Monday, 22 February 2016

Temporary Space


(*The scattered-ness of my week means that this is a lot more meandering and thoughts-out-loud than the kind of thing where I can more specifically quote and cite smarter people who have thought longer about this stuff, and where I can say something that feels kind of tangible. But, I’m really trying to hold my feet to the flame on getting something out every week, and I know I may well have to give next week a rest, as it will be turned up to 12. So, apologies, and (as always) feel free to skip to parts about cool art, or just entirely)

This week has been pretty spiked by temporality for me. The leaving of a rehearsal space. The flash of the event celebrating a book well over four years in the making. The insistent and jagged uncertainties in my own housing arrangements. A scratch showing of a show on the geographic distances and emotional lengths we will go to to establish a permanent home - a process inherently fraught with futility.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of text and sound in theatre, and the ways they can converge on and/or against storytelling. That convergence is all about the impermanence in haunting, for me. Words that stick in your mind for days, in a really good, soul-pricking show, for years, whether or not you buy the play text. And sounds - be that music or noise or something between or a little of both or just the timbre of the performer’s voice - they are physically the most fleeting thing. An image may be sustained for a period of time, and may be more easily remembered and described and preserved in a visually-based language. There are very few words for aural impressions that don’t rely on a visual root. And, often, a moment of voice or instrument or traffic is quickly replaced or adopted by a very new and different soundscape, even if it persists.

So, what potential does temporality offer us? Fleeing. Fighting. Fucking. The obvious three. The enormous space a question can open up. The necessity of all theatre - if it is temporary, then it can be play. If it will not be said again, then we are compelled to listen.

Rajni Shah is currently working on a thorough, very curious, wonderfully deep and welcoming investigation into listening in collaboration (and just in general) with her PhD. For an experiment as part of her research, she invited three friends to each spend a week with her, listening, making, and learning more about the world and/through one another. These encounters each had a documentary filmmaker in the room. At a screening of the resulting films, Karen Christopher, one of the collaborators, spoke of the difference between a conversation over tea - maybe an hour or two - and a week long, 40-hour intensive conversation. You feel provoked to go deeper, pick people up on points you disagree with or are unsure of, pry open the lid over darker waters when you know you have that long, she said (and without any kind of recording of the evening, I’m paraphrasing wildly here). 

So, what’s in the most charged, most enlightening, most damaging hour of a 40- hour conversation or a 40-week collaboration or a 40- year relationship? I don’t have any clue. Mostly, because I haven’t been involved in any of those. And partly, because my own wrestling with transience is a pretty primary one - based in a kind of stacking up fear and focused intent and estimated resilience against many more unknowns in some kind of ridiculous equation.

But, watching a young cast of ICT perform a show about immigration, witnessing experienced makers relentlessly throw themselves into making piece after piece that burns itself up as it goes along - I think it has to be about bravery. Not reckless or macho or chivalrous or selfless bravery (or maybe all of those and more). But a kind of reveling in the stuff we learn when we let go, change our minds, say no too quickly, say yes too late, have to stop before we’re ready. Somewhere between the reassurance that life goes on whether we fuck up or succeed or remain confused, and the knowledge that sometimes it doesn’t, that’s where the impossible slips in.

Other People's Things

Tar Baby, by Desiree Burch. Fucking incredible show /about race/ about colonialism/ about lots of very important things. Superbly clever formally and dramaturgically and the very rare kind of painful-to-watch where you laugh through most of it. Even the jagged bits situate themselves as a self-aware question to audience members and other makers. It was at the Vaults Festival, and is gone now, but isn’t over. Here is a review by Maddy Costa

The Forest and The Field, by Chris Goode. The book on theatre to read. The book on living in and outside of the world to read. The book to read if you have a pulse and live on a capitalist planet and speak English. The end. I’m sure I’ll keep referencing this book here, and I’ve been reading it since December, but the official book launch was this week, so this seems as good a time as any to give it the flare of recognition it’s due for steeping in my brain for weeks so far and years to come.


1. Unluck   James Blake   James Blake

2. Palabras de Papel   Nelson Poblete   Palabras de Papel

3. Robot Parade   They Might Be Giants

4. I Am Disappeared   Frank Turner   England Keep My Bones

5. Matilda   Alt-J   An Awesome Wave

6. Oh No   Gogol Bordello   Gypsy Punk: Underdog World Strike

7. Soco Amaretto Lime   Brand New   Your Favorite Weapon

Something In Progress

Didn’t get anything new done this week, so here is a cut segment from Scratch Cards, which is currently between draft and test-drive phases:

- - -

We woke up black eyes and strained muscles and twitsted limbs. It had all lapsed in black fog - no one was technically culpable. We laughed immediately for a long time. 
Because someone had finally dropped the ball someone else let loose we had ended the stalemate like conspirators, a lingering gesture.

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