Isolation and a Touch of Sanity

Site Specific has been a long, tough road for me and I am personally glad it is now over!

However, I am still appreciative of the work and effort I have put towards my final performance and the routes I had to take to get it to where it was.

Although our original plan to have our audience transfer between Studios 1 and 2 via our soundscape chapel boxes had to be scrapped, due to disability allowances and health and safety, the overall performance went with very few glitches. Continue reading “Isolation and a Touch of Sanity”

Let’s talk prisoners over a generous slice of cake!

“Lincoln Castle has always been the centre of royal justice and a place of imprisonment” ((Lincolnshire County council 1988 Convicts of Lincolnshire, programme, Lincoln, Lincolnshire: Hainton printing centre ltd)), which is something I was unaware of, until a couple of weeks ago when my group and I decided, whilst out exploring Lincoln, that we should visit the castle and find out the historic relevance it holds in Lincoln. So we began the trek up steep hill once again till we reached the top, turned left and entered the castle through the gift shop. We were greeted by a friendly old lady who explained the layout of the castle and told us that we would be unable to take photographs inside the old gaol. So we headed there first curious to get inside and see what it looked like. As we entered into the foyer of the prison the walls were filled with informational guides about the prison and its prisoners, allowing us to be immersed into stories from over 100 years ago.

Continuing deeper into the prison we were directed up a steep, spiral staircase leading us to the old prison chapel. It was here that we learnt of the separate system that was in place over a period of 3 years in an attempt to reform the prisoners. ‘The system was designed to ‘separate’ each prisoner from evil influence’ and so they were each placed in individual cells and when it came to exercise and worship they would be made to wear a ‘peak’ over there head, with two slits for their eyes. Not only were they unable to see one another’s faces but they were also kept far enough apart so as to avoid any verbal contact. During exercise they were made to hold a rope with knots tied at specific intervals in order to separate the prisoners enough, so they were unable to talk to one another. During worship they were kept in separate little boxes that measure 4 feet by 2 feet and were 9 feet high ensuring that they could only see the chaplain at these times. The separate system was put in place for all prisoners except the condemned and the debtors, because the condemned were unable to be reformed and the debtors were merely there because they couldn’t afford to pay off a debt, which is quite impossible to reform really. ‘The separate system only lasted 3 years for instead of curing prisoners it sent them mad’ ((Wynn, Douglas, 2012 Bloody British History Lincoln, Gloucestershire: The History Press)), however you can still see the set-up of the chapel within the prison today.

 

The Chapel

 

When we visited the gaol we took the opportunity to stand in these boxes which I found quite interesting however some of my other group members felt either claustrophobic or freaked out at the thought of standing in the place where a prisoner would have stood many years ago. Punishment for the prisoners was very straight forward you were either hanged or transported for your crimes, and the hangings were made public so that the people of Lincoln could choose to watch if they so wished. In the case of transportation the prisoners were often crammed together on a ship for up to 300 days in poor conditions, until they reached Australia, where it was thought that they could become a new person and shed their sins and begin a reformed life. However some of the prisoners weren’t so lucky and many died on the transportation journeys.

When we finally dragged ourselves away from the gaol we were able to explore the rest of the castle including its grounds and the walls, (well what was open to the public). As we made our way around the walls of the castle we could stand where the old bowmen would have stood when defending the castle, however we all agreed it was a little strange that the walls seemed to get smaller as we went along and figured most tall people would be shot easily if they stood there, so we came to our own conclusion that these smaller walls were the training walls for children, (of course that was just us being silly). From the walls we could see all aspects of the castle and were able to see the outside of the gaol more clearly.

A view of the Gaol from the castle walls.
A view of the Gaol from the castle walls.

 

We could also see the work that was going on as part of the Magna Carta and the so called improvements such as an added new building which I personally didn’t like, stating, ‘I don’t like it, it’s not old and crusty’. I felt that the castle was so dated and interesting it was odd to have such a new feature placed smack bang in the middle of it all. But I guess that isn’t really important, what is important is that as we sat down at our regular table in Bunty’s tea room to discuss our idea’s after our tour of the castle, we were all really excited about the gaol and at this point it seemed as if we were making progress and were on to an idea that could influence our final piece.

Chloe-

The castle was not what I’d originally imagined it to be, it was a lot smaller than I’d initially thought for a start, but what I really hadn’t expected to find was a prison. Upon entering the Gaol, I instantly felt a chill run through me. The fact that the building hadn’t been changed or adapted since its closure left a sense of what had originally been there. Walking up the spiral staircase to the old prison chapel – the oldest and last remaining of its kind! – was somewhat spooky. Seeing all of the individual boxes laid out in rows made me instantly feel edgy and getting inside one of them was too much for me; I began to feel claustrophobic. Just from being inside the box for a short space of time, I could tell why a vast majority of prisoners went mad due to the separation system. Although the actual prison cells are not open to public viewing, I was glad of this because I don’t know how I would have reacted if I’d have had to see the conditions that prisoners in this Gaol would have had to contend to –especially their last days before either being publicly hanged or transported to Australia.

It’s sad to think about all of the individuals that have died in the prison and how their families’ lives would have changed, most likely for the worse, because of it.  Furthermore, learning that prisoners who were executed at the castle would have been buried with foot-stones with just their initials on, rather than a traditional headstone, saddened me as this shows the little respect prison guards would have had for them, regardless of the fact that they had committed a crime. one story that stood out was that of an 11 year old boy sentenced to hanging for stealing a silver cup, his sentence was later altered to transportation for life to Australia. Witnessing this has made me grateful that we, as a society, no longer live like this and that our prison systems are much more civilised.

 

Vicky-

When I first walked up to the castle I expected to see a massive stone building with turrets and a draw bridge. Instead there is a Victorian building enclosed inside the original castle walls. The Victorian building has bars on some of the windows and looks very lonely. This building is the old Lincoln Goal and when, I walked in the door a sort of cold fell over my body and filled me with dread. As I walked through to the cells my footsteps echoed of the stone floor and the black bars that separate the cells loomed in the distance. The white walls made the place feel cold and it seems there is not a lot of love in this place. I visited the chapel, which is up a small spiral staircase, once in the chapel I saw there were boxes just big enough to stand in. I stood in one for a few seconds and started to feel claustrophobic and had to leave. I would not have been able to last as a prisoner in that prison of that time.

 

Inviting others to our Site.

invite
Invitation presented to individual groups.

Each group was asked to make their way to the Castle whilst stopping off at various places in the city to collect a cup of flour or sugar as creatively as physically possible. We wanted the groups to physically ask to borrow one of these things rather than simply going into a shop and buying it.

After asking permission of one of the security officers – who was very enthusiastic about what we were doing – to make sure it was okay to perform our task, we set up outside of the Castle and waited for the rest of the groups to arrive. Continue reading “Inviting others to our Site.”

Duckie for Christmas dinner, Sir?

For the Duckie Christmas show 2006, get socially mobile for one night only and choose your class – lower class, middle class or upper class – dress up, and come and have Christmas dinner with us.’ ((The Barbican 2006, The Class Club, Online: http://www.barbican.org.uk/theatre/event-detail.asp?ID=4358, Accessed: 12 March 2013))

classclubbig
http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2006/dec/07/theatre1

Duckie, a London based theatre company, devised a performance orientated around various classes in society. In this ‘audience interactive theatre event’ ((ibid)) audience members are completely involved in ‘a dinner-tainment for working class, middle class & upper class patrons’ ((Duckie 2006, The Class Club, Online: http://duckie.co.uk/generic.php?id=58, Accessed: 12 March 2013)) which the entire performance surrounds.

However, not everyone will encounter the same experience. Depending on the price of ticket the audience pays for, they are treated and served dinners that are distinctively different between three social classes:

Continue reading “Duckie for Christmas dinner, Sir?”