Sprint

Preparations for our performance at Sprint are under way. I have re-worked the dramaturgy of the piece slightly and looked at how we manage audience expectation in relation to the possibility that not everyone might get to experience the piece in the end…

The wings have been reinforced by the amazing Stocky and (together with all the props) have been delivered to the venue yesterday: thank you so much Kris for driving me there; you are the most supportive partner ever!

I have also got a fantastic team of hosts for Sprint: Nick Kilby and Holly Johnson who are travelling with me from Leeds, and the fabulous London-based Thom Shaw!

Bring on Sprint!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Documentation of first performance: all images by Lucy Barker

Briefing helpers: Sophie Unwin, Stacey Short and Abi Bucknell

In performance Chamber 2...

In performance Chamber 3...

Writing station Chamber 3...

The spectators title the work(s), Chamber 3...

De-briefing...

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

When Night Falls: Lucy Barker’s thoughts after the first performance

After a new stage of another creative adventure with Rita Marcalo I find that, once again, I have experienced an unexpectedly emotional journey during the three hour piece.

As documenter, my role was to man the camera and ensure everything ran smoothly and sort out any technical issues.  We had also made the decision, as the camera could not see all of the tea lights, and therefore the participants, I would need to pan appropriately.  This in itself created a problem in terms of who was ‘controlling’ the performance.  As the previous participant would be viewing what was coming from my camera, I realised, once we had started, that I was subtly weighting how the viewer might read it by what I chose to pan to.  As I felt my role should be purely neutral I was concerned that this may compromise the piece somewhat and that in future a wider lensed camera would be necessary. with this in mind I kept it as  simple as I could.

This was though and I feel lucky to have been witness to around 9 versions of the piece.

Initially, the participant walks into a darkened room and must surely feel a little disorientated.  They are told to not speak and not leave the room until all the candles are out.  They are given a lighter.  When they leave the room, they enter a third chamber where they realise the previous participant has been watching them on a monitor and has named the piece they were in.  They are invited to observe the next piece and name it, creating a continuous cycle.

In the space, Rita is nude, laid on the floor, with a large pair of metal wings on her shoulders. A grid of tealights is laid out on the floor.  She pulls herself along the floor to each tealight, blows it out and carefully pushes it aside.

The first two people who moved through the space stood at the edges and observed from a number of standpoints but not entering the area of tea lights.  One of them re-lit a couple of candles and watched Rita retrace back in order to re-blow them out.

Initially, watching Rita struggle around the space, slowly and methodically, blowing out each candle and moving it aside, I had a sense that the wings represented virtue and the struggle to maintain this state was represented by the action and the weight and unwieldy nature of the huge metal wings.  It made me wonder why I thought virtue could be such a difficult thing to bear.  What is it that makes us virtuous – pre-conditioning or something more natural or instinctive?  It felt quite mythological, reminding me of how a feather was weighed against ones soul to see if a place in Heaven would be reached.  To watch the first couple of people act as bystanders to the piece, made me think we maybe should have given them a card with which they could waft out a candle, therefore helping Rita in her mission but then I wondered if this was too much of an obvious ‘choice’ tool, along with their lighter, in that they could either relight or extinguish a candle.  Part of me was disappointed that they didn’t want to help her and I wondered what I would do in the same situation.  In some ways, I might think out of respect to the artist (who I might assume wanted to go through this process as they had created the environment) I might not blow out any candles or rearrange them in any way as they were so precisely laid out.  I wondered if I would have the urge to relight the candles in a sense of ‘playing’ with Rita as perhaps this is the game she might want me to play, each participant having been given a lighter before they entered the space. I hoped that given the opportunity, I would do something different.

Had it been me naming these first two pieces, I might call the first Virtue and the second Arduous. These were the words which were repeating in my head as I watched.

The third person who came through walked straight into the middle of the candle field and quite quickly blew a couple of candles out.  He then, after observing Rita moving slowly around the candle field, got down onto the floor, two rows away from Rita and mirrored what she was doing.  To me this was such a warm and moving demonstration of simple communication and empathy, I felt a real sense of joy of how wonderful human beings can be.  He continued to mirror Rita, blowing out candles parallel to her.  Finally there was one candle left, they both moved toward it and blew it out simultaneously. A really very beautiful moment. If I was naming this version, I might call it Empathy.

Overall, I was surprised at how many people stood by and watched and wondered if it could be related to shyness, confusion or perhaps they felt intimidated in some way.  I couldn’t help but feel some resentment toward the participant when they lit a candle far away from Rita.  My urge to protect Rita became quite strong as the piece developed.  At times there seemed to be an almost cold analytical sense to how the participant interacted, for example lighting a candle that was very far away from Rita and watching her move over to it, then doing the same with another candle, forcing Rita to go out of her way to extinguish.  One started to move the candles in her own pattern and relighting them, this appeared quite playful and looked very pretty but as at this point Rita was clearly struggling, it seemed somewhat sadistic although I wonder if the participant may have seen it as playing, not realising how difficult the task was.

I also found myself struggling; when the participant had moved to the next chamber, the lights came on and the room was reset.  Seeing Rita flat on the floor, clearly looking exhausted and then when she got up, her face progressively more tired after each version, was very difficult to watch but this is something I have experienced a number of times when we have worked together.  Balancing my concern for her as a friend whilst respecting her as an artist, therefore supporting her in what she is doing, I find difficult to reconcile at times.  I also became more involved in the piece as the wings broke after the first version so I became wing fixer while they re-set up the room.

The final version had a girl who, after watching Rita for a minute or two, blew out a candle.  She then pushed two together, close to Rita’s path. This was very touching and when Rita came and blew both out, the girl started to slowly move the candles closer together, eventually all except one were together, leaving one on the other side of the candle field.  Rita blew the grouped candles out at which point the girl walked over to the single remaining candle, blew it out and then used the lighter to guide her to leave the room.  A beautiful ending.  If I was naming it, I’d call it Compassion. Am sure her soul must weigh less than a feather.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The first performance

Exhaustion and the Catholic ideology of penitence…

It is now 3 days after the first performance of When Night Falls and I finally feel like I can digest and reflect on it…

This has been the most physically exhausting performance I have done to date… Last year’s Involuntary Dances was tiring because it lasted 24 hours. But it was tiring in a ‘night out’ kind of way, when you go out until dawn and you just need to sleep…

This was different. I only performed for 3 hours but half way into the performance my body was shacking with muscle tiredness and by the time the last spectator came in I could hardly move at all. The next day I had cuts and bruises all over my body and I found myself looking at them/it as if looking at someone else…

What have I done? And why have I made a work which does this to my body? A work that self-punishes in a way that I associate with my upbringing as a Catholic girl in Portugal? I thought I’d left Catholicism behind me years ago when I became an atheist at 15, but here is it, popping out in my work…

Power

I was surprised at how well the structures of the piece allow me, and the spectator, to ‘play’ power. The work brings out of some people quite sadistic behaviour, whereas others show concern and care for me through their actions…  

I find it all very interesting and I find it surprising the way my work seems to be going in this direction… I think it is interesting because I am not ‘like that’ in my day to day life… But then what does it mean to be ‘like that’? Because some philosophers (Nietzsche, Butler) argue that it is not that one ‘is’ one way or another, but that one ‘is’ always in relation to a particular context. So maybe I am ‘like that’ once I enter the ‘play’ space which is making work… I am finding it all fascinating and just want to ‘go there’ more…

Emotion

A few people cried, which I also think it is good. Once one of my long-time collaborators (Thom Shaw) once said to me that he loves it when a piece is emotive without being expressively so. By this he meant he loves it when it is not that a performer stands there crying their eyes out ‘performing’ emotion, but that the very structures of the work create emotion in the spectator, without a need for expression from the performer… So when people cried it surprised me and pleased me at the same time: surprised me because sadness was not something I was emoting as a performer, and pleased me that it was something that the very structures of the work were creating…

Presenting the work

The work has also got me thinking about how I need to play more attention on how to present this kind of work, and work more closely with venues in order to do so. A box office mix up meant that about 10 people who had purchased tickets could not see the work in the end. There were some difficult situations at the box office with people being turned away, and some dissatisfied people who were called after they had already set off only to be told they could no longer see the work.

The difficulties of the work are not only that it is durational, but that each spectator can choose how long to spend with me. I do love this: that the spectator controls the time it spends there. But I understand it does make it difficult to estimate how many people will be able to see the work, and therefore how many tickets/bookings a venue can take.

In addition, because it is so physically exhausting I don’t think I can ever do more than 3 hours every other day (I was in bed the day after without being able to move…). But if I can only perform for 3 hours and if each spectator spends on average 15 minutes with me, then only 12 people can see the work each time. In terms of the economics of presenting this work this means that either the tickets will be very expensive, or both the venue/myself accept a very low return on it…

So then this got me thinking about how more and more I seem to be making work which, because it moves away from the traditional theatre space/spectators in their seats scenario, it is becoming less and less able of paying for itself. Another of the works I created last year (She’s Lost Control) is another example of this, as the work consists of a structure which people inhabit, and because of this it can only accommodate 40 people per performance.

So how do I negotiate the ‘economics’ of performance with the kind of work which I want to make, and which invites spectators to move away from passive reception, to a more active participation and responsibility for its construction?

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

The day before…

Late sunday night… Going through the last final preparations for tomorrow… Just tried on covering my body with white body paint and I think I willl use it tomorrow… I am aware it resonates with butoh performance, but I am interested in appearing to the audience not as ‘Rita Marcalo naked’ but as an animalistic being so covering my body might help me achieve that… Will see if it works…

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Finally friday

Holly documenting the rehearsal

Holly documenting the rehearsal

It’s friday… The last day of our residency… The piece is there, all seems sorted and we are now just doing final rehearsing… We have just had the opportunity to share our work with some people at The Mill and it has been very helpful… I find that audience participation pieces rely so much on clear instructions, that if you don’t test them out on different people you don’t really know what works…

I am happy with the piece. It is so simple (I think possibly the simplest thing I’ve ever done), and I keep fighting the urge to make it more theatrical… But I know it has to stay as it is: one image which eventually disappears… Nothing else…

Last night I was reflecting on how my work is changing. These days it is less to do with presenting the spectators with a series of images or a narrative, but more to do with presenting them with one image, and letting people experience it. I don’t remember making a decision about this so I’m still suprised by it… In a schizophrenic kind of way I feel like I am watching this latest development in my work as if from afar and waiting to see where it is going and why it has happened…

It is interesting the way things change as you change in life… I am getting to the end of my thirties and my body is marked by injury and bodily memories of injury, which has also changed my contemporary technique and the way I dance. It could be that… Or maybe now I am giving myself more time to be, to absorb the significance of almost nothing. Whereas when I was younger I wanted to fill the performance space with lots of things/narratives/movements…

Whatever the reason, I like what I am doing, and I am surprised by it…

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Performance cancelled

We apologise that, for reasons outside our control, the Corn Exchange performance of When Night Falls (friday 8th October) has now been cancelled.

The performance at the Theatre in the Mill is still going ahead, though, so book your tickets now!

Theatre in the Mill, Bradford

Monday 11th October

5.30pm to 8.30pm (durational)

Box office: 01274 233200

Further performances in Leeds to be announced soon.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment