Friday, 31 December 2010
This is a true story.
Two friends stand admiring something.
I’m not actually sure what they are admiring. I think that it is a building – a Gothic Cathedral, stone arches, buttresses and towers soaring.
But it could be a bridge. I’m picturing Clifton Suspension Bridge, though it could be the Forth Road Bridge.
Perhaps it is a machine, or an engine. I know that one of the friends likes vehicles.
It could equally be a painting, maybe something by Pollock, or Picasso’s Guernica or anything by Paula Rego. Or a sculpture – perhaps the figures on Crosby beach.
Let’s say that it is a building. And they are admiring it.
The first friend says, “It’s amazing, isn’t it, to think that this was built by ordinary people.”
“Yes, but,” says the second friend, “everything is done by ordinary people.”
Tuesday, 7 December 2010
I/we do this live each night. We know we have to modify the drawing of the donkey to become a zebra, because that's what they do at Gaza Zoo, so we draw the donkey from scratch as well. Other drawings in the show are redrawn afresh in advance of each performance (the paper plane) or are reused each night (a lifesize flat daddy and a set of haircuts). But it feels right to draw the donkey live.
This connects to the Story Map performance that is part of the whole What I Heard About The World project, in which we draw icons for all of the stories we gather throughout the piece. Drawing the donkey is much easier of course, as I know what I'm going to draw, and I've now had a lot of practice.
During the run in Sheffield we were invited to contribute some work to the exhibition Working Drawings, which has just opened at the Sheffield Institute of Arts Gallery. Pam Bowman, the curator, was interested in us representing how we use drawing in the work, but also as part of the process for projects that don't necessarily feature drawing by the time they meet an audience.
In the end we're showing a selection of finished work and documentation. We were asked, naturally, to provide an artist's statement about the work. I asked how long it should be. Pam said, "As long as it needs to be - you know, there's more context needed for your work. I mean, why do you draw live in front of an audience?"
This is something that has come up in discussion with a few audience members, so I've been thinking about it this last week or so. I'm not sure our artist's statement fully answers that question, but it certainly explores our use of drawing. Here it is.
Drawing ProjectsThird Angel is an internationally-touring theatre company based in Sheffield. We make work that connects the territories of theatre, live art, film & video, photography, installation and digital media.The work is devised by the artists working on each project, led by Artistic Directors Alexander Kelly & Rachael Walton. The devising process is one of discovering and developing the form and content of the work, and drawing is one of the tools we naturally use.Drawing is, unsurprisingly, used to develop early ideas, work things out, and to share thoughts: how the space might work, what a performer relationship might look like, how something might be constructed. But it is also used as part of the aesthetic and action of some projects. We’d rather use a hand drawn straight line than a ruled one. We would (usually) rather use a traced map or diagram than a photocopied one. We would (usually) rather use handwriting than projected type. If an image or text needs to be big, we would (often) rather draw it small and blow it up – to see the imperfections that make the line unique.And drawing is one of the tasks we have been found ourselves returning to in a number of our live performance projects, something to do in front of the audience, rather than something to be prepared earlier. The work is full of narrative, character, fiction, mixed in with autobiography and factual research. The mode of presentation utilises text – character dialogue, personal narrative and explanation – along with the performance of tasks. Real actions are part of the performance: carrying all of the furniture required on from the wings; balancing your own weight against your fellow performer’s through a pulley system, whilst creating a perfect, three metre circle of talcum powder on the floor.Sometimes this live drawing is of diagrams and maps. Sometimes it is illustration. Often it has a restriction placed on it – a simple time limit, or the fact that it has to be done with eyes closed. Restrictions that might seem to say, Don’t worry, of course the drawing won’t be very good in these conditions, when of course, we include the drawing, and the restrictions, because in fact we believe the opposite.For Working Drawings we are showing a number of pieces:
Mixtape: Songmap (2010)Video piece / documentation of live performance. 7 mins.Music: The First Big Weekend by Arab Strap.Performance devised and performed by Alexander Kelly & Rachael Walton.Filmmaker: Christopher Hall.
The brief, for Unlimited Theatre’s Mixtape project, was to create stage action to accompany a favourite song. We didn’t want to tell a different story to the one in a chosen song, and we didn’t want to act it out. We talked about cataloguing and mapping. Originally the drawing was going to be done much bigger, on a wall, by both of us. But actually our presence, along with the view of our backs, was not helpful. We’d used the drawing table for writing ‘chapter titles’ in the show The Lad Lit Project (2005), but the devising process for that piece had involved a lot more drawing. So we changed the scale of the Songmap drawing and found we had this.
Pleasant Land – Lightbox maps (2003)Hand drawn maps with text and photographic images.Commissioned by Leeds Met Gallery & Studio Theatre and Shooting Live Artists.www.pleasantland.orgIt began with the Census. There wasn't a 'Scottish', 'Welsh' or 'English' box to tick. Only 'British' or 'Irish'. People in and from Scotland and Wales wanted their own boxes. We noticed that Scottish and Welsh friends referred to themselves as, surprise, Scottish and Welsh.Between April 2003 and March 2004 we travelled around England, meeting people, asking them about their own Englands and asking what Englishness is these days. Every month we sent digital postcards from our travels. In October 2003 Leeds Met University Gallery hosted a Gallery installation and performance, responding to this travelling research and the responses to Pleasant Land Online.We’d been keeping diaries and taking photographs. We had planned our routes, but then been distracted and diverted. Or just got lost. In trying to work out, retrospectively, exactly where we had been, we began tracing our route from the road atlas. We became infatuated with these new maps that charted a very selective version of England – the England we had travelled through. It felt important that the lines of the map should remain hand-drawn, and the text be in handwriting, to recognise the personal, partial, nature of the record.
We asked people if they knew the difference between England, Great Britain and the United Kingdom. Often, they didn't. We asked ourselves what our England was, what we liked about our country, what we didn't? We wondered if other people would recognise Our England, or we, theirs.
Presumption (2006)In association with Sheffield Theatres.Performers: Lucy Ellinson & Chris ThorpeDirectors & Designers: Alexander Kelly & Rachael Walton.Performance photographs by Mark Cohen.
A bare stage. Bare, that is, except for the white lines marking out the (sometimes multiple) placements of a domestic environment. Furniture. Objects. Stuff. A table, six chairs. Precariously carried, precisely placed. Begin the scene, post-dinner party. Guest have gone. Stop. More furniture required.Presumption is a show about love – love after the initial thrill of passion has gone. Everyday, what shall we have for dinner, love. The performers attempt to enact scenes from the lives of a couple, but continually come up against the obstacle of missing furniture or set, which they have to carry on from the wings. The positions that the furniture will occupy is marked out on to the floor in (hand drawn) white chalk paint. Somewhere in between a (1:1 scale) floor plan and crime scene.
Parts For Machines That Do Things (2008)A co-production with Sheffield Theatres.Devised by Alexander Kelly, Jeremy Killick, Gillian Lees & Chris Thorpe.
A show about aircrash investigation, about cause and effect. The performers piece together the narrative through extracts of text – monologue and dialogue – whilst also constructing, on camera, model-kit passenger airplanes.The three projection screens were treated as a triptych, frames in which images were constructed as if they were drawings – sometimes explanatory diagrams, sometimes more abstract imagery.
What I Heard About The World – Story Map (2010)A collaboration with mala voadora, originally presented with Forest Fringe.Devised & Performed by Jorge Andrade, Alexander Kelly & Chris Thorpe.Photographs by Isa Maubach.A durational research performance that gathers, and re-tells, stories from the audience. True stories of fakes, replicas, stand-ins and substitutes. The world is mapped out, alphabetically, using post-it notes over the course of 12 hours. We attempt to collect a story for each country from the audience, or from our own memories. Each story is then labelled with a two word title, and illustrated with a hand-drawn icon to stand on the map.
What I Heard About The World (2010)A co-production with mala voadora, Sheffield Theatres and Teatro Maria Matos, in association with PAZZ Festival and Worldmapper.org.Devised & Performed by Jorge Andrade, Alexander Kelly & Chris Thorpe,in collaboration with José Capela & Rachael Walton.Rehearsal photographs by Clive Egginton.Show photographs by Craig Fleming.Plane photograph by Alexander Kelly.
A theatre performance intertwining stories gathered from the Research Table durational performance and other sources. The live drawing technology from Songmap was in the rehearsal process for some time, particularly to represent the specificity, subjectivity and fallibility of maps. As we moved away from maps to focus on the stories we had gathered, the drawing remained, but as physical objects – as stand-ins – for real things, with one drawing done live to tell the story of donkeys in Gaza zoo being painted to look like zebras.The ‘prepared’ drawings play with the scale of representation: a life-size ‘flat daddy’ is blown up from a small illustration; life-size haircuts are drawn actual size; a hijacked passenger airplane is drawn in miniature 3D.**www.thirdangel.co.ukThird Angel is Regularly Funded by Arts Council England, Yorkshire. All of the projects presented here were also supported by funds from the National Lottery via Arts Council England.
Wednesday, 17 November 2010
"As the Secretary General of the United Nations, an organization of 147 member states who represent almost all of the human inhabitants of the planet earth, I send greetings on behalf of the people of our planet. We step out of our solar system into the universe seeking only peace and friendship, to teach if we are called upon, to be taught if we are fortunate. We know full well that our planet and all its inhabitants are but a small part of the immense universe that surrounds us and it is with humility and hope that we take this step." Kurt Waldheim
In 1999 Third Angel was approached by German company Drei Wolken about collaborating on a show for the Transeuropa Festival. By way of introducing themselves they sent us a translation of the text of their most recent show, The Long Distance Piece. Amongst a variety of evocative explanations and statistics, there is a section about Voyager 2, and it’s journey away from Earth.
Hang Up is a show set in four replica red telephone boxes. Six weeks in to the eight week making process we were stuck. We had two shows. We had the start and end of a great show about kidnapping, with the performers bound and gagged trying to escape from phone boxes, and then the performers trying to bind and gag themselves and lock themselves away. In phone boxes.
In 2000 Third Angel made Class of ’76, a show in which I stand up and talk about what I found out when I set out to try to find the other 34 children from my infant school photograph, producing their photographic images in the air next to me, one at a time. School hall magic, I wrote at the time, summoning the ghosts of the living.
In 2002 I made a piece with 18 students in Scarborough called Of Course It’s A Journey, in which we explored themes of scale, distance, absence, travelling home, doing things apart and doing things together. It included a group text, inspired by Drei Wolken’s The Long Distance Piece, and the NASA website, that charted the history of Voyager 2’s journey through the solar system. This text included a line which told you, as an audience member, how far Voyager 2 was from Earth on the day that you heard it.
In 2002, whilst we were making the show Leave No Trace, I read the book Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything by James Gleick. Gleick’s first book, Chaos, was about the genesis of Chaos theory, and on the cover there was a quote from Douglas Adams, something like “I read this and felt like someone had found the light switch”. When I read Faster, I felt like someone had found the light switch.
In 2004 we began working with three psychologists, Dr Peter Totterdell and Christine Sprigg of the Institute of Work Psychology in Sheffield, and Dr David Sheffield, then at Staffordshire University, on a research project called Karoshi. Karoshi took its name from the Japanese word meaning ‘death from overwork’, and aimed to explore the psychological and physiological effects of time pressure. In tandem with the research project we were commissioned to make two pieces for the exhibition Wonderful: Visions of the Near Future, by Arnolfini in Bristol: a video piece and a performance lecture.
[You can watch a short video of Standing Alone, Standing Together here.]
Presumption is a theatre piece in which the two performers have to build their own set in order to carry on with the scene they are presenting. It is a show about love – not romantic, thrill of passion love, but domestic, what shall we have for tea love. In its final third, the show becomes obsessed with the future, how every hour of a relationship is less significant than the one before because it is a smaller proportion of it… How the first hour of a relationship is the relationship in its entirety, but an hour 7 years in is less than 0.02% of it. The show becomes distressed with the thought that we spend, apparently, 36 days of our lives looking for stuff in the fridge, and that there will come a point, though we might not know it, when one of us is going to die soon, and leave the other one alone, and we will have little more than a month left together and I will have spent more time than that, in my life, looking for things in the fucking fridge.
Meanwhile, I still harboured a desire to “make a show about the Voyager space probes”.
- we realise that what we need is a perfect 3m diameter circle of talc on the floor. Whilst discussing the making of this circle as a task to be done as part of the set up, I say, “Getting this circle precise is going to be really fucking hard.” Gillian says a great thing; she says, “If it's going to be really hard to do, we should be doing it in front of the audience.”
After documenting an early performance of the show, we were invited to submit an idea for The Sheffield Pavilion – an exhibition and DVD publication of video works from Sheffield, that responded to the idea of ‘Pavilion’ – a temporary structure or exhibition space. We persuaded them that the Voyager space probes were pavilion-like in their intent and temporal existence. What constitutes temporary, our proposal asked, in the infinity of time and space?
There is more information about all of the Third Angel projects mentioned here in the Archive Section of the website [click].
Writer and artist Philip Stanier visited the process of The Distance Project several times and his account of that process, The Distance Covered, which includes some outcomes not detailed here, is published in Devising in Process, edited by Alex Mermikides and Jackie Smart.
And finally, you can now follow Voyager 2 on Twitter.
Tuesday, 16 November 2010
Thursday, 21 October 2010
The Dust Archive: A History of Leeds Met Studio Theatre
Alexander Kelly and Annie Lloyd
A collection of memories from every performance at Leeds Met Studio Theatre. The Dust Archive book is a beautiful object in its own right comprising hand drawn images on tracing paper each referring to a particular moment from a particular show. Most of the significant UK performance makers of the last two decades are featured, including Forced Entertainment, Lone Twin, Curious, Reckless Sleepers, Stan’s Cafe and Third Angel. The book attempts not so much a comprehensive memoir as an imagistic and emotional recall condensed from hours of video of Alex and Annie in the act of remembering.
Not only does The Dust Archive celebrate the importance of a significant venue on the progressive theatre scene, its form and structure provide a valuable contribution to discussions around memory, archiving, engaging with the past and presenting recalled information. The tracings on the page coming up through the pages beneath add complexity and layering to the sense of fragility and unreliability in the notion of memory itself. This book is a work of art.
Alexander Kelly is Co-Artistic Director of Third Angel with whom he performs, devises, directs and designs new theatre and live art. He is Associate Senior Lecturer in Performance Practice at Leeds Met University.
Annie Lloyd is an independent producer who was Director of Leeds Met Studio Theatre from 1990 to 2009 where she championed and nurtured progressive performance work from the UK and beyond.
The Dust Archive is available for £15 + £2.99 p+p.
To order, contact Annie at: alloyd50 [@] gmail.com
Monday, 18 October 2010
Rehearsal Blog 9: When the World Became Very Big, and Then Very Small
So, the last week of rehearsals. Perhaps not perfect timing for a complete redesign of the show, but a feeling that it was necessary seemed to be shared by the group. Rachael suggested a new running order, and that the 'playing space' should be changed to be very wide and shallow. Props and furniture were scattered across the stage, each piece having one function but not being moved once its used. This forces the performers to move about and create 'business', making it more visually interesting for the audience.
Chris also suggested the idea of literally tracking the journey of the stories; for example the first two stories in the show are from Singapore and Liberia, so they could describe how you would make that journey in real life (since it was me that did the research I can tell you it involves three international airports and bribing a helicopter pilot).
The 'Massacre' section includes material that has remained virtually the same since the performance at Forge almost six months ago, plus a new lengthy text, but it was finally decided that it needed to be shortened. This was a running theme for all the texts that remain in the show, with most of the texts being tightened up, both to shorten the running time, and to improve the flow and dynamism of what remained. For the same reason, some changes were made to who performed the texts, also to ensure that no one performer dominated certain sections of the show.
Rehearsals continued in this vein, but something still didn't feel quite right...so on Wednesday there was another development in terms of the staging, with the playing area reduced to a more intimate size. This obviously had implications for what the set looked like and how the performers interacted. Rachael had invited Julie Horan to work for a couple of days on the art direction, and between her and the group, a domestic feel to the staging began to emerge. The stage now read as a living room that the performers lived in, so this meant that it made more sense for them to tell the stories as much to each other, as 'out' to the audience.
A run-through on this basis with an audience of a few invited guests was performed on Thursday evening, which threw up some interesting points for the performers to consider, including the reading by some of the audience that Alex and Jorge are Chris' imaginary housemates.One problem that needed solving at the end of the week was defining Chris' role; due to the nature of his texts, it wasn't clear if he was purely a commentator or a fellow storyteller aswell. Since neither the text or the set configuration was final until we moved into the Studio the next week, it was difficult to decide. Hopefully with a new venue and a new set, it would be one of those problems to which the solution would emerge in the space.
Thursday, 14 October 2010
Post 8: Forgive Them Father, for They Have Sinned.
The rest of the week was spent developing each story section individually, with a view to having another run-through of everything on the Friday. This focussed on what the performers will actually do whilst telling the story, especially if they are the narrator.
Most intriguing of these sections came from Jorges’ experience of confessing to a priest when he was young. This links to a ‘sin line’ in France, which we were surprised to discover still exits and was immediately worked into the show.* Since a lot of the stories are told in the first person, it didn’t feel like a problem that one of them is actually a personal experience, but it was also attempted with Chris confessing to Alex.
On Friday the performers did a run-through of all the developed material, in a rough order without any transitions or ‘connecting’ sections and it came to almost two hours. This was a little more than the performers were expecting, but didn’t see this as a problem as they felt the show would shrink with further rehearsal. In discussing it in the afternoon, some sections were agreed on as needing big changes, but no-one was prepared to rule anything out entirely at that point.
There was still a hesitation about the role of the screen and live drawing, but it was left until further development was done to make the final decision. It was also thought that Jorge needed more 'normal' things to do and say, as there was a danger that he would be seen as the 'clown' of the trio by the audience.
At this point, some stories that were on the ‘in the show’ pile had been left undeveloped, and would probably remain so as there was already a lot of material written or prepared. The week ended with the performers feeling pretty happy with how the material was coming to life, and were hoping for more of the same next week.
*If you feel the need to confess any sins to an automated Frenchman, the number is: France 0982 463 438
Friday, 1 October 2010
Rehearsal Blog 7: What We Think About the World?
The first task of the week was to do further work on the opening of the show, as it felt important to use the introduction as an implicit statement of intent, and to have it decided in the performers’ heads. This didn’t quite go to plan however, as discussion drifted back to the intentions of the show as a whole.
The material at times feels like the results of a fact finding mission (this perhaps reflects the methodology of getting the stories in the first place), and it was thought that maybe this should be embraced; the show is a snapshot of the world, the performers have heard about it and are ‘reporting back’ to the audience. This allows for the idea that the world the performers describe can only be their interpretation of it, as well as using Portuguese and native tongues when naming countries.
Alex’s ideas about the show changed a lot over the weekend, and some of them were discussed and tried out. He suggested there should be 24 stories, one for each time zone (though this isn’t mentioned to the audience), and that they should be placed on a map but not a literal one, perhaps one made from spotlights. The stories should be character focused, although not necessarily the central character(s). There was debate about whether having a map on stage all the way through would create the same problems that using lots of flat daddies would. Perhaps markings on the floor could suggest a map?
Sifting through the material already generated, and choosing other stories to make a total of 24, quickly made it obvious that this was too many. There were also big geographical gaps in story locations; it wasn’t decided definitively if this was important or not. It was agreed that the rest of the week should be spent developing each of the stories not yet touched on, with the aim of putting it all together on Friday for a run-through. For the time being connecting the stories was not important.
On Tuesday, the Brand Awareness, Radio Silence and Emergency Exit stories were looked at in more detail, which bought up thoughts about the physical aspect of the show. What should performers not actively involved in a story do; should they be on or off stage, should they be setting something else up for a future story, should they just disappear for a bit? Minimising the number of props used, and using them several times was thought to be a cleverer way of dealing with telling some stories. For example a radio is being used during Radio Silence, but could also be used for Massacre, Night Flight and Sin Line. This way all the props could be on the stage all the time, in line with the store room aesthetic the group have been discussing.The development of Radio Silence induced an interesting debate, as it tells a story where sympathy for an Israeli family could be inferred as taking sides in a particular, complex conflict. Should the way the stories are presented be influenced by the performers’ opinions; does this make it not What I Heard About the World, but What We Think About the World? Some discussion about whether the show was obligated to mention Palestine in the interests of balance, or whether this was too much comment, and the show should just to present the world as they have found it. The performance is a version of the world, and the audience should be allowed to take from it and create their own, new world.
Thursday, 23 September 2010
Post 6: “The Heartbeat of the Show”
A new day bought new enthusiasm and fresh ideas to the group. Chris had written a text entitled A Series of (Very) Short Pieces About What People Are Doing Right Now, essentially a (very) long list of one sentence summations of stories, both previously collected and new inventions. Alex, Jorge and Chris were (very) excited at this new development, believing it to be potentially the “heartbeat of the show”.
Various improvisations were tried, with Chris reading the text and Alex and Jorge trying ‘interruptions’ to flesh out certain stories if they came to mind. This felt like an promising structure for the show, and in the afternoon was tried again with the order of the list randomised, and shared between the three of them. I think everyone went home feeling a lot of progress had been made that day.
On Thursday, a need to develop shorter versions of the stories was felt, as all the texts up to that point had been at least five minutes long, and whilst they were liked by the group, it would have made for a very long show if all the stories were fictionalised at such length. This new brevity was mingled with the text developed so far, in a repetition of the ...What People Are Doing Right Now improvisation later in the day. Interruptions were both pre-planned and improvised with certain sentences triggering certain set pieces that have previously been developed.
This was the first attempt at performing an entire show with the material, so some things worked well and some didn’t; Jorges’ wailing was a personal highlight! The performers were generally pleased with how well it went for the first try, and how well it seemed to flow. Overall another good day.
With some overnight perspective, the group discussed the run-through and agreed that the content was good, but that they needed structure and to inject more emotion. There was a lot of pacing around thinking what to do next rather than feeling it was ok to sit to one side, and the function of the live drawing needed to be clarified.
A possible introduction idea was developed by all three; that of relating Sheffield to the rest of the world, and of Jorge speaking in Portuguese and Chris attempting to translate. This was developed for the rest of the day, as well as an exercise where Alex attempted to draw a photograph based on Chris’ description of it.
On Friday we were also joined by Clive Eggington, photographer and co-founder of Archive Sheffield, an organisation hoping to: “create new photographic images to depict and preserve the diversity of the cities population”. He is hoping to take photos right through the process, and everyone is happy to have him onboard, and are also hoping to star in one of his stories! It feels a bit surreal to have two levels of documentation going on in the room, but I’m sure we’ll get used to it...
Monday, 20 September 2010
These can be tough decisions. Rachael reminded me of an early version of 9 Billion Miles From Home at Chelsea Theatre, in which we had a field of suspended stars or globes, each beautifully, individually lit. They looked great. But getting up to do anything in amongst them was confusing and impractical. They didn't last into the next stage of the process, but they informed the circular obsession of the version of the show that followed. It is proving to be the case here, too, I think...but, anyway, over to Lauren.
Post 5: “All These Events are Happening Now”
The start of the third week saw the move to the Lyceum rehearsal space, which gave the performers more space and room for a bigger screen, so that the projection aspect of the show could be developed more effectively.
With Rachael in rehearsal at the start of the week, it was seen as a good time to check everyone was happy with the progress made so far, and to compare notes regarding what the performers thought the show was at this point. There was a feeling that the format needed to be decided upon soon, to have as much time as possible to refine the content, as the set design was very simple.
Discussing their ideas of what the show is, proved a point the performers are making in What I Heard; we each have our own version of the world in our heads, never exactly the same as anyone else’s. There were debates regarding the differences in each others’ visions; stories versus characters, nations versus individuals, the function of the stage props and what they represent, whether the show should have discrete sections or should appear to flow as one narrative.
One point agreed on was that the show needed to convey that all the events they mention are happening everywhere, all the time. At the moment there were long texts about one story, but there needed to be ‘micro-narratives’ featuring others, to make the world the performers are creating richer and more textured.
In the afternoon, Alex, Jorge and Chris read through all the text that had been written so far. Reacting to this, Rachael wondered whether the show was actually commenting on the world it was describing. There was disagreement about this, as the tone in which some stories are told in could be thought of as commenting on them.
On Tuesday, the performers met with the set & prop builders, and this forced the performers to clarify their thoughts regarding the use and number of ‘flat daddies’ in the show. They seemed important to include because they have been the hook for getting many people interested in the project from the start, but including many of them may have spatial problems on stage.
These doubts were cemented with the deconstruction of the ‘hijack’ text, again with Rachael and Capela offering feedback. Working out what all three were to do whilst the text is performed by Chris quickly exposed weaknesses in that 'set piece', but also the need for more brevity in dealing with most of the stories in the show. To remedy this Rachael suggested an exercise, in which all three should write material where stories are told just through dialogue, or in the third person.
At the end of the day, energy felt very low and there was a bit of mental panic about throwing out another set design, but as always, tomorrow was another day...
Lauren's photos of the rehearsal process are on her Flickr page, here.
Monday, 13 September 2010
Lauren's report from Manchester...
Post 4: What I Heard About The World - Research Table at The Society of Cartographers Summer School
On Thursday 9th, the What I Heard team took a day off from rehearsals, to take part in the Society of Cartographers’ 46th Summer School in Manchester. There was some concern, given the previous day’s breakthrough, that the day in manchester might be a bit of an interruption to the devising process, but in the end it turned out to be worthwhile for everyone.
The research table had been run a few times before, so Chris, Alex and Jorge were familiar with the format, so they decided to introduce countries to the map at random rather than alphabetically. Chris then had to place the post-it note representing that country from memory, Jorge read aloud the long and short form of the country’s name in its native tongue, then any stories were collected. Where nothing new came up, or there were no delegates present, pre-gathered stories were re-used.
The delegates seemed to enjoy the improvised, ‘lo-fi’ nature of the map, and had no hesitation in telling Chris to rearrange his post-its when inaccurate (FYI, St Kitts and Nevis is North of St Lucia, not the other way round...). The nature of what a country is has been discussed by the performers before, but it became especially prescient in the company of experts, and there were many interesting discussions about mapping, borders, the history and politics of dividing up the world. We even learnt a new word: exclave.
Alex gave a talk about the development of What I Heard in the afternoon which was warmly received, and we received several new stories from delegates, which will be looked at further next week, and perhaps worked into the show.
Photos can be found at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/laurencstanley
Post 3: What I Heard About The World Rehearsals Week 2
The start of the second week saw the first weekly visit by Rachael Walton, co-artistic director of Third Angel, and we were also joined by José Cappela, co-artistic director of Mala Voadora with Jorge. This gave the performers the opportunity to hear the opinions and ideas of people new to any developments in the rehearsal space.
Through analysing their progress, it was decided by everyone that greater clarity was needed on what the show is about, and how the stories that have been collected will be deployed. Jorge, Capela and Rachael focused on investigating possible connections between stories, whilst Alex and Chris wrote some potential text for the show, which also developed the way the stories will be blended into one coherent whole.
This naturally led onto discussion as to the role the table/stage will play. Once props were introduced, do they stay there or are they removed? Do performers stay on the stage throughout, or get off it when they are not playing an active part in the show? Should the stage be sloped or flat? Do we even need a stage? This was a source of much debate through the week, but on Wednesday there was a breakthrough that Alex, Jorge and Chris were all excited about (something that I obviously can’t tell you without spoiling the show, sorry!)
It felt important that from now on the performers should set out how they will use their devising time at the start of the day (e.g. improvise around a text for an hour, think about set design for a morning), rather than working where their thoughts took them. This ensured there was tangible progress at the end of each day, which in turn maintains motivation and energy levels through the process, and staves off panic of course!
We all have our own idea of what the world is (like the old adage that if you ask people to imagine a tree, everyone pictures a different tree), so the performers needed to clarify each others’ perception of the world, and that the world the show describes is the performers’ collective version of it. The ‘real’ world and the performers’ world have a relationship with eachother, but they are not the same thing. The performers’ description of the world they have heard about allows the audience to imagine and question the version of the world they hold in their heads.
Overall, a lot of progress was made in the second week, and whilst what a lot of what was developed in the first week has now been scrapped, I think everyone is more satisfied with what has replaced it.