It was a great project, not just because of the lovely final show but also because the process was so open and democratic, and we really got to experiment. I really pushed myself as a result, and I think that showed, particularly in the video design.
Light Waves Dark Skies at Chapter Arts, Cardiff.
A We Made This Production, co-produced by Pontardawe Arts Centre
We Made This: Matt Ball, Katie Bingham, Paul Burgess, Catherine Dyson, Jacqui George, Gwawr Loader, Connor Lovejoy, Cis O’Boyle, Nia Skyrme & Morgan Thomas
Performers/ Perfformwyr: Catherine Dyson, Gwawr Loader & Morgan Thomas
Stage & Production Manager/ Rheolwr Llwyfan a Chynhyrchu: Jacqui George
We’ve postponed Mobile Incitement, the project I’m currently directing for Daedalus Theatre Company… Here’s the official statement.
We hope you’re all well and staying safe. We’ve had to reschedule our activities, and we really only have one active project at the moment: Gerrard Winstanley’s True and Righteous Mobile Incitement Unit, which was to start touring in June, with a second leg in the autumn. We’re working on the basis that we should…
I’ve just done a great project with Pegasus Young Company: a production of Carol Churchill’s Love and Information, directed by Corinne Micallef. The cast members were a great ensemble, highly supportive of each other, and really engaged with the piece at a conceptual level. It was really collaborative and we had some great discussions about how the design should work dramaturgically, as well as working through stuff practically, including with the modelbox.
I pulled together a bunch of images from my process for the marketing team to use, including a video of my sketchbook. And I thought I would share them here. Continue reading “Love and Information”
A big part of my life recently has been the Staging Place project.
The Prague Quadrennial (PQ) is the world’s leading exhibition of design for performance. It’s an amazing thing: professional and student displays from all over the globe, talks, discussions, performances, exhibitions… The UK has traditionally done well at it too, frequently winning major prizes, though this is pretty much never reported in the UK press.
It’s also become something of a tradition for us to show the display at the V&A Museum in London after bringing it back from Prague. And sometimes to tour it to other venues in the UK.
The Society of British Theatre Designers takes the lead on this rather complex project. I’m on the SBTD committee but I didn’t want to get too involved as it’s very time consuming.
The play is hard to read on the page: hard in two senses of the word. It’s gruelling emotionally but also abstracted, opaque, fractured and ambiguous. It’s constructed from fragments of naturalistic dialogue, inner monologue and poetry, all shored up into a kind of barrier against obvious interpretation. The author’s own distressing experiences are rendered into a set of cyphers that hide her personal truths from the people watching, reading or making a performance of the play. The temptation, therefore, is to try to find the key to unlock the code and expose her original meanings, but this seems to me to be a pointless – and impossible – quest. Instead, each production should create its own key, and decode these fragments into a new set of meanings that resonate for the artists involved. That’s very much what happened here, with director Paula Garfield’s emphasis on two overlapping crises of mental health – one amongst the deaf population and one amongst men – and the communication failures and lack of comprehension that exacerbate them.Continue reading “Designing Deafinitely Theatre’s 4.48 Psychosis”
I’ve missed shows I really wanted to see because the threat of audience participation made me so anxious. And yet, at Daedalus and elsewhere, I make participatory theatre. Is this hypocrisy?
My view of participation is that it shouldn’t be about persuading or pressuring people to do things. It should be even less about picking on people, forcing participation on them. It’s about creating an environment in which people can find their own degree of involvement as equals. This might be because you advertise the piece as participatory so they know what they’re letting themselves in for, such as Shunt, Metis or Punchdrunk. But I want to talk about performances where people come to see a show but we, the artists, want them to have not the experience of a well-made performance but also a deeper kind of engagement. Continue reading “Let’s Talk About Participation”
The last time I was purposefully academic was probably when I sat my finals. Even then, we’d only been educated in the philosophical contexts of the writers we studied; not in the context in which we ourselves were operating. Since then, I’ve taught at half a dozen universities at least, but always as a practitioner. Academically cutting edge I am not. But I do want to understand how the work I and my colleagues do in the arts fits with the urgent need, in the face of imminent climate breakdown, to view society as part of an ecological system. The question ‘what is green criticism?’ is neither theoretical nor rhetorical. Green thought has provided us with a sophisticated analysis of society and its relationship to planet. How can we apply it to artistic practice?
Around the time I did my English degree, there were some books emerging that used ecology as way to approach literature: Jonathan Bate’s Romantic Ecology springs to mind, and Kim Taplin’s Tongues in Trees; I probably should re-read them. The aim of these books seemed to be to understand how writers related to nature: how ‘green’ they were. But that approach is about ecology, not employing it as a critical tool. I wrote an extended essay in my third year. It was about depictions of landscape in literature and painting at the time of the first generation Romantics. I was interested in the sublime and the beautiful, not out of any kind of swooning romanticism but because they suggest two ways of modelling our desire for the external. Briefly, as I still haven’t got to the real point I want to make, I’d noticed how some writers saw nature as a force that transformed the tiny figures traversing its landscapes while some saw it as something that framed or provided a kind of extension to, or illustration of, heroic anthropocentrism. I was somewhat out on a limb, frankly. It probably wasn’t my best work. And it was also mainly ‘about’ the natural world. Yet it made me realise that there’s a deeper analysis which can – and probably should – be be applied to any kind of discourse.
A few months ago I saw, in the space of a week, Katie Mitchell’s production of Sarah Kane’s Cleansed and the blockbuster movie Deadpool. The juxtaposition got me thinking. Of these two events, the live one was essentially a fourth wall play (we’ll come back that vexed issue) which uses extreme violence in way that offers a (deliberately) highly problematised take on catharsis. The prerecorded one also challenges us (or thinks it does) with the way it shows violence but is obsessed – paradoxically, I suppose – with breaking the fourth wall.
I have to get something off my chest, sorry. At one point in Deadpool, the eponymous hero addresses us directly, which leads into a story, in which he also addresses us directly. A fourth wall inside a fourth wall: that’s sixteen walls, he calculates. No it isn’t. Why would it be four squared? It’s clearly a concentric construction; four walls within four walls. Eight walls. Continue reading “Cleansed/Deadpool”