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”
Over the course of the module I have learnt many things about Site-Specific theatre. The aspects which have been relevant to my final piece are; documentation, audience participation, the mapping of a journey, awareness of space and inner meaning. In the process, I learnt about documentation through the photographs and videos I have taken along the way and how this can sometimes become the performance itself. The mapping of a journey are all the elements I have recorded and wrote about, showing the process of learning. Audience became an important factor in the Carl Lavery task, ‘making the private public’ and when we chose to board the train wearing our bin-bag suits. I began to understand space in the early stages when we did the ‘wool task’ in class and inner meaning when I thought deeply about what my Utopia meant. With this came research into practitioners in this field of work. In my group, we looked at Knowbotiq Maghille; an artist exploring identity, Jacques Derrida who focuses on documentation in the archive, Diana Taylor who looks at objects and their status and Marc Augé who theorises about the non-place. Overall, these aspects have all impacted the creation of our final piece.
Within the created Tea Room space we placed bunting; some with facts about the prison and some with comments from people who had participated in the mini task outside Lincoln Castle.
Some of the words written on the bunting were as follows:
Facts on the prison used:
- – Until 1817, hangings took place outside the castle near the appropriately named ‘Strugglers Inn’ public house
- – Separate System – When prisoners were allowed to exercise they had to wear masks, which prevented them from seeing each other, they held a rope to avoid bumping into each other
Comments by participants of task at Lincoln Gaol
- – Nobody to trust, lonely, alone, individual, scary, no identity
- – A dark sense of claustrophobia, entrapment, fear & not being able to breathe
- – Lost, but connected to everyone with me. Restrained space …
- – I hated the feeling of not being able to see when I was blind folded. I was trapped
We wanted these to encourage the audience to write on some of the bunting; outlining the thoughts and feelings they experienced throughout the performance.
These are some of the comments left by audience:
- – The contrast of pieces throughout was very effective
- – It gives the journey purpose. You are made to pay attention + absorb what is going on. Still felt very out of control, was just following
- Very impressive, interactive performance using a juxtaposition narrative
The final comment made me feel that we had accomplished all that we had set out to do, as one of our main aims was to create juxtaposition between a prison and a tearoom. Our ideas were to contrast the cheerful atmosphere of a tea room with the claustrophobic atmosphere of the gaol. When we served people we were trying to give the impression of being slightly deranged as people in gaol often lost their minds. The bunting was used to remind the audience of the thoughts of the people who had experienced our other piece based more closely on the prisoners’ life; also these were not the joyful expressions one would expect to see in a tea room.
We had the names of the establishments and people who had donated the sugar and flour when asked by the participants of the mini tasks. From this we wanted the audience to see the sense of community that we had created by asking people to collect these simple ingredients. These included sugar from Starbucks, flour from Revival (a charity organisation in Lincoln) and flour from Sophie Grayson.
On the day we did not manage to carry out one of our objectives that of creating prison chapel boxes. At the last minute we discovered they could be a hazard to a disabled person as there was no way to make them wheelchair accessible. To make them concur to disabled dimensions they would block the doorways and hence would have to have been moved to allow the audiences to enter and exit the room, thus creating a health and safety hazard. This would also have hindered the flow of the piece and created problems if more than one group were in the studio because when would they be moved? This also meant that the soundscape we had planned to go with the boxes had to be abandoned as there was no way of making it effective without the boxes. We decided that instead of the boxes and soundscape we would just allow the audience to walk between the two studios holding a rope with knots on it like the prisoners would have done when exercising so they were allowed to experience that part of the prisoner’s lives. We felt that this was the best compromise given the situation we found ourselves in. Looking back I felt that this was actually a positive move and the link between the audience and the bunting was stronger as they had experienced being in a similar position to the flags when they were holding the rope. They themselves are the bunting so when they put the comments on the flags they were leaving behind a more personal experience than if they had not taken part in this exercise.
At the beginning of this module I was to put it bluntly, lost. For at least the first two months I was coming up with ideas for our performance, not actually having a clue what I was doing and more importantly why I was doing it.
Now I have completed the module, I feel I have a much stronger grasp on what it is, why it is theatre and how to connect it with a place. Finally I have come to the realisation that the performance cannot exist without the site. I am glad I was put with the group not actually performing at the site (for example the library). This stretched me and made me question what I was doing a lot more. It was very hard working out how to bring our site down to a studio but every one of us accomplished it!
I have come to learn through this module that your performance has to be built around your location. You cannot simply think of a place and then make a performance about it. You have to spend a lot of time in your chosen space to get a feel for it and work out the mood of the specific place.
The hardest part for me within this module was as I mentioned above, bringing the Site to the studio. We did this by bringing items down from The Lawns. These were all the sticks, logs and stones. As we were looking at The Lawns when it was a mental asylum, we were able to bring in the smell of bleach as this was used in the asylum ample of times.
At the beginning of this module if you had asked me, would you want to do Site-Specific again? I would have quite frankly said no without a second to lose. If you ask me now, my answer would not be a definite yes, but I would definitely consider it!
What Happened and What Went Wrong?
As the audience enter the LPAC they receive a train ticket, and this is their pass and their documentation for the journey.
– Documentation, inspired by Jacques Derrida we explored a ticket that gives official evidence and which serves as a record. We wanted to involve the audience immediately and when we physically went to the train station in process to the performance, the very first thing we did was buy a ticket.
Waiting for the Train
Whilst the audience wait to get ‘on the train’ and let the journey commence they listen to two tracks
– The two tracks were influenced by Italo Calvino’s ‘Invisible Cities’ novel, presenting the exploration of different cities. The tracks presented an exploration of Italo Calvino’s work as the tracks delivered an insight into our own very personal exploration of a city. This allowed the audience to instantly forget they had just walked into Lincoln’s LPAC, but they were going on a journey into the unknown.
The Waiting Room
As the audience ventured upstairs, I waited at the top of the stairs and asked for their train tickets so they could move on to the next ‘platform’ (studio 1). The audience were then made to wait at the top of the stairs until all members of the audience had their tickets checked and ready to move on.
– Non- place, inspired by Marc Auge the idea of allowing the audience to feel as if they have no purpose but to follow the motions similar to the person stood next to them. To stand somewhere which has no significance what so ever. As the audience stood in a line in a dark corridor waiting for the ‘train’, they felt a lack of purpose as all they could do was wait until told what to do or where to go.
A Pretty Present
As I took the audience into studio 1, I asked them to take a ‘pretty’ present off the table. A pretty present was a piece of rubbish with an instruction inside, then wrapped in ‘pretty’ wrapping paper and made to look ‘present’ like.
– Inspired by Mike Pearson’s extract ‘In Comes I’ which explores the Theatre group ‘mamapapa’ from Prague, who revised an old historical site such as a church and brought in new, modern technology such as a projector. The idea of taking something old and bringing in the new inspired me to take old, used rubbish from a train and transform them in to new, beautiful and precious objects.
The instruction, instructs the audience to document their given train ticket on to our map, putting their train ticket in the correct place of where it says they have traveled from.
–Documentation, as we were inspired by Derrida to gain documentation from our train journeys, we wanted the audience to feel a part of this. Asking the audience to document their train tickets on to the map.
Archive in the Cage
After the audience have unwrapped their ‘present’, and carried out the instruction, it is up to them if they archive their rubbish, which was once their present in to our cage of archiving.
-Exploring the practitioner Diana Taylor’s theory that the only concept of changing over time is value, relevance or meaning of the archive. The fact a piece of rubbish such as a bottle of wine was once a luxury item to a passenger on a train, has lost its status when archived in to the cage. Once again relating to the ‘present’ idea of allowing the audience to chose a luxury item, but as soon as they unwrap the beautiful wrapping paper, the realize it is just a piece of rubbish.
This was all repeated.
–We repeated this journey continuously to represent the repetitiveness of a train journey. The continuous train track noise, the continuous ticket inspector checking tickets, the continuous struggle of pulling suitcases up and down the stairs, and the continuous traveling passing other trains, fields and cites (studios).
Continuously taking the rubbish we had accumulated from train journeys from downstairs in the LPAC, packing it into suitcases to produce a heavy piece of luggage which was a struggle to get upstairs to emphasis the struggle people have when carrying luggage on to trains. The rubbish would then find itself in studio 1, being archived into the cage in certain compartments.
–Inspired by the artist Macghillie, who explores an actor without identity, allowed us to transport all the documented ‘rubbish’ from downstairs to upstairs without an identity. We used our ‘costumes’ we wore on the train journey which we documented where we were dressed in black bin bags which were covered in pieces of paper, offering the public to write on them. This reinforced the lack of identity people have on a train as everyone is there for the same reason.
– Not enough head phones at the beginning of the journey
We got over this by ensuring the first group of audience successfully got into studio 1, but then being ready to give the second group the same experience and get into position to take their train tickets and repeat the process for all audiences.
– The audience being overwhelmed by the rubbish
The first audience did not take notice to the cage as much as we would of liked. People did not listen to our chosen tracks we placed in the cage for them. We had headphones sticking out of the cage for them to listen to two tracks we had recorded whilst on a train journey. To get over this problem, for the second audience we ensured we mentioned to ‘explore the entire cage’, this resulted in people paying attention to smaller details such as the tracks. One track being a recording of the train’s noise whilst moving, another track being a recording of a lady having an argument on her phone whilst on the train journey.
Lady Arguing on Train Recording – CLICK HERE
Feedback from Site Specific Performance – CLICK HERE
The audience gained an insight into our process of the Site Specific module.
They also got to be a part of the final performance by getting involved in archiving some of the rubbish themselves.