THE LITTLE MAN 'Norman's writing' by Peter Keavy
Norman Price’s Flat Out Like a Lizard is an exploration of space, the performer and the actor/spectator relationship. In this performance text, the performer is forced to recognise the theatrical space he or she is in and to search for meaning in order to justify the stories they tell. As there is very little physical action on stage the performer’s voice must be active within the space. The words and stories must transport the audience out of the theatrical space and into the world of the speaker. The text itself is made up of phrases and pauses which create a sort of rhythm. The pauses allow the performer to reflect on their stories and memories and/or to allow for some form of action to occur on stage. Theatre Professor, Markus Wessendorf, refers to Price’s writing as a series of “speech arias” in the Foreword to Price’s text Barking Dogs. He states.
“Price’s performance texts are not held together by a consistent through-line or a tightly developed Aristotelian plot but, instead, use rather simple narrative contructions to allow for the episodic presentation of the protagonists’stories.” (Wessendorf, 2002, p. 9)
This is what audiences will witness when they see Flat Out Like a Lizard, a series of stories that don’t always relate to each other but allow for the audience to draw comparisons between them, find their own meanings and perhaps reflect on the world around them. Wessendorf puts it perfectly by stating. “For Price, the performance text is not about the text, but rather about the relationship between the text, the characters and the audience.” (p. 13) He goes on to say. “Price believes that his performance texts ask questions that lie between the words. He expects the audience to explore those spaces that open up between an utterance and the space physically evoked by that utterance.” (p. 13)It’s like what the character Lazarus White says in Flat Out Like a Lizards.
You’ll deal with words.
You will have to fit words together.
Weigh words up.
Sort them out.
Place them together.
A verbal jigsaw.”
In the play, the life of Lazarus White is compared to a compost heap that is made up of memories built on memories. A sentiment that is expressed by the playwright himself in the foreword of Price’s performance text, Kitchen Diva. “when writing, I become this obsessive archivist, constantly digging into, turning over, and re-digging my compost heap of memories.” (Price, 2008, p. 6) He goes on to say. “The compost heap has become quite compressed over the years, and now contains material that has been layered over and forgotten. Sometimes, it is better to forget- but like an ulcer in one’s mouth you keep biting it.” (p. 6)
I knew Norman briefly as my teacher in first year of acting school before he passed away in late 2016. He was a man captured by his stories. We were lucky if ever we got to rehearse in front of him as we spent most of his lessons just listening to him talk. He was such a theatrical being, with a booming voice and outrageous gestures. I think it is safe to say that those who knew Norman will hear his voice through the cast of Flat Out Like a Lizard, all of whom he taught.
Price, N. (2008). A Note from the Author. In Kitchen Diva. Fortitude Valley, Q, 4006: Playlab .
Wessendorf, M. (2002). I'll Shine in the back yard. bright like a beacon. In N. Price, Barking Dogs. Fortitude Vally, Q, 4006: Play Lab.
Image by Monique Roy