Friday 26 March 2010

Five Tables, Five Chairs

On tour with Class of '76 in February and March my plan was to write up as many of the questions and answers from the post-show discussions as I could. That hasn't happened yet, but one of the questions in Newcastle was about whether the table and chair were specifically chosen to look like a school table and chair, or if they were just found at random in each venue.

The answer is, of course, somewhere between the two. And me being me, I was already planning to document them over the tour. So, anyway, here they are, from Part 1:

Northern Stage, Newcastle

ARC, Stockton on Tees

greenroom, Manchester

Dartington Arts, Totnes

BAC, London

Dead Jellyfish

We've posted some images of the jellyfish that inspired the Dead Jellyfish chapter of Words & Pictures on the Third Angel Flickr Photostream.

The next outing for Words & Pictures is at Sheffield Theatres' Forge Festival in May.

Wednesday 17 March 2010

Words & Pictures: Second Printing

Words & Pictures has been through several versions now - two different work-in-progress formats at Forest Fringe and Fix, and then the "finished" presentations in Sheffield and Leeds last October and November.

In the work-in-progress versions we were just trying out different sections, and not worrying too much about the format, or frame, of the show. When we presented the work as part of Off The Shelf in Sheffield, the format borrowed from the idea of a short-story collection, bringing together new material with elements that had been previously "published" elsewhere (as discussed in this earlier post). In the context of a Festival of Writing and Reading, this quite disparate evening of readings worked quite nicely, with the different modes and voices giving the evening variety.

But once we moved this version into a touring theatre context as part of the Leeds Met Studio Theatre programme, we found this eclecticism to be more problematic. The show felt a little ramshackle - we no longer understood what the frame of it was. Despite our introduction explaining that there was no connection between the different sections, audience members told us that they couldn't help but look for connections and themes.

Presenting the work at Prema last month, coupled with an improvised writing workshop, allowed us to rework the piece in a new context. The new version - revised and updated, if you will - now borrows more from the form of an (unfinished) autobiography rather than a short story collection. It goes back to the solo version of the work presented at Forest Fringe last summer, but also draws much more conspicuously on the installation Chapters From The Unfinished Book Of My Life Story.

This structure, which allows for some new material, also feels leaner and more cohesive, and makes more sense to us. This is the version we'll be showing at the National Review of Live Art this week. I'm looking forward to it.

Saturday 6 March 2010

Some Responses to the Work

Andrea Ochsner's new book, Lad Trouble, is a reassessment of the Lad Lit genre - 'the male confessional novel' as she calls it. I met Andrea a couple of times whilst I was touring The Lad Lit Project in 2005 - as she was interested in our response to genre in performance. Lad Trouble includes an epilogue/chapter about The Lad Lit Project - and it's really interesting to me to see the show positioned in relation to the books that it was (partly) a reaction to. I haven't read the whole book yet, but I know that the Lad Lit Project chapter also includes some extracts from the show text and my notebooks.

It's pretty pricey as it's an academic book, but perhaps you could get your library to order it if you're interested...


Alex Herod has written a really nice response to seeing Class of '76 at Manchester's greenroom last month - it's on her blog, Bees on Toast, here.


I had an interesting and inspiring chat with Andy Field, joint artistic director of Forest Fringe, last week, about the influence of gaming on his and our work - specifically Homo Ludens - and on the work of others, of course. We've talked about that before, but the specific timing of this chat was in preparation for the British Council's UK Connected showcase in Tokyo. Andy wrote this really nice blog post as a result. His whole blog for UK Connected is really worth checking out, exploring the work of some of the most interesting companies & artists around at the moment.


Chloe Bezer sent us this response to seeing the short film Technology at out Hybrid screening last month. Introducing the film I said that Chris Hall had chosen, in the edit, the bits from a much longer improvisation that made me 'look the most stupid'. I was being flippant, and don't really mean that - but as Chloe has picked up on it, that'll teach me to think slightly more carefully about making jokes when introducing the work.

Thanks to Chloe for letting me quote some of her response here:

From hearing his various creative or critical points of departure (the three men he mentioned), I thought for Chris [Hall] to go on to make a short film like Technology was quite beautiful. You said that he chose the bits that made you look the most stupid – I’d say the most honest (always that word).

*** *** ***

The man in the film makes a journey from trying to explain the everyday technology that we use (that perhaps we ought to understand; a battery or gravity) ending by attempting to demonstrate how we can bend time itself.

Chris seemed to set out to try and explore humanity’s need to organise, rationalise, to understand and catalogue our lives and our history so that we can make sense of it on a personal level. The fact that he chose to do that by filming this man, unable to explain how a microphone works, was both hilarious and touching.

For what it’s worth, I’ve never understood why people have a problem combining faith and science. Not that I’ve nailed either, but I can’t see why the two can’t co-exist in the same paradigm. Share the same sandpit. Play nice together in the painting corner. And I wonder if actually, the problem lies in what we invest in those words. Why did we start saying that if we could explain something, that was Science, and when we couldn’t explain it, that was Faith?

As history advances we will come to understand more and more, be able to explain phenomena that we haven’t even encountered yet. Science will keep evolving as long as we have questions that need answering. But I might also say the same about Faith. It changes with our understanding of what Faith actually is.

I fully concur with the Underground Man: I want the choice to believe that ‘two plus two equals four’ is all very well, but sometimes ‘two plus two equals five’ is nice. Perhaps it comes back to freedom - irrational, illogical.

When did a mug become a piece of technology? It happened when the man in the film started using it to explain what was (or rather wasn’t) happening to its contents. It becomes what we need it to be, in order to explain what we need it to explain. Otherwise, it’s just a mug.

Science and Faith are like the dark knights of our human understanding; to know them conclusively (I think) will always elude us. Why are they running? Because we have to chase them.

Watching the man at the blackboard trying (and failing) to recall or understand a hypothetical experiment, I’m not sure which was more heart-breaking: the belief that it mattered so much, or the faith that, in spite of it all, it was true.
I had to ask Chloe who the Underground Man was. He's the eponymous character from a Dostoevsky novel who argues for the right to believe in two mutually exclusive viewpoints.