characters or in regular locations for any pursuable or credible romantic storylines. With the show's feminist undertones, this perceived 'lack' admittedly isn't viewed by production to be much of an issue: depth is added through the fleshing out of character, career, friendships and other interests. Although a little extra sex never goes astray, ratings-wise.

Most used sets include Home; Work and the Bar. filming also occurs on a semi-regular basis at The Armidale Tourist Park, Mum's House and the Cafe. Happily, the show has regular extras at these locations: in particular, the Work cast has been consistent, even when it's only consistent that the show's direction is not always in keeping with expectations of these minor characters.

The current season of the show has very little conflict and there has been some feedback that some work needs to be done in envisioning the show's future. A location change is often suggested, but at this stage there haven't been compelling reasons for or against, noting that "it might just be nice to have a change of scenery" is not seen by the production team to warrant the additional costs involved in the relocation of the set, marketing in a new location and recruiting new cast members. 

Other suggestions have been to introduce a reality element where cast members are 'voted off' by the audience; to alter the current drama/comedy format to a situational comedy format with a live audience; for the main character to persue a musical career and have some cross-over where merchandising options are readily available. 

The past few seasons of the show have had a varied soundtrack - common artists featured in the current season are such names as The National, First Aid Kit, Courtney Barnett, Bob Dylan, Hozier, Taylor Swift, Hilltop Hoods, Chet Faker and many more. The soundtrack for Season 29 will soon be available on iTunes.

I do my best for you people. I wear a revolving wardrobe of vintage pieces, I often perform acoustic sets on my bed for your listening pleasure. I talk to myself enough that you're given insight into my state of mind, but not so often that you want me to go see somebody about that. what more do you want from me?

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