Summer in Scotland

It’s September, and London theatre is starting to come back to life after the last few months of sunny picnics, school holidays, and of course the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The summer already seems like a dream, but before it slips away entirely, I wanted to chronicle the eventful few months I’ve had.

In June…

Sharlit Deyzac plays a verbatim interview for an audience member wearing headphones, who repeats the words from a cross-cultural interview.

The Performance Lab got its first grant from Arts Council England, in support of a week-long residency at Theatre Delicatessen’s Old Library. We created an all-new 20-minute version of Home Is Where, with the new contextual framework of a story library – which has the potential to let our interviews really shine. The residency brought together my determined long-time collaborators Guleraana Mir, Sharlit Deyzac, and Yaiza Varona, and several wonderful new additions to the cast and creative team: performers Carmina Bernhardt, Rachel Handshaw, Bert Roman, and Andrew Troy, as well as movement director Elizabeth Mary Williams. Having so many new people in the room gave me the perfect opportunity to try out Open Space as a method for devising, which allowed everyone to contribute to the making of the piece.

Carmina Bernhardt controls a verbatim audio track for Bert Roman. Having wireless headphones opened up so many new possibilities!

We came up with some exciting new ideas for an interactive full-length Home Is Where, to take place in actual public library spaces… this project has been years and years in the making, but now I think we’re getting very close to the right performance format for these verbatim stories. The epiphany from our Theatre Deli performance was breaking down the barriers between the stage and the spectator, inspired in part by the performance space, which doesn’t allow for a traditional actor/audience divide. We gave the headphones to audience members and asked them to say what they heard. We were so surprised and delighted at how well people were able to speak along with the recordings, and really pleased at how this interactivity brought the audience closer to the interview material.

A big thank you to the Arts Council, Theatre Delicatessen, and the cracking team of cross-cultural artists who have brought Home Is Where to life! I’m so excited for our next steps in this new direction.

In July…

I spent a week in the highlands of Scotland at Invererne Creative Residency. It’s run by fantastically generous facilitators Cara Verkerk and Hugh Grant-Peterkin, who created an inspiring and open environment for the eleven interdisciplinary artists attending. There were a few other theatre makers, some composers, photographers, filmmakers, a painter, a poet, a ceramicist… in short, a rich mix of artists with different ways of thinking and creating work.

My painted spiral pinecone, the result of a meditative hour, using an improvised paintbrush I made out of pine needles.

I ran a skill share session on Open Space, and how I use the format to create performance. Others shared their various practices, including detailed observation (crucial to film-making; ‘writing a film script is basically describing things’ according to my fellow resident artist Vappu Tuomisto), and vocal techniques in a really fun session titled ‘honest noisemaking.’ Painter Marissa Stoffer asked us all to collect objects from nature, which we then painted. I used the colours to trace the spiral shape of a pinecone; I’ve been really interested lately in the idea that this spiral shape is everywhere in the universe: pinecones, sunflowers, the Milky Way galaxy…

All this exposure to visual arts got me thinking about my work in a different way. The spiral shape resurfaced throughout the week and helped me restructure the ever-evolving script for The Helen Project. I’ve been resisting (for about the last 7 years) the idea of presenting Helen’s story in a traditional linear story arch in a one-hour proscenium performance, and the spiral structure has unlocked some exciting new possibilities.

I’m also really pleased to see how this piece is being affected by my shift from text-first traditional theatre to devised performance over the last five years or so. I’m not thinking of it as ‘writing a solo show’ anymore; I’m putting together some text for making a solo performance. And the act of putting text into a document is stirring up all kinds of ideas for movement, music, and design…

After the residency, I’ve really got a fire under me to get a new version of Helen onstage soon, aiming to finish the text by the end of the year and get cracking with some new collaborators. I left Invererne refreshed, inspired, and determined to go to a residency once a year for the rest of my creative life. I can’t recommend it enough!

In August…

It’s been a couple of years since I made it to the Edinburgh Fringe, but this year I was at the festival for three weeks! I’ve been having a hard time answering the question, ‘how was your Edinburgh?’ because… it was… everything. It was fun and inspiring and frustrating and exhausting and exhilarating and lonely and interesting and boring and hard work and I learned a lot.

I saw 45 performances. I even loved some of them. I only hated a tiny handful. A great many were just okay. I ran into a bunch of people I knew, including a few who I hadn’t seen in years, despite living in the same city. I met loads of new people, and handed out flyers for the World Theatre Map (which you should totally get onto if you’re not already). I walked up Arthur’s Seat on my own, which was beautiful and just what I needed on that particular day.

The view from the top of Arthur’s Seat on a cold sunny day. You can’t beat that perspective, far from the frenetic festival…

I spent a lot of time at the Pleasance, where I was supervising a group of young people performing as part of the Pleasance Futures programme. I spent a lot of time at Summerhall, too, seeing some brilliant international and experimental theatre, and dance. I thought a lot about what it would take to bring my own work to the festival – whether I want to, and when that might be possible…

And Now…

Summer feels definitively over, everyone is back from the Fringe, and I’m making myself a new pair of slippers to keep away the chill.

I’ve clearly got my work cut out for me with the continued development of Home Is Where… and The Helen Project. September is already off to a racing start with preparations for the London Devised Theatre Intensive, which I’ll be facilitating in October. Plus Theatre Delicatessen is hosting a meeting of the GAP Salon (Gender and Performance) next week in their new Broadgate space. I’m excited to be rebooting the discussion and action group I started back in 2013… details are here on the facebook event.

The autumn is promising to be just as busy and creative as the summer, and will probably be gone in a flash just like these last few months. You can stay up to date with the day-to-day goings on by following the Performance Lab facebook page or @AmyClareTasker on Twitter. Thanks for reading!

Posted on September 11, 2017, in Director and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a Comment.

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