Site specific. “this term refers to a staging and performance conceived on the basis of a place in the real world (ergo, outside the established theatre). A large part of the work has to do with researching a place, often an unusual one that is imbued with history or permeated with atmosphere” (Pavis, 1998, pp. 337-8). Our introductory session to site specific has enlightened us to a new form of theatre. A style in which the heart of the performance is a particular place and the point being that performance could not exist without the site. Italo Calvino introduces us to the idea of invisible cities and ways of describing places not just by what they look like, but how they feel, sound, smell, who is there, what is there, textures etc. He also encourages us to see what is not there, “In Maurilia, the traveller is invited to visit the city and, at the same time, to examine some old postcards that show it as it used to be: the same identical square with a hen in the place of the bus station, a bandstand in the place of the overpass, two young ladies with white parasols in the place of the munitions factory.” (Calvino, 1974, p. 9).
Our Site Specific aims to involve this theme and by detecting a site with a hidden identity we will eventually recreate the experience of being in our chosen location for an audience in the LPAC. Pavis suggests that “the insertion of a classical or modern text in this ‘found space’ throws new light on it” (Pavis, 1998, pp. 337-8) by this I believe he means to suggest that the inclusion of a modern vision upon a site with a history and old stories offers an array of new relationships to the place and our role within it. However, it is important to note that this is not a linear performance of bringing a site into space; our project must come full cycle and whatever installation we create in the LPAC must link back to the site. This can be done by the materials we use to create our performance, the way in which we adapt the space to be relative to the site and how we give something back to the original site as a result of our performance. This leads us to question what sites offer certain performance opportunities and how we find them. Leading on from this we will begin to search the city for our own site with a hidden identity.
During our performance today we aimed to trace lost identities of the Victorian gaol. We completed this through a durational performance, mainly for our benefit, to become empty vessels ourselves, embodying the chosen space and exploring all elements that may have been experienced in the Gaol by the convicted, whose identities have been forgotten. We restricted ourselves to be isolated within the space and from each other in a way to connect with the performance space, similarly to how prisoners would have connected to the prison, yet to experience lapsed senses of belonging, possession and freedom. Through the confinements and restrictions that we created consciously and unconsciously between us, essentially reflecting our site, I began to feel removed from society and the space itself, sensing moments of insanity, confusion and paranoid of other peoples presence; both imagined and real. I generally felt like I was missing elements of my identity, which is essentially the effect we hoped the piece would have upon us and the audience; removing elements of our identity, sanity and sense of safety to trace the identities of the Victorian prisoners through their lack of freedom and restriction.
We wanted the audience leave with a feeling of leaving something behind; their identity or even to reflect upon the claustrophobic atmosphere that the space presented. However, the audience didn’t leave completely lost; they left with Calvino quotes tied to their fingers as a representation of identity, almost like sealing their wounds of the piece and as personal identification to the performance. The quotes also acted as a gift for helping us to trace the lost identities of the Gaol as the text has been of huge influence to our piece, but also so the audience could fulfil their lack of identity somewhat and reflect on the site after the performance was over.
Our performance was more closely related to site responsive/reflective than site specific as we created the essence of site and reflected this in a new and challenging space. We achieved this through the elements of confinement, claustrophobic atmosphere, unawareness and senses of the individual; both heightened and restricted; for example through the limited lighting and continuous sound scape of the repeating surgeon’s journal articles. We essentially created elements of the site and the feelings it bestowed on us as individuals and inflected this upon our space and essentially the audience. As part of the link to identification we demanded the audience to create a footstone which is linked to carved stone and wood where the prisoners identified themselves in the gaol, grounding their roots before they died. The idea developed from this and the footstones which were laid at the foot of each prisoner after their death instead of a headstone to degrade their identity. Each participant of our piece was issued with their own tablet to represent this idea and a key in which to inscribe their initials.
After going through so much to prepare for our installation, we did a fantastic job on the day. I have to say, a part of me is glad that it is over with but another part of me will miss investigating Lincoln and looking into the history of what the city used to be like all those years ago.
I have learnt a lot from this module and about Lincoln and how I can look at things in a different way, be it a performance or just something that happens in everyday life. I have lived in Lincoln on off since I was young and I never knew that I could learn so much about a city that I am so familiar with.
Even though there have been a lot of ups and downs on this module, overall I have enjoyed working with my group and I have enjoyed wandering around Lincoln looking into places that I never knew existed, like the hidden part of the city under the High Street.
Even before we began the performances, as a group we discussed our desire to take our replica props and return them to the Victorian Gaol at Lincoln Prison as a mark of respect to the Site. Pearson inspired us to do this in his In Comes I as he mentioned ‘The performers told their stories’ (Pearson, 2007, p79), and we wanted to do the same. We wanted to return to our Site and pay homage to it, by giving out experience back to a place that gave so many to us as performers.
Unfortunately after the performance I was called home for unavoidable, urgent family matters, so I could not complete this part of my Site journey, however I do plan to go up to the Prison on my return to Lincoln and reflect my thoughts and emotions up there alone, in an intimate, prayer-like way.
Luckily, Sophie and Charlotte went ahead with the plans and headed up to the Castle Gaol and laid the props in significant areas of prison grounds, and spoke about the feelings and experiences we have had on our Site Specific journey.
Pearson, Mike, ‘In Comes I’: Performance, Memory and Landscape (Exeter Performance Studies), University of Exeter Press (2007)
After weeks of meticulous planning, numerous changes, several meltdowns and a few panic attacks, performance day was upon usWe’d chosen the lighting carefully, a single floor parcan with a red gel giving a long wide beam of orange/red light down the longest part of our corridor. We did this because this was our main performance space and also hanging from the ceiling was our five nooses, and we found the eerie shadow they cast on the walls created the perfect, uncomfortable and deathly atmosphere we wanted. Continue reading “Lincoln Gaol brought to life: Performance Day Review”→
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