Send As SMS


Nothing lasts for ever, ashes slips through your fingers and life goes with them. Impermanence is a constant in our own lives and we are constantly challenged with a permanent problem: how do we deal with this?

Ashes is a metaphor with biblical and mythical resonances, for something you can't hold on to. Like a phoenix that burns in order to rise again, this apparent negative perspective can hold a positive reverse in which disappearence realises a renewed appearence.

Ashes, the new creation of Les Ballets C de la B coreographed by Koen Augustijnen, is 'about the things people do, or indeed don't do, in order not to loose what they have'; it is 'about the constant duality in everyone's lives, between holding on to something and the necessity or difficulty of letting go'. It is around these tensions that our own body, at a microscale, survives and, at a macro and social scale, our relationships with others and ourselves evolve.

Performed to the sound of Wim Selles' arrangements of the music of the Baroque master Handel and against a grey urban environment conceived by visual artist Jean Bernard Koeman, Ashes survives theatrically through the energy and openness of the melody, in the rythm and harmony of the music (of the baroque instruments involved with the sounds of the more intimate and carnal sound of the marimba and the acordeon). Against the pale shades of grey tones and the cold atmosphere of the street lamp, the dancers leave strokes of colour, with their vivid clothes, the blue of the sky shaking inside a body, the fire of the soul, flaming through the voice off a soprano that invades the room.

Ashes is full of this not-yet moments, when everything seems to become right, when things seem to find their own space and time, they vanish, and the moment and the place are lost again. Full of indecisions, of small miscommunications, little obstacles, the performers are alone in the middle of the crowd, and when alone for real, crowded with all this overload of social patterns that withdraw life from actual life.

It is this game enacted by two of the dancers, a kind of matting ritual, where the female switches between the vien (come) and pas (stop), and the male just ends up in the same place, exhausted, lying on the floor, after swtiching incessantlly between going and staying, between what he really wants and the thing that stops him from getting it. A scene that becomes larger then life, when the female performer leaves the exhausted body behind, and faces the audience, starting the same game with the social mass, that does not respond anymore to the calling, and just sits there looking, as it was really a show what they were seeing.

Ashes is full of these beautiful abstract images, sequences, sounds and feelings, which we can easily materialise in our own minds, moments of our own lifes, desires of our own souls. The dancers from different nationalities and cultures and with distinct approaches to dance and to their own bodies, just enlarged the scope and exponentiated the possibility of reception by the audience. What units them all in this unique performance was their lived appearence, the experience of life that their bodies already entail, the mature performance that could not be found on the everlasting energy of a young body, but rests in the loaded quality of the movement of a body, that is struggling to live, that is struggling to stretch out in order to touch something that we can not name properly. It is the body in the end of the day looking for its lost object.

In the end, we lay together, in the same pace, breathing together, waking up at different times, most of the times not realizing that someone else is falling a sleep at that precise moment, not realizing that in some complex space-time framework, there is someone reflecting our own fear of dying, or better, our fear of living.

Ashes is about all this and it is about blablabla, like one of the dancers almost falling away said when energy seemed to void is body in the air.

Labels: , , ,


'Imagine an island separated from the world not by an ocean but by a vast desert. The tribe that survives here has almost forgotten what water was and every day they assemble to tell each other their stories and share their memories of water. Maybe if they remember well enough the water will come back? Aerial performance by disabled artists on the top of 4 metre high sway poles will evoke the movement of water and the ebb and flow of the tides, whilst a specially created musical soundscape, audio description and sign language interpretation will create an epic elemental environment to tell a moving story of loss and survival set in a near future that we can easily imagine.'

[ images: Against The Tide, Graeae Theatre / Strange Fruit, performed at the Greenwich and Docklands International Festival on 27 June 2009, photos by Emanuel de Sousa ]

Against the Tide is a
Greenwich and Docklands International Festival co-commission of Graeae and Strange Fruit. The production brought together the creative skills of a team of UK and Australian artists jointly led by Jenny Sealey (Graeae) and Sue Broadway (Strange Fruit) and was performed by a group of 'stormers' (friends from the Storm at the Lyric Hammersmith) among other actors from both companies, namely, Chisato Minamimura, Caroline Parker, Daryl Beeton, Daryl Jackson, David Ellington and Milton Lopes. The announced 'outdoor extravaganza on the banks of the Thames' didn't fall short, creating a small beach with four high flexible poles evoking multiple realities and making the audience look up in wonder. Multiple WOWS! paced the aerial performance that fused theatre, dance and circus, super-sizing the overall peformance with sublime moments in the sky of our own dreams.

[ images: Against The Tide, Graeae Theatre / Strange Fruit, performed at the Greenwich and Docklands International Festival on 27 June 2009, photos by Emanuel de Sousa ]

Labels: , , , ,

The Storm Open Space Day, This is All Very Well, But What Next?, resulted in a report with some 30 issues raised, discussed and finally recorded in written format in 60 pages full of ideas, desires and possibilities in the aftermaths of the storm. Here are two of those issues (raised by me):

[ Emanuel de Sousa / Inogen Kischin / Colleen Campbel / Mariana Gomes / Naomi O’Kelly / Milton Lopes / Ghislaine Granger / Told By An Idiot / Framptic Assembly ]

Labels are enforced on people. Labels are complete illusions! That's the problem! You have always to be in some box.
Labels stuck to companies but perhaps not in a good, because not all 'physical theatre' companies are the same or work in the same way.
Has 'physical theatre' become a default title for something that is not traditional theatre? Is physical theatre more 'open'? It (actually) seems to leave more space for you (the audience) to work it out. Maybe we just have to acknowledge the differences (Physical theatre companies didn't want to be dance but wanted to be also theatre). Labels!
Critics use these terms to describe and locate the work and outside of London these distinctions are still more pronounced. It is a vicious circle, even in founding (bureaucracy and market).
We should not get bothered by the division, not care about labels, not work on the division, push forward the division and its inherent limits and put the message out.
'This is not who I am!' should be always your statement on labels, always explore every project in every possible way. On the other hand, in your nature, you always end up labeling yourself but you can use it in you’re advantage and not as a limitation to you own work.

A new company or an integrator?
Everybody starts doing things for free!
What we are looking is for a space where true integration can happen, where different levels of skill can mix, where different stimulations come together through a wide range of inputs. Everything is a tool!
It is rather difficult to pave your own way, because it involves a whole range of skills and different people doing different things in the structure and build a network where we become able to state our own way of doing/integrating things.
It is definitely a long run! We need a lot of courage to say that you can integrate different strands of text-based and/or physical theatre and improve the work of/in established companies. And a lot more to create a new company to work as a platform where you can create from scratch: a tabula rasa.
It starts with you, with your own curiosity, you just have to experiment and have fun while doing it! And be reassured when you do not know how to define your own work. Be responsible for continuing experimenting and be the next generation that refuses labels. It Is always about pushing the boundaries, your own limits and the limitations of others beyond.
(the work) Is always what you (the audience) want it to be! You (as a theatre maker) should always continue to learn about the 'other' strand / people / side of the coin. Explore! Explore new areas, it always releases something! (It just seems that one strand is always suspicious about the other).

It is a constant difficulty to find a space where writing and physical creation can happen simultaneously, sometimes, the writing does not have to be about words, sometimes is all about supporting the structure of the show beyond the words.
We are always concerned about doing new stuff, and sometimes we just have to have fun with the things that are already there. Maybe we should go back to the basics, Greece and the theatre (the 'chorus' led to choreography, dance evolved from the chorus). All is theatre! So why the division? Is it fashion! What is What?
Different genres are necessary for audiences and even for founding. Many companies don't want to be in the box where they are put in. So how can we
challenge this then? (Go home and think about it, do a storm, but when you start doing it, never stop the flow!)


I was late…
Nobody is here!
But you know what? Two people are dancing in front of me and I see and hear people discussing next to me and there are people wondering around and chatting with each other (maybe they are gossiping…).
Maybe that's all there is to it.
You just have to meet people and start doing things together.
It seems a lot like the dance I watch now. People get closer, first with fear, and then they touch, enter one another's space and without knowing, they have created something. Yes! Maybe it is just that! It is not about talking things through, or establishing the mechanics of it. Like the dancers moving, it is about chemistry, about feeling the other, touching the soul and interacting. They are already an ensemble without a predefined structure, agreed organization.
Maybe it is exactly that: inter + action.
It just seems a lot like that (I wish you were seeing what I am seeing now).
It is like STORM!
Therefore, I am going to 'storm' somewhere else.
And off I go from this Fair Isle!

And then someone appeared (back again to Fair Isle): Naomi, and then Damian (who was dancing) and then Nesreen (who was photographing everyone)!
So how do we find people to work with? Is that the question?
Well… (that could be an option) I think Whitechapel has something like that, where two artists meet one night and then probably those two artists collaborate in some project in the following months, maybe this could be the starting of and ensemble)
You just have to always be in every event, go to bad plays and good plays, meet your peers all the time, engage with them and other people beyond your own ground, because part of it (of keeping an ensemble alive) is about fresh blood, about always being artistically challenging! Being exciting! On another note, they become your 'professional family' (but maybe is also beyond that)
Maybe the solution (because finding your creative soul-mates could be actually a rather impossible task) is about making work (just try it!) with people you think you might work well. It doesn't have to be a success or a disappointment? And then have the freedom to work outside of your company (of your ensemble)?
Maybe ensembles are about individual creatives just working together and intoxicating others with new ideas and other perspectives.
One or two operative (or pro-actives) ways of achieving this: the Royal Haymarket Theatre Masterclass Programme, the Actor's Centre and the
Just meet People and you will easily find the ones you are looking for.

And they lived happily ever after?
(coming soon)


Photos by Emanuel de Sousa. All rights reserved.


The End of Year Reviews for the AA Histories and Theories, Graduate School Master Programme, counted with an invited audience of critics including David Dunster, Braden Engel, Brian Hatton, Murray Fraser, Bob Maxwell, Douglas Spencer, Kirk Wooller and myself, Emanuel de Sousa. The tutors Marina Lathouri, Mark Cousins, Francisco Gonzalez de Canales and Pedro Alonso conducted a two-day long presentation and discussion of this year's master thesis juries.

[ image: Histories and Theories Thesis Reviews at 37 FFF Bedford Square, photo by Valerie Bennett ]


At the still point of the turning world. Neither Flesh nor fleshness; / Neither from nor towards; at the still point, There the dance is, / But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity, / Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards, / Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, The still point, / There would be no dance, and there is only the dance. [ T.S. Elliot, Four Quartets ]

The double bill of The Turning World 2009, at the place, announced a binding theme between two rather different works as the inspiration they both had found in the writing of Milan Kundera.
Italian coreographer/performer Simona Bertozzi presented Terrestre, an 'intense and powrdully-performed solo' freely inspired by Milan Kundera's Slowness. Informed by Kundera's dissection of the fragile naturae of and individual's fate, Terrestre is ' a dialogue between an incomplete human body and its becoming emotionally and experientially significant', tracing the body like a 'map of passing time starting from primordial nature, through an anthropomorphic state to reach the completed, already made human being'.
The precariness and instability of the human body fins here a synthesis that aims at the essence of things, the 'cleaniliness of form', through action, and through repetitive action, 'from the inner nature of memory', the body is pulled and pushed towards many changes of shape.

Dot504 presented Holdin' Fast, taking as their starting point Kundera's best-known novel The Unbearable lightness of Being. The work coreographed by Jozef Frucek and Linda Kapetanea, combined contemporary physical dance with theatricla forms and original music, in a 'no-holds barred ballad about sexual dependency. Holdin' Fast immersed the audience (as announced) in sexual fantasy, as three couples search for the physical and psychic possibilities of the human body.
Through an array of situations and impossible positions, these three couples tried to fulfill their desire and changing will/mood/energy, to finally end stating clearly that we actually eat up the other, and with him/er, we ultimate eat ourselves.

[ video: Holdin' Fast, production dot 504 Lenka Ottova, choreography Rootlessroot (Linda Kapetanea and Jozef Frucek), performed by Helena Arenbergerová, Michaela ttová, Lenka Vágnerová, Pavel Masek, Petr Opavsky, Daniel Racek. Video editing done by christodoulos christodoulou ]

Labels: , , , ,


Photos by Emanuel de Sousa. All rights reserved.


'I like it that it's (sincerely) not so crowded, because I hope you won't be really disappointed, because this time, I really want to do it in a very naive way, what the title says.'
Notes Towards a Definition of Comunist Culture, the masterclass given by Slavoj Zizek at the The Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities was a five-day long affair analysing 'phenomena of modern thought and culture with the intention to discern elements of possible Communist culture'. The masterclass was supposed to moves at two levels: 'first, it interprets some cultural phenomena (from today’s architecture to classic literary works like Rousseau’s La Nouvelle Heloise) as failures to imagine or enact a Communist culture; second, it explores attempts at imagining how a Communist culture could look, from Wagner’s Ring to Kafka’s and Beckett’s short stories and contemporary science fiction novels'.

[ image: Slavoj Zizek, Day 5, The Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities ]

Although even in the introduction, Zizek would dismistify this overall plan, in what seemed a more organic (even naive) construction of reflections on 'where we may find utopian and non-utopian (or whatever) traces of what, retroactively, may/will/have been the beginning of a communist culture', the (naive) reflections were intertwined with the 'usual' bad taste jokes, which most of the times presented the most crucial point of his argument, or at least, the seed to it.
From a broadcasting perspective, Zizek would be this difficult public character that producers would want to put a 20 seconds delay, so they could control his sometimes uncontrolled language and apparently lack of politeness, but then everyone would loose the brilliance of his unresting quest, challenging everything, all the time, in every possible way.

Day 1 Utopias
Zizek started with wild animal parks, a kind of utopian fantasy, where the observer is reduced to a pure gaze: the scene is only there for our gaze. Watching the ('boring') channels like National Geographic (or Wild Life), we pointed out that 'animals don't need coaching, they just do it', and therefore a glimpse of a utopian mode is offered to us, a mode without language and any coaching need, 'a world untamed by language', where everyone has his/er place and is in his/er place. In a way, 'animals can have sex a-historically', and with that they overpass the phantasmatic narrative that always entaisl and impossible gazer, the gaze as object, the stain in the image.
Foccusing on historian utopias, through references to Thomas Aquinas, the Roman Empire, the dark middle Ages, miracles and science, Kafka, communist utopias, the television series 'Heroes', Lacan, Badiou's notion of 'subtraction', Zizek pointed that there is a third way to the duality fundamentalism/ liberalism, a collective emergence of 'freakshiness', a kind of freak disciplined collectivity, the ultimate utopian dream, a group of outcasts living together.
Zizek actually started with a reference to 'Blindeness' (the movie by Fernando Meirelles, based on the Nobel Prize José Saramago book, 'Ensaio sobre a Cegueira') where an apocalyptic event, arises in the existing society a kind of animal egotism and then the building of a community, a communist community. In the discussion afterwards, Zizek warned the audience to what he (precisely) had not said: 'I am not saying that everyone would be happy', but this was not really the issue.

Day 2 Architecture as Ideology: the Failure of Performance-Arts Venues to construct a Communal Space
In his introduction on Day 1, Zizek warned that the masterclass would be a rather naive take on the title and warned the audience that Day 2 would be a new domain in his own 'bluffing': '...because tomorrow I will do Architecture!' Referring to an invitation to participate in a conference he explained: 'Things like this make us believe that God exists, literally, when I was approaching my computer to say: NO!, to this invitation, someone rang at the door with a present from a friend, a book on architecture. The book is purely (just) descriptive, on these (how does the Queen calls them here?), these new Performance-Art Venues, but immediately I thought that I could steel all my ideas from it.'
From Lucia Costa/Oscar Niemeyer's Brasilia to Stalinist Neo-Gothic Architecture, Zizek pointed out the materialization/embodyment of ideology in architecture, a kind of ideological edifice, where ideology is 'acted out, staged and even stated', staging in a 'mute way' the truth.
Foccusing on Hitchcock's Psycho main character, Norman Bates, running between two ideological edifices (the 'horizontal' motel and the 'vertical' house) and referring to the main goal of post-modernist architecture in ofuscating ideology, Zizek proposed that if Frank O'Gehry had intervened in the motel/house, Norman Bates would not have killed his victims, as the split between these two architectures as ideologies would be resolved. Continuing with post-modernist arhcitecture (and his analysis of performance-arts venues) he foccused on the relation between inside and outside, where the outside is no more an expression of its inside, where there is a cut in the link between function and form, where organs seems to be floating inside a box.
Referring to Koolhaas, skin and organs, Liebskind, multiple axis boxes , the minimal aesthetization, and the 'Kinder Surprise' (the chocolate egg) effect in architecture, shells and sculpture, 'Junk Space' and the 'Bilbao Effect', terrain buildings and lord of the Rings hobbits' villages and 'a house within a house' and the envelope approach, Zizek tried to reflect on the message of this redoubling as proof of the new public spaces being privately developed, stating that Performance-Arts Venues are the Holy Grail for architects.
In discussing the possibilities of a progressive architecture, he noticed the existence in the performance-art venues of intersticial spaces with no function, and that the occupation of these space could be a possibility: new communism begins with new spatial configurations.
Afterwards in the discussion, and taking the reflections back to the centre of communism, when presented with the substituion of the burned down cathedral (religious symbol) with a community swiming pool and then the rebuilding of the cathedral as it were, and questioned to what we would prefer, he replied: 'a swiming pool covered by a cathedral, where people could jump from the towers'.

Day 3 Wagner's Ring as a Communist Narrative
In the first day, Zizek announced Wagner as his favourite, where all his love lies, and actually the foccus on Wagner's Ring was about love. Waht Zizek proposed to do was a total rehabilitation of wagner, claiming that he was actually struggling with a communict project, albeit an unfinished one.
First, we have to reject the historicist reading of Wagner, but not in a sense of idealism of eternal art. as art can be redone in every epoch, work in different contexts, therefore going beyond historical contextualizations. Secondly, we should read Wagner like we read Hegel, study both in detail.
Then, if you connect the music with the stage action, you will discover the modern rule of Wagner's music: the fantasy of reality, the myth. The music becomes the phantasmatical envelope of the stage words/action.
Drawing his reflections on a series of extracts of a recording of Wagner's Ring, Zizek foccused specially in a moment in the end, where the remaining community (of extras in the stage) turn to the audience and remain there in silence looking towards the us. Zizek ended with the notion collective love, stating that love is needed above everything else, love as a call to act, the end of Wagner's Ring is exactly that: a open space for action of the collective, it is up to us now, the true path starts here (after the finalle), in the passage to the collective mode.
And tomorrow, we are back to the 'old boring stuff', here comes the regime totalitarian discipline.

Day 4 Populism and Democracy
Starting as usual with a theoretical point followed by an obscenity, Zizek pointed to the gap between master signifier and proper knowledge, stating that we should make our own cannons, to which he contrasted the 'false avant-garde arrogance' totally integrated in the market system: 'if you think something is disgusting in an art work is simply because, you didn't get it' (which Zizek explored fully with a reinvention of an article on Andres Serrano Piss Christ, 1987, but foccused on an hipothetical recording of Mr. Zizek Shitting).
Proving his point, Zizek stated that truth does not lay in the extreme (and here Zizek positioned himself on the side of the 'stupid' common society), defending that 'extreme' does not mean 'authentic'.
Referring to Ernesto Laclau, Populism as a reactive strategy, Democracy and freedom of choice, Lacan's Lost Object, Obama and the emancipatory dimension of Isalmism (beyond turkish proto-market and islamic fundamentalism), Berlusconi and Putin, the Foucauldian reinvention of the subject and contemporary capitalism, Zizek pointed to out that in the market economy, you can choose between, say 'Coke' and 'Pepsi', but you can never make any radical choice. The eternal dynamic questioning of the subject in consummerist culture only renders the feeling of guilt: making you look 'non-authentic'.
There is always an authentic moment (but they are exceptional), there is a moment when the people discover something has changed, and they are not afraid anymore. Those in power are playing the same 'shock game' as avant-garde (after 1968): 'No dignity! No moral!' Politics have become economics! The public space is becoming more aand more a 'collective shared private dream'. Public space is truning a universalised private space.

Day 5 Environment, Identity and Multiculturalism
Problem: Does this multi-centric world (in which western culture in not any more privileged) compels us to renounce every project of a single universal history no matter how critical it is?
From evolution to historicism, post-colonialism and the provincialization of Europe, abstract history and concrete life world, the 'not-yet' of capital and universalism, the ecological crisis, post-modernism as the fullfilment of modernity and the return to a religious state (after the reign of the secularized evolution in reference to Peter Sloterdijk) as actually the ultimate death of religion, Zizek claimed that 'we always misunderstoo ourselves': particular multiple life worlds are in fact universal capitalism.
Human universality remains in the ruptures, 'the breaking point', the discontinuities of cultural identities, in the sameness of the politics of diversity. In a rather apocalyptic tone, Zizek pointed out that there is no return to 'normal' when the (bad) situation is normalised: the only way is to die. Beyond psychonalisis and sado-masochism, this is the tragic position you have to adopt in radical political struggle. The truly heroic thing is to radically sacrifice family and dedicate yourself to the struggle. 'The true heroism is not to return to normal life!', assuming that he is this kind of hypocrite leftist, devoted to the struggle who gets invited to a conference in the united states, but ty to get a business class ticket.

In a very modest (and naive) conclusion, Zizek asked us if we (including himself) really know what is going on today? 'We have all the jargon, but do we really know what we mean and what that means (second modernity, what does it mean?)'. One thing he was aware that the shattering of all existing world (in a rather apocalyptic approach) could render a new order without possible repetition of the existing one: 'We need Dark Ages!'
The recordings of the masterclass may be downloaded from the Backdoor Broadcasting Company website.

[ The title refers to the debate at the ICA on 18 June 2009, between Slavoj Zizek (atheist, Marxist) and John Milbank (‘radical orthodox’ theologian), where Zizek quoted passages from the Bible, reading the Holy Spirit as as an inauguration of radical communitarianism and in order to proof his accusation to Millbanks of liberalising the Gospel. ]

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


'I am not in love with the human race today! Ok, let's start!' he said.
3 people wondered through the parasol unit, the microphones and the recording device were being set up, while 18 marching band musicians stared statically to the 'abandoned building'. Bonney opened the door, behind him followed a sequito of admirers, friends and unknowns, that filled the gallery. A few more seconds of unresting wondering, and finally he sat in a egg shaped white chair, opened his handbag, form which he took a plastic bag, smiling to a woman that had just sit down among the small crowd. Pulling out a bunch of printed papers, he started to nervously reorder them while looking repetitively to the frosted glass door. Some one/thing was missing.

The introduction by parasol unit, made Bonney grin, while looking at the dedicated audience. Bonney raised, picked up his loose papers, and in two steps towards the door, turned to the crowd and said: 'I am not in a very good mood today!' Telling us about his pick pocket experience just the day before at his doorstep, he wrapped up: 'I am not in love with the human race today! Ok, let's start!'

[ image: Sean Bonney performing, in the background Troop by Teresa Hubbard / Alexander Brichler, 2005, 18 digital archival prints, each 96 x 89 cm, part of the exhibition Parades & Processions: Here Comes Everybody, Parasol Unit, 2009 ]

Sean Bonney was born in Brighton, grew up in the north of England and now lives in London, more precisely in the borough of Hackney (considered by many one of the worst neighbourhoods to live in the United Kingdom of her Majesty's, the Queen, the country of Tatcher and Blair, his nation). He is the author of Notes on Heresy (Writers Forum, 2002), Poisons, their antidotes (West House, 2003), Blade Pitch Control Unit (Salt, 2005) and numerous pamphlets, including Document: hexprogress and, most recently, Black Water (Yt Communication, 2006, the small company he runs with Frances Kruk, publishing the occasional pamphlet, chapbook, or circular). Poems, Diagrams, Manifestos: July 7th 2005 - June 27th 2007 (Barque Press) is the fully illustrated 90-page narrative running from the London suicide bombers through to Blair's resignation.

'Commons' opened the reading evening, blasting 'a highly rhythmic (or arrhythmic) object (the poem) that seeks through maximum density to communicate a dialectical relationship with the cosmos, and to explore the faultlines of official history and urbanism through which possibilities of liberation can be traced.' The second part, 'Commons 2', was exponentiated by a cellist improvisation, that disrupted Bonney's own arrythmic variations with profound soundscapes, combining formal experiment with 'a sarcastic voice rooted in punk' (which the so-called New Generation poets must have been dreaming of 20 years ago when they declared that poetry was the new rock n' roll) to provide an original account of the contemporary metropolis threatened psychogeography, suggesting new possibilities for political poetry and its relationship to the urban environment, while 'making clear that the protestor is also culpable', and 'charting of the effects of official mendacity on the psyche of any individual citizen who knows that all private experience is collective'.

Although some of these lines refer to reviews on his Blade Pitch Control Unit (Salt, 2005), Sean Bonney continues to deal on these issues, viscerally materialising them on a rather convulsive performance, taking advantages of flash spee linguistic games, and long paused words that try to grasp the contemporary reality, the reality of his own perspective on reality and on the metropolis full of 'abandoned buildings'. Curious enough, parasol unit was one of these abandoned former warehouse converted by architect Claudio Silverstrin into an exhibition space spanning two floors and a reading area, one more 'white cube' gallery with a clinic atmosphere, in grey and white concrete forms, an empty vessel.

Behind Sean Bonney, the 18 marching band troopers continued immobilized, looking pointingly at us, protesting silently. When I opened the frosted glass door, it was still day, the evening was still light and accross the road, a seemingly abandoned industrial landscape stood tall. His work-in-progress and notes on his readings can be found at these abandoned buildings, where I found uncommon extracts of his 'commons':

we are geometric problems
in the slots of loveliness
magnetic cores, for example
there goes Thatcher again
inside what I wasancient & elementary
slaughter the fascist BNP
I know, its obvious
to live in it like a language
that whistling, the law
in the privacy of our
threshold values, this serenity
- you know -
inside the hysteresis loop

"you have now reached
to put into practice
the knowledge you
you have acquired ghosts
in short, are ready
work / crime / magic
secret history number
the properties of ideas
put into ourselves
sorry, local residents
this is how you talk
the body’s acoustics
structurally / tearing
your playhouse down"

[ 'The Commons 2 (concluded)', post made by Sean Bonney on 22 May 2009 ]


In sports terms, we could say that Richard Alston was playing at home, where the audience are people that we encounter in the corridors and staircases, people that watch the ensemble rehearsing above the ground, in a special room in the middle of The Place.
Richard Alston Dance Company was indeed dancing at home, inside the four halls that see the work taking shape, forming itself through the movement of dancers, surrounded by fans and admirers. To which the ensemble who filled the dark Robin Howard Dance Theatre, responded with a hum that reverberated long after inside the bodies that experienced the performance.

The first part included Brink performed to the sound of Eurasian Tango, Movements 1-5, by Ayuo. The work coreographed by Martin Lawrence (rehearsal director of the company) is the development of a shorter version of Brink, to Movements 1,2 & 5 premiered in 2007. The work comprises 4 couples, reinterpreting and deconstructing the classical tango sensual movements. Although dancing in couples, the passionate sexuality that usually tango dancers entail, was not felt here. The coreography presented another spectrum of the classical tango, the sublimated fight between male and female that gives a polite rawness of sexuality to its movement.
After a brief pause, Alert entered the stage in a rather informal way.
Alert is the raw material for a film to be directed by Deborah May, which will be online on the Hear Here! website in October. Four dancers entered the stage chating and playing around among themselves. It actually seemed like The Place in a normal weekday, when students are stretching and alongating their bodies in the staircases, and through the corridors, shouting into the locker rooms, and laughing around the school. It all started in a ramdon way, movements inciting other movements, displacements in space provoked by other bodies invading your own space, and provocations by the other, the dance beside you. Suddenly, with a light change, Wayne Parsons, one of the dancers stood alone in the center of the stage, and surprisingly, Richard Halston entered the stage from the audience, sitting in the dark far end, with both hands on his knees. Silence for a moment, and then he said: Ok!
Richard started very calmly and in a gentle way, giving specific tasks and directions to Wayne that precisely performed a set of specific positions. At some point, Richard actually apologysed to Wayne, because not deciding which would be the next move, Wayne started shaking with the effort to remain in the unatural position we had been put into. Then, Richard said: 'Now, if you can remember it all, do it again...' To which wayne smiled. The improvisation that followed, based on the positions foregiven by Richard, was a delight, and Alert ended with a long silence after the dancer stopped, a silence sudenly broken by Ricard's warm and pleased: Ok! (black out)

After the interval, the second half started with Serene Beneath, followed by Blow Over performed to the sound of Philip Glass - Changing Opinion, Lightning and Open the Kingdom (Liquid Days, Part 2) - from Songs from Liquid Days. A shorter version of Blow Over premiered at Sadler's Well in 2008. A few days before of its premiere, I was fortunate enough to sit in one of the rehearsals and see the first stages of creation of this work co-comissioned by Sadler's Well and Dance Umbrella.
The music by Philip is rather moving, specially Changing Opinion, performed with two dancers Hannah Kidd and Wayne Parsons, a duet that enthrills for its simplicity. Recalling the rehearsal, at some point, Richard said to Wayne: 'It is more subtle, you almost don't touch her', and it is true, the subtlety of the elaborately structured and repetitive style of Philip Glass music, reverberating like the hum inside the room:

We became aware
Of a hum in the room
An electrical hum in the room
It went mmmmmm

We followed it from
Corner to corner
We pressed out ears
Against the walls
We crossed diagonals
And put our hands on the floor
It went mmmmmm

Sometimes it was
A murmur
Sometimes it was
A pulse
Sometimes it seemed
To disappear
But then with a quarter-turn
Of the head
It would roll around the sofa
A nimbus humming cloud

Maybe it's the hum
Of a calm refrigerator
Cooling on a big night
Maybe it's the hum
Of our parents' voices
Long ago in a soft light

Maybe it's the hum
Of changing opinion
Or a foreign language
In prayer
Maybe it's the mantra
Of the walls and wiring
Deep breathing
In soft air

[ Philip Glass, Changing Opinion, in Songs from Liquid Days ]


The week of theatre ended with an improvised site-specific piece performed by a group of stormers. The performance invaded the intersticial spaces of the Lyric Hammersmith, in a work that was devised throughout the week (in the scarse spare time between workshops) drawing inspiration form the thoughts and practices that Josette-Bushell Mingo shared in her own workshop, in the beginning of the week, entitled What do we want to say and how do we want to say it?.
Drawing on inspirations from Pina Bausch to Blade Runner, Josette looked at space and stories, exploring the unusual spaces of the Lyric that are often forgotten (stairs, windows, tables, alcoves, passageways) from where we can still draw inspiration from.

The performance involved moving through these spaces, with short spoken word interventions that punctuated the physical interaction between bodies, objects and space. The banal architecture of these forgotten spaces exponentiated the ensemble performance, igniting the stories between them and the audience. Whatever they wanted to say, they said it and the audience experienced it completely, often expressing it with sighs and wows!

The final day of STORM was an Open Space Event, facilitated by Lee Simpson (Improbable). This is all very well, but what next? was not a conventional conference or meeting, the idea of Open Space is an interactive and inclusive way of structuring a meeting that allows you, the participant, to set the agenda. The event was announced as a dynamic way of talking about complicated and important things and as particularly good at turning talking into doing, at making things happen.

[ images: Lee Simpson opening the Storm Open Space ]

Open Space Technologies (OST) was initially developed by Harrison Owen in 1985. It basically offers a method to run meetings of groups of any size ('technology' meaning here a tool/process/method). It is a self-organizing process, where participants construct the agenda and schedule it during the meeting itself. At the beginning of an Open Space participants sit around a circle, the facilitator briefly re-states the theme of the gathering, inviting the participants to identify issues or topics of discussion. The proponents come to the center of the circle, write the subject or topic of discussion on a sheet of paper and announce it to the group, choosing a time and place for discussion and posting it on a wall (setting the agenda and the timetable for the day).
Participants hear The Four Principles and The One Law, which state that whoever comes is the right people; whatever happens is the only thing that could have happened, whenever it starts is the right time and when it's over, it's over. The one Law, usually referred to as the 'Law of Two Feet' (or the 'Law of Mobility') reads as follows: if at any time during our time together you find yourself in any situation where you are neither learning nor contributing, use your two feet. Go to some other place where you amy learn and contribute.
The sessions run concurrently over the course of the day and in the end of the day, when the Open Space is 'closed', a document is ready with all the ideas and discussions that were being addressed by all the participants. A kind of manifesto, made for action.

[ images: proponents write down their topics of discussion, announcing it to the whole group before pinning the sheets on the wall ]

STORM Open Space was the culmination of a creative week of workshops on theatre, talks, happenings, networking, performances, thinking and challenges between established thetre companies and 40 emerging european theatre-makers.
All of us, filled with new experiences shared the same dissatisfaction, inspiration and belief that PUSH, Graeae and the Lyric had shared with us in the beginning of the week that 'theatre and the arts is a human right to be enjoyed by all; that theatre houses are places to share, talk, reflect, spread joy, get happy, teach and get angry; one of the last meeting places where we can see the panorama of human life'.
In the beginning of the day, when we sat accross each other, in a egg-shaped form, filling once more the main foyer of the Lyric Hammersmith, noone would expect we would cover so much ground. Many topics were raised and discussed throughout the day (I proposed two discussions, which reports will be posted shortly), such as the eternal division between text-based and physical theatre; the difficulties to set up an ensemble; the sinuous paths of creative founding; the future of STORM and the actual future of these 40 emerging artists.

[ images: one of the discussions set by Josette-Bushell Mingo on the future of STORM; general view of the main foyer of the Lyric Hammersmith, with the mural painted during the week on STORM ]

After 7 hours of discussion, we were back to the same place, back to our egg-shaped form, staring at each other, sharing the experiences of the week, the temporary conclusions of the discussions and our dreams and feelings.
Lee Simpson closed the Open Space, but the space remained opened in our minds. Although the discussions of the actual day were stabilized in a single document, everyone left with a thousand thoughts storming in their heads, in their bodies, announcing that after theses STORM, other storms will happen around the world, and that after this nothing will be the same.
A new generation of theatre-makers will ignite spaces and audiences in the near future, constructing the 'place for solidarity and difference' that Josett-Bushell Mingo wanted to create through this joining of forces to develop each other and actually make things happen!


Josette-Bushell Mingo described STORM as when 'unexpected forces come together and nothing is never the same after that'. STORM was exactly that, an opportunity for emerging artists and theatre-makers to gatecrash the visual and physical theatre party and discover wat it takes to create boundary busting-theatre: from spoken improvisation to installation, site specific to spoken word, puppetry to physical theatre.
In a week of intensive activity directed by acclaimed directors, Josette-Bushell Mingo (PUSH), Jenny Sealy (Graeae) and Sean Holmes (Lyric Hammersmith), 40 european theatre-makers (although most of them based in London, and I was one of them) were given space and time to discover contemporary theatre companies inside out.

[image: detail of polaroid wall with all the stormers ]

The week-long workshop was 'staged' at the Lyric Hammersmith, literally taking over the building in every possible way (to the point, that the walls were painted and drawn upon) and brought together an array of established theatre-makers that included: Helen Paris and Leslie Hill (Curious), Ferdy Roberts (Filter Theatre), Josette Bushel-Mingo (Push/TystTeater), Javier Marzan (Peepolykus), John Wright (The Wright School), Barby Asante, Benji Raid (Breaking Cycles), Toby Jones and David Jubb (BAC centre), Sean Holmes and Simon Stephens (Lyric), Aitor Basauri (Spymonkey), Paula Garfield (Deafinitely Theatre), Scott Graham (Frantic Assembly), Mem Morrison (performer), Steve Tiplady (puppetry), Lee Simpson (Improbable), Jenny Sealey and Mojisola Adebayo (Graeae), Vicky Amedume (Upswing Aerial), Helen Chadwick (voice coach), Richard Greogory (Quarantine), David Farr (RSC), Wolfgang Stange (Amici Dance Theatre), Paul Hunter (Told by an Idiot), John E Macgrath (National Theatre of Wales), Emma Rice (Kneehigh Theatre) Francesca Beard (poetry performer).

Impossible to resume the full experience of the workshop, here follows a glimpse of my own path through the week, through the myriad of wrokshops offered, trying to rationalise the experience, emotions, feelings and sensations, that punctuated each hour of these never-ending days.
We started the week with two questions: Where do you come from ? Where are you going?, in a ice-breaker session led by Helen Paris and Leslie Hill for 40 strangers that sat around the tables in the main foyer of the Lyric Hammersmith. In colourfull pieces of paper, yeallow, blue and pink, histories and dreams were written down: I am coming from 'darkness to light', 'home', 'a city where people's names end with Buttons', and 'I am not sure where I am going but I intend to be busy', 'I am going with knowing what Is the mening of going', 'I am going on a trip', 'I am going'.
And off we went to our first workshops, the groups became smaller, the space changed, in a minute we were in the main stage of the Lyric with Ferdi Roberts of Filter Theatre, that after a brief talk about Filter's on-stage fusion of live and recorded music and sound, naturalistic and stylised physical movement, and video images, led us into a world of wonder experiences. The group of strangers holding each other in the centre of the stage, heads with heads, shoulders with shoulders, started breathing together, silently, a silence that became a sigh, small ressonances of each others body, that grew bigger and louder, to the point that the sounds created made us travel to an imaginary space: space of storms, accross highways, winding away the fauna of the far away landscape, and back again to the plateaux of background sounds of the Lyric.
After luch time, where ther was time to chat, rest, meet other stormers, get a breath of fresh air, sit and dream, plot an plan (as they said in the programme whatever you need to do or whatever feels right), we went to our next workshop.
John Wright received us with a huge smile, welcoming us like children welcomes their playmates, and 'play' was the ruling word of the day, or at least, this afternoon where we investigated concscious and unconscious play, finding the game, revealing and hiding the game and the devolopment of text and situations out of nothing, or better saying, out of playfulness. Out of basic and simple movements, the exercises were puinctuated by hilarious situations that started every time with the impossible provocation: Well, I heard you know all the moves... Yes, I certainly do!
The first day ended with a conversation with Toby Jones (Every Boy Deserves Favour, Infamous) and David Jubb (BAC) who talked about their own personal and professional path, their dreams and fears, their way of living theatre. Of the myriad of great moments or lines of thought, one stroke me as really special and hilarious: Toby took off his shoe and threw it in the middle of the human circle, that sat around the stage of the Lyric Studio. The shoe just laid there, without any interest, but as Toby made it clear, it all changes when the actor enters the stage, at that precise moment, the shoe becomes incredile important. 'Oh! I know he lost he shoe!', 'Someone robbed the shoe!', 'It is not a shoe, that is obvious!' were some of Tony's lines enacting the audience in its eagerlness to try to make sense of the uninteresting shoe in space. And that's all it takes!

The next day was spent with Sean Holmes, artistic director of the Lyric Hammersmith and Simon Stephens, playwright (On the Shore of the While World), in a workshop where we should basically Write a short scene and stage it. Well, that's quite a challenge to someone who is not used to write. The morning session examined how character is dramatised rather than described and how dialogues and action can be charged to release words in a way that engages audiences. Simon took us step by step through some basci questions such as: what qualities are need to be a playwright? or What must all palys be about? or what's the difference between a human and an animal, that took us deep into 'deep structure grammar'. In the end, what we arrived to was Inclination, observation, analysis and technique as basic skills for the playwright as the main function of his endeavour is to actually map behaviour, namely people's behaviour, as this is ultimate the thing that all plays should be about: People. We actually ended up with thre basic questions that all scenes (and basically all plays) should respond: What do they want? What is stopping them? What do they do to get it?
Sean Holmes took the lead in the afternoon, staging some of the 14-lines short scenes and actually staging them, concluding with scratch performances that worked mainly the possibilities that are buried in a simple amalgamation of words, words that mean actions, that construct people, characvters and situations, a conflict and its resolution ( I will post the scene I wrote in one of the next posts).
In the evening, Mojisola Adebayo presented a first rehearsed readind with British Sign Language (BSL) interpretation of her new play Matt Henson, North Star, inspired by the true story of Mathew Henson, an African-American who in 1909 was denied his place in Artic history as the first man to reach the North Pole. Set in an imaginary Vaudeville decadent theatre, Danny Sapani, Matt Henson, was exponentially amplified by the interpretation in BSL by Jacqui Beckford, the Weather Lady, which gave visceral expression to the voice of the man, the adventurer in a full lived experience of his great adventure, his life.

The following day started in an Improbable way, with Lee Simpson wanting us to create work by the seat of your pants and the skin of your teeth and stepping on stage before you are ready. Foccusing on the improvisational approach that underpins the creation of an Improbable show, the work was done in the most imporbable way, how to put two human beings, telling the seame story simultaneously wihtout knowing what the story is about. Just go along.
The afternoon was set to other tunes, with Helen chadwick leading a a workshop where we explored singing in harmony as a group. Leraning songs from scratch in just a few minutes, we filled the room with harmonious sounds and melodies, that spread through the building, other workshops and ended up in the square in fornt of the Lyric in the middel of the city, singing to the four winds, that when you go out far, how far is far enough far? And realizing that when you think you are far enough, you are just scratching the surface of yourself. It was beautiful, I cannot explain it, so I am going to continue, because it had to be experienced to fully understand it (I guess).

The last day of workshops started with Paul Hunter of Told By an Idiot, fascinating us with the idea of the fine line that exists between comedy and tragedy, and how the work of the company strives to explore the human condition by revealing it in a style of theatre that is bigger than life. Through a variety of strcutured exercises including verbal and non-ver-bal improvisation, rhythm, timing and ensemble work, we created hilarious situations that wre basically and amplification of our own lives.
The afternoon workshop lead by Emma Rice of Kneehigh Theatre, continued along the sme lines, with more intense and extreme physical work, we actually became bigger than life, experimenting positions and perspectives that changed our relation to space, gravity and the other people. Intensified through the introduction of musicality, the simple physical movements, became charged with the power of an embedded story.

[ images: Claire Cunningham perfoming a site-specific piece based on the workshop led by Josette-Bushel Mingo (PUSH) in the patio of the Lyric Hammersmith ]

The day ended with the Open Mic Night where some of Stormers presented improvised work, the results of the exercises developed in the workshops, in what became a rather emotional night, full of sketches of life, love and theatre. Caroline Parker was unforgetable as Kate Bush: Heathcliff, it's me--Cathy. Come home. I'm so cold!Let me in-a-your window. 5, 4, 3, 2. The end!

PS: This one is already too long and at the same time too short to say so many little huge things and moments that punctuated these never-ending days and nights.



Emanuel de Sousa, arq