Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Day six - mentoring and lots of questions about form

Am writing this on the bus. The journey takes longer but there's greater opportunity for reflection than on the 10 minute train journey. I was very, very tired last night so couldn't order my thoughts.

Cathy Naden from Forced Entertainment came in yesterday (Cathy has been mentoring me for past year or so) to have a look at the material we've generated. It was really useful to put it in front of a fresh pair of eyes, those of someone who has not been party to the logic and meaning making that the team are all party to.

We've really enjoyed being creative and exploring where our impulses have taken us but when presented to Cathy questions are raised.

Cathy considers the work from the position of considering only what is immediately in front of her. When you look at what we're doing from this stand point, at its simplest, our action can be taken as two mysterious performers (we haven't given any context whatsoever) undertaking various strange activities with tights, tape, packaging and string for no clear reason.

Of course we have our logics and reasoning but Cathy highlights the need for contextualising, something formal, a contract between the performers and the audience. And it's worryingly apparent to me that I don't know what these are or what they could be. I am laid bare in a way I've never felt before. This is the leap from the precipice of narrative lead to non-narrative work. I am so acutely conscious of my training and background in fiction and story telling right now. Am feeling very de skilled indeed.

On a lighter note, Cathy demonstrated how to drill down on the material we'd generated to get more out of it. We generated a lovely 10 minute sequence that we were very pleased with, strangely illogical as it is...

Another discovery of the day followed on from Julia's steer to simply keep trying things to see what happens. We began the day by taping Laura to a wall and Kus to the floor. Although the material is beautiful it seems unusable (mainly because of practicalities) but the journey the performers and myself and Anna went on was very insightful. The performers were giving themselves over, relinquishing autonomy, becoming 'objects'. We got a flavour of what this might mean from trying these things.

Cathy flagged the lack of autonomy on the part of the performer as problematic. Yesterday I agreed and freed the performers from this constraint. Today I feel more open to putting them back in this position as its likely that the sound will play a part as an external agent as it has in previous Northern Creative work and its something I'm instinctively attuned to. This means that either convention (ie autonomous or not autonomous) may have to be broken which may continue to be problematic. Though perhaps having the overarching external influencing factor - the sound - will negate this?

Today we'll explore framing. We'll see where we get with finding some kind of contract and logic for the material we've generated. We'll also meet the designer and explore her ideas. I'm wondering if some of the materials we've been using can be substituted for things that might be found in a museum instead. Though constructing a fictional museum is in itself problematic when considered using the base starting point that Cathy uses - ie 'what is happening immediately in front of me?' The answer would be 'people pretending that this is a museum' which goes against Forced Entertainment's policy of non-pretence and highlights a significant tension between my practice and instincts as a playwright and the fundamental building blocks of deconstructed contemporary performance.

I embarked on this mentoring and on this R&D with 'what if' questions around clashing play writing and aesthetics of contemporary work with a view to giving myself over to these new ways of working which seemed more relevant, but something in me is holding on tight to features of narrative.

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