American theatre company brings epic show about biography to Norwich stage

Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2013. Pictured: Nature Theater of Oklahoma - Life and Times: Episodes 1-5

Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2013. Pictured: Nature Theater of Oklahoma - Life and Times: Episodes 1-5. Credit: Anna Stoecher - Credit: Anna Stoecher

A show of epic proportions is set to take to the stage this week as part of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival. Called Life and Times, the drama takes its inspiration from the life of an ordinary American girl.

Kristin Worrall whose life story is featured in Nature Theater of Oklahoma's show Life and Times whi

Kristin Worrall whose life story is featured in Nature Theater of Oklahoma's show Life and Times which is part of the 2013 Norfolk and Norwich Festival. - Credit: submitted

Ten telephone conversations in which Kristin Worrall talks about her life to date are the starting point for Nature Theater of Oklahoma's epic show Life and Times. The text from those phone calls is the script for the unusual show by the American theatre company in which each call – or episode – is performed in a different way ranging from a musical to a dance to a murder mystery. So far five of the phone calls have been turned into performance – with the premiere of episode 4.5 and 5 to take place this week at Norwich Playhouse – and when all the episodes are complete Life and Times is set to last an incredible 24 hours.

Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2013. Pictured: Nature Theater of Oklahoma - Life and Times: Episodes 1-5

Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2013. Pictured: Nature Theater of Oklahoma - Life and Times: Episodes 1-5. Credit: Anna Stoecher - Credit: Anna Stoecher

First kiss, first crush, going to the prom and many of the other events in Kristin's life feature in Life and Times but the theatre company – and Kristin herself – are keen to stress this not a show just about an individual biography but about everyone.

Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2013. Pictured: Nature Theater of Oklahoma - Life and Times: Episodes 1-5

Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2013. Pictured: Nature Theater of Oklahoma - Life and Times: Episodes 1-5. - Credit: Supplied

'Life and Times, I would not consider it my life story and it's not really a narrative in the way it's presented and the way I talk,' said Kristin.

'The text is edited from phone calls I had with Pavol (one of the directors of Nature Theater). It's a performance of a stream of consciousness. It's more like different experiences and memories, not really a history. I do not think people will walk away from the show thinking about me and my life story.'


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Originally from Rhode Island and now living in New York, sound designer, performer and musician Kristin said perhaps she was chosen as the initial subject of the show because she had a 'particular unselfconsciousness when talking' and also because she had quite a 'normal' life including an idyllic childhood and ordinary upbringing in suburbia.

'At the beginning Pavol just asked me to tell him my life story,' she said.

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'One phone call turned into 10. At the end of the 10th phone call he told me it was going to be a show.'

When asked what it was like to see her life on the stage, she said: 'It's a very mixed bag of emotions. 'It's very exciting and I definitely feel honoured because I feel like I have the opportunity to have my words turned into art. Sometimes I feel a little bit vulnerable because I do not sound so articulate on the telephone, because I was basically rambling.

'It's interesting and it's exciting and sometimes embarrassing, and all of those things.'

The show spans her life from birth to age 34, but Kristin – who actually performs in some parts of the show – said originally she did not want people to know her life was the basis for Life and Times.

'I wanted to remain anonymous but when the rehearsals started and I heard the actors saying my words, it changed for me in the sense that I wanted to take ownership.'

Episode one, performed as a musical, features Kristin's life up to age eight, while episode two, performed in dance, is up to age 12 or 13.

Episodes three and four – created as a murder mystery – goes up to age 16, and the latest part – being presented as an animated film and illuminated manuscript – is around the time Kristin turns 17.

'What I really appreciate about Nature Theater is that they have taken my words that may sound very boring if I was just saying them, and turned them into something spectacular,' she said.

'In Episode One I talk about things like my diaper being changed, the first time I told a lie, wetting my pants at school, my best friends and my family.

'In Episode Two I talk about getting in fights with my friends, first crushes, first kiss, drinking for the first time, and getting into trouble.

'In Three and Four I was kind of like a morose teenage girl moping around. I talk about my first love, going to the prom, my first cigarette, just normal stuff and I think that's also why they (Nature Theater) chose to speak to me.'

Kristin said people would have to wait to find out what she talks about in episodes 4.5 and 5 until the premiere that takes place in Norwich later this week.

Life and Times has been performed around the world including Australia, Singapore, Germany, Belgium and Japan, and as work on the project progresses Life and Times gets longer and longer.

The company does perform the episodes separately, but its marathon performances where the episodes are presented back to back are seen as a way to explore social ritual, and the cast also serve the audience food in between the episodes.

After Norwich, Kristin said the show is heading to Berlin where the company will premiere the sixth episode – based on her college years – in the form of a radio show.

Kristin said: 'It's very surreal. I feel like the more we do the show, it becomes more abstracted for me.

'At the beginning of the process I was reliving all the events in my head, and that still happens to an extent, but nowhere as near as much as it was in the beginning.

'Now I just try to focus on the process and staying in the moment. It's not about the past, we are not trying to recreate someone's life. It's about the present.'

She added: 'I just hope people can come to the show not expecting to hear someone's life story and just embrace the process for what it is.'

Nature Theater of Oklahoma is performing Life and Times: Episodes 1-5 at Norwich Playhouse. The show can be seen over four evenings – or altogether in a marathon show. Single performances, tomorrow to Friday at 7.30pm. Marathon performance – which includes the cast cooking a barbecue for the audience – Saturday, May 25 at 1.30pm. £15 for single performance. £35 for five episodes over four evenings or marathon.

To book visit www.nnfestival.org.uk, call 01603 766400, or visit the Theatre Royal box office.

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