Utopia in Relation to Performance

When reading through Govan’s Making a Performance I came across a passage which detailed the work of Grid Iron and how they have “worked extensively with utilising space” (2007, p.117). Later in that passage of writing Govan mentions how Grid Iron have also chose a performing site each year that “reopened the dynamic of actor/audience boundaries” (2007, p.117). I took this as being boundaries such as social, personal and geographical.

I was thinking through the ideology of utopias and specifically my utopia. After constructing and reviewing it I had realised how self-absorbed I was being in the creation process for it. Below is my utopia and when explaining the purpose as well as utilisation of it, I described each cup as being an arena for something I enjoy doing, be it exercise, gaming, art, or reading.


It was my evaluation process which established this realisation and I am glad it did as I then contemplated the misconception some have about how an audience can be situated for a performance; the misconception that an audience should be sitting passively watching, without actor interaction. In the same way that a utopia can be self-absorbed as it’s one person’s perfect world, a show is one artist’s or one group’s vision of ideally their perfect performance so therefore there is a slight hint of self-absorption in the artist(s). Whatever the artist(s) ask from the audience, they should comply, as when agreeing to become part of that performance as audience, they are then under the control of the artist(s) governing the performance. This is when the two aforementioned quotes about actor/audience boundaries from the Govan text fits in nicely.

This can help us when it comes to performing as it gets us in the mind set of thinking that our performance, like our utopia, is our perfect idea of something; we decide what happens as well as where and when. We also decide the geography of the performing space. I’d like to think this means ultimate control of the participating audience which would make the number of methods to “reopen” actor/audience boundaries endless.


Works Cited

Govan, Emma and Helen Nicholson and Katie Normington (2007) Making a Performance, Coxon: Routledge.

‘Desires are already memories!’

Six hours of Site specific performance on a Thursday afternoon. I wonder what this will entail, I thought to myself and as we began our first session, I was immersed in a world full of the utopian ideals of my class mates. Using Italo Calvino’s text, ‘Invisible Cities’, looking at the structure, idea and creativity behind made up cities, we were able to imagine a variety of these cities that ‘Marco Polo’ tries to explain to ‘Kublai Khan’ within the text. By using this as a starting point for creating our own cities we could see how each city was drastically different to the next much like ours would be.
Our instructions were to use household items such as recyclable materials including toilet rolls, plastics and straws, in order to create our own utopian cities. Whilst building our cities, we were to think about what we wanted our city to represent and why it was a utopia to us. As I was building mine, the one thing that stood out to me was family, as I knew I wanted to create a place where I could spend time with my family, because they are the most important people in my life and I feel that they are a key aspect in creating my utopia, as I could never have a utopian life without them in it. Therefore I began to create an outdoor city, made up of fields with flowers, benches and a playground (I have a 2 year old Nephew), the main feature being a band stand within the centre of my utopia which represented shelter and an area to be with my family that was still outside primarily, but was a little more private and secluded in comparison to the rest of my city.
As my utopia is based on being surrounded by my family in a safe place I decided not to document it by taking photographs, or recreating it once outside of the session. I feel that my family will change as I grow older and so do they. I think that this will affect my idea of utopia and in some ways I feel that everybody’s idea of utopia will change as they change and grow. My utopia is for me and as it changes with me and my family I will document it in my mind, therefore I feel no need to have taken pictures.

Much like Marco Polo as he ventures into each of these very different cities, I intend for my idea of utopia to become an adventure too and therefore will be very different in 5 years’ time to what it was in my first Site Specific session.

Invisible cities and Utopia

Italo Calvino’s ‘Invisible cities’ is a book which I feel needs to be read a few times to really get to its true meaning. Although revising this, are we really meant to get the true meaning of it? The different cities within this book all exaggerate each city with beautiful descriptions. The cities are in an idealistic world which we can also call Utopia.

From this Utopia idea we were set on a task to create our perfect Utopia. We learnt that not everybody has the same idea of how they would like there world to be. Yes, Marco Polo’s journey sounded breath taking but it is perhaps not what we ourselves would want to see. We could use any pieces of material and simply create our perfect world. Doing this was great fun but alongside this we really had to think about what our Utopia would be like. How it would look, what it’s ambiance was, who was allowed to go there? From all these ideas circulating I came up with this –


Obviously from this we can all tell I like pink! Not only is it a girly colour, I feel it is a happy, safe and serene colour. Inside my Utopia there is not much there. I enjoy the country far more than the city and this is the idea I went with.

It was very interesting that when other people looked at my idealistic world they got the idea of safety and peace. There is none of the hustle and bustle of the city and I had a massive watch tower for people to watch out for any harm. We spoke about what other peoples worlds would be like. We thought of protection, being seen, pathways, activities, choices and above all happiness. Not one of the ideas in the group was dark and miserable and we realised if every single person changed themselves the world could in fact become Utopia for everyone.

Site specific is all about the actors, the audience and the place. In coming weeks we need to learn if there is a barrier between these three or if they can all work together. Can the audience work with us as a group of actors or do we need to remember they are separate from us and to not disturb them too much?

Utopian Ideal – My City

Site Specific performance can be a range of different things. It can be: ‘site-determined, site orientated, site-referenced, site conscious, site responsive, site-related’. ((Pearson, Mike (2010) Site specific performance, Palgrave Macmillan: London, p. 1)) This means that when creating a piece of Site Specific theatre it is the space around you which most impacts your performance; taking a piece away from its natural place on the stage and putting it somewhere different. An example of this would be a city, the city of Lincoln in our case. We, as a group, talked about a city having history, stories, character, interaction with public, sense of community and presence. We concluded that this would have a large impact on the overall essence of our piece of Site-specific theatre.

Consequently, we took inspiration for our set task from Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. This is a piece of writing which describes a journey through cities and is ambiguous as to whether what is said is truth or fiction. This moved us on to create our own city, a Utopia.

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