wonderful wonderful show
as was this show which i will have to come back to talk about when i next have time ...
...to perform ~ from the Old French 'parfourmir' meaning 'to provide thru..., to provide for every...' how might we make performance that provides exceptional experiences for the people we seek to connect with?
"the year of magical thinking", adapted for the stage by joan didion from her best-selling memoir of the same name, chronicles the aftermath of her husband's - and then her daughter's - sudden deaths...
and certainly vanessa redgrave's performance gave me a woman of such complete presence that i have unquestioningly accepted i am now qualified to know and judge her.
but the problem for me was that this is a woman who has already reasoned everything out thoroughly and is presenting us now with her conclusions.vanessa redgrave gives us a woman who is doing pretty much as she says she does: staying in control and when she can't control things trying to be incontrol even faster, harder, better (just as we all push our default behaviours in times of crisis). the problem for me in the sudience is that this means i am kept out and apart from her emotions. i hear about them. i even believe them. and much of what she is saying sounds right and honest and true. but without the chance to witness any spontaneous feelings in the moment it was for me a lecture, albeit a very very good lecture, on the nature of grief and grieving.
"...This happened on December 30, 2003.
That may seem a while ago but it won't when it happens to you.
And it will happen to you. The details will be different,
but it will happen to you.
That's what I'm here to tell you.
You see me on this stage, you sit next to me on a plane, you run into me at dinner, you know what happened to me.
You don't want to think it could happen to you..."
"this … thing … ticking away inside of me, if I could have detonated it i would have detonated it, and i would have killed everybody on the train carriage …they agree though that they will carry one …
alan ~ we'll carry on. we’ll sit on the new bench tonight if the rain holds off and we’ll carry on.
peter ~ why should we do that?
alan ~ because that’s what you do – let’s get back to the car – you carry on.
- our plane is ready. our battle goes on. the world will have freedom and democracy.
- that’s right. that’s good. it’s a good thing to do. goodbye.
exuent, leaving the body of the dictator.
UGH. MY STOMACH. I AM A SLAVE TO MY …
and this shouldn’t be happening –the screaming pain comes back
"crime and punishment"
when you’ve tried everything – inga, the little Jew – everything – what can you do? what the fuck can you do?
well, there’s a war on, isn’t there? it says so on the telly so it must be – the war has begun. we invaded them.
now I have zinc and calcium and iron. it’s quite a little ritual, isn’t it?
but I think they do play a part in – they are doing a part in making my life – as near perfect as any life can be.
She takes the tablets
my husband and son have died in the bombing. i am told that my mother-in-law is in the hospital … i am trying to get to the hospital … a soldier comes to me “want to be on tv?” please I must get to the hospital. “come on, you’re a pretty girl, be on tv” soldier pushes me with gun into square… “square is closed off now. this is freedom. this is democracy. this is history. stay.”
9.47am. i have cut out detainee’s tongue. my mission is pointless. nobody loves me. now i must choose if i shoot out my brains. maybe there is love in another place, maybe if we invade again then a woman will say … or maybe it is better to shoot now. i wish i had an order from a superior. please somebody tell me, ‘shoot out your brains’ or, ‘son, don’t shoot out your brains.’ but there is no order from above. the choice is mine. this is democracy. democracy – I hate you.
no? this is my house, i worked thirty years so don’t you fucking tell me don’t you fucking tell me. you’re not occupying my fucking house, alright, so don’t you fucking tell methen she tries asking them –as a favour – to pretend they told her go back and say ‘job done’ and that she took it well….that she took it badly…that she listened and acknowledged and there was no denial - they hate that, if you’re in denial – that she took it about right …
look what they done to you. look what they done to my beautiful boy.
not so bad as I thought. you said them lovely. no, really. really. really. really. lovely.she refuses all further offers, immerses herself in finding her TV channel-changer, watching tv.
Peter Handke is what makes it different"
Handke’s Working Notes for the Play
25 June 1991
the old man drags himself across the square, and then comes to a rest in the middle.a child who looks everyone in the face from below.the wondrous gently raised square in front of the palace in Versailles.
26 June 1991
a quick succession of scenes, now and then overlapping each other: like the tugging of the girl in the bus’ sleeve by another girl, then their communal parting outside, smiles all around them.(Bus 39, Guyancourt – Versailles)
28 June 1991
the square becomes a clearing with a green shimmer. ‘fantastic clearing’, the correct definition would be: the clearing allows the mind to fantasize.
30 June 1991
movements that correlate with the light and expanse and stillness and rustling of the clearing/square, and become a dance (like voices which in the evening become consonant with the rustling of the garden).the adult sits on the child’s knee.
2 July 1991
the people who are crawling, pulling themselves along the ground, jumping, clearing hurdles out of their way, like dogs being trained.another title for the piece would be “at a distance”.
3 July 1991
the mystery of someone who is just standing there. has he always been there? will he go? - someone who, from start to finish, just stands there.meeting one another as if in front of the wailing wall. stretching one’s legs in front of it.someone who does not know distance always steps intimately close to the other.
4 July 1991
an actor who, whilst walking, plays a different race, an extraterrestrial.
5 July 1991
communal, decidedly patient waiting; one companionably joins the hitherto solitary other figure.the hour we knew nothing of each other? the day we knew nothing of each other? that very day …? that very hour…?
11 July 1991
waiting at an airport; the people waiting who fall in love with one another; the transformation of the people waiting by the arrival of the awaited.
12 July 1991
the crossover from the reality of that perceived at daytime, to the inner eye, the daydream, the memory, the imagination, the fantasy, and back to reality again.such a mute spectacle can only have an open end.the rotation the earth describes, during the hour of the people walking; the image that by the end they have circles the earth.the old man, licking an ice cream.
13 July 1991
a vagrant who, in the middle of the stage, pulls out a magnificent fan and fans herself some air.a moment in which the square becomes the introductory square to a bigger square.
14 July 1991
someone as if he were being led to the gallows.someone is swallowed up into the ground, and not one of his companions notices this.the square as arrival/as in-between stop/crossover/no man’s land/kissing-the-ground paradise.the invisible square within the square.and the clearly fragmentary as one of the essences of the piece.end: the spectators leave jubilantly; lift off with a sudden flurry.stay at eye level; look eye to eye.the regularity of the action, despite all variation; suddenness as symmetry.visualising the space between the spectator and the actor, or: the space around the actor; this space as matter; the “hunched” spectator, not dissimilar to Rodin’s Thinker.do not forget the BIG WAY of looking at the ‘whole’; but also the little airy banalities.
15 July 1991
the person racing, calming down when approached by another racer.
18 July 1991
the futile guest leads to the finding of something other: wonderment.
Fragments from Handke’s prose . . .
He decided that the others should not have a story, in the same way that he himself had not story; only in this way could he bear other people, in fact it was only in this sense that he could properly start perceiving them and feel a desire to describe them. Only without a story did they etch out their contours, and the landscape around them opened up and they were unshackled from constricting anecdotes (I will never write a ‘text’, a ‘story’, a ‘moral tale’, a ‘mirror image’, not even a ‘poem’; so what else is there? - A narration that transforms empty space into energy and sustains it.)
I have always sensed that the possibilities of the theatre are limitless, that there is always another possibility beyond what I have thought of.
For me there is no codex as to how a play should be written, and therefore it is easy to get out of control. Since there are no scenes, acts and no one story – one has to guard oneself against randomness. These things of mine balance on a tightrope.
In order to write I need: silence – then excitement – and then collected calm, and that same procedure with every sentence. And without this triad I can’t bring a word to paper.
Whilst writing I have to be as quick on the uptake, agile, cunning and resourceful as when seducing someone.
Writing plays is difficult for me because my starting point is never a theme, but rather a sort of investigation. I want to investigate something, I never know what this is beforehand.
I never want to be guilty of repetition.
The audience must have an experience! Observing and looking into themselves. Observation is the most beautiful contribution ever.
Space, time, centre and form.
These are the things I am after.
I can only write unplanned stories.
And that is fitting for these times.
When from within the wondrous daydream a structure starts emerging – that’s where my personal thinking begins.
In my work concentration – forceful concentration – is often wrong. In order to achieve something I have to allow my mind to wander and at the same time must be attentive in my distractedness. This is a sort of a game with your own consciousness: you seemingly give it a free rein, and then suddenly catch it when it thinks it is free.
Everything that comes to you when fantasising is correct. Everything else contains the danger of invention. Believe yourself, even if it was outrageously fantastical – especially if it was fantastical.
I can only see myself through my work.
I can only think through my work.
From here onwards we will walk, not drive.
In all of these vehicles there exists no departure, no change of scene, no sense of arrival.
Whilst driving, even if it is me who is steering, I’m never fully with it.
Whilst driving, my innermost self is not present.
Whilst driving, I’m reduced to a role which runs contrary to my nature: in the car, that of a figure caged behind glass, on the bike, a handlebar-clutcher and pedal-treader.
Walking. Treading on the earth. Both hands remaining free. Relying on your own momentum.Driving and being driven only in an emergency.
I’ve never been to the places to which I was driven. It is only though walking that the experience becomes tangible. Only whilst walking I spin around with the apples on the tree. Only the walking person grows a head on his shoulders. Only the walker experiences the balls of his feet. Only the walker feels a train thundering through his body. Only the walker can hear the sound of the trees – Silence! Only the walker catches up with himself and is at one. Only the walker’s thoughts are legitimate.
We will walk.
The time has come to walk!
Whenever I have experienced arrival at any place, for instance on the mountain top, this was always accompanied by the feeling that I cannot stay. I can only pause, for a brief while, and then must continue, until maybe I can pause again briefly. For me existence has always been something that is experienced fleetingly.
A day in a strange city: from the attic room to the bakery; from the bakery to the living room; from the living room out on to the street; from the street to a bench by a children’s playground; from the bench under a tree (heavy rain); from the tree to the museum; from the museum onto the street; from the street into the telephone box; from the telephone box to the café; from the café to a church; from the church to the underground to the cinema; from the cinema to the attic room.
After the experience of art this desire to walk, to walk, down by the river, to continue walking.
Peter Hanke’s work
The Representative, 1963 (documentary drama)
Offending The Audience, 1965-68 (protest play)
Slow Homecoming, 1979 – 1981 (prose)
The Long Way Round, 1981 (dramatic poem)
Wings of Desire, 1987 (film)
The Goalkeeper’s Fear of the Penalty, 1970 (novel)
A Sorrow Beyond Dreams, 1972 (novel)
The Hour We Knew Nothing Of Each Other, 1992 (play-without-text)
“I have only one theme, to achieve clarity, or to achieve greater clarity, about myself, to know myself or not to know myself, to learn what I do wrong, what I think wrong, what I think unthinkingly, what I say unthinkingly, what I say unthinkingly, what I say automatically, what others too do, think and say unthinkingly: to become attentive and to make others attentive: to become and to make others more sensible, more sensitive, more precise, so that I and others too may exist more precisely and more sensitively, so that I may communicate better and consort better with others.”
macba, barcelona, december 2007
Autobiography and personal memory runs through women’s storytelling.
“The Gathering” festival harbours weekend of strange revelations, physical protestations, secrets revealed and declarations bellowed, brings together an unprecedented line-up of distinctive voices in female music, live art, visual art, spoken word, film, fashion and literature for cross cultural exploration and mind body expansions.
Some of the world’s leading female artists come together to discuss and examine aspects of memory and the creative process of their work, from cutting edge film to physical performance.
Join in the discussion and consider “how female artists connect with and draw on their own memories in their work?” …
“I work from impulse…”
“I have lumps in my body … if I squeeze them really hard maybe I’ll get a monologue…”
“I write for 10minutes without taking the pen off the paper … a technique for automatic writing: if stuck write ‘what I mean to say is …’ … keeps you honest …”
“after every show I try to have talkback – everyone can share the personal memories…”
“I work a lot with lies: try to lie and interesting truths come out…”
“our memories are in our bodies – that’s all we have…”
... in the centre of the space a stainless steel hospital trolley, an open drawer showing a pair of child’s red shoes, a child’s red jacket, a string of pearls (all of which appear in the show), its surface covered in sculptured salt providing the ‘screen’ for the video of the performance: a performer (woman) and a voice Anna) – it's about seeing the you inside your body, about the birth of ‘our kid’ Nina – (universal name for girl apparently), about eggs, cells, x-rays, sonic sounds, whale sounds, submarine sounds. stacked on the bottom shelf of the trolley are petri dishes that audiences are invited to write messages onto – one reads “to all my lost babies”. a bank of computers showing a moving exhibit of these petri dishes and one with an ‘interactive toy’ that invites you to piece together a woman’s reproductive system by dragging and placing – i was completely hopeless. reminiscent of those cut-out dress-up dolls with the different clothes and accessories - i was better with these once. at each end a projection of a painting of an early medical examination ...
“my work is about reclaiming – it’s about owning our [Afro-Caribbean] stories …”
“our story is constantly being interrupted by others’ assumptions …”
“I make in metal because I want the work to last … I want it to be dug up in 1,000 years and interpreted as an important part of the record …”
“I call myself a direct descendent of the kidnapped people of Africa – I call myself a dark power …”
“in the end it was exorcising … I’m not angry any more …”
“the way I put things together is instinctive but the elements have been gathered over a long period of time … I collect things sporadically …”
“I like fragments … layers upon layers upon layers …”
“I try to recreate texture … manmade things that collide with nature …”
“I make scrapbooks and notebooks that hold a lot of my memories …"
“my work is reactionary … I like to work with something that already exists … like a collection of garments that I’ve got from charity shops that I’ve deconstructed and put together as a collage into a new garment …”
“I am a ‘afulcasi’ – a half-caste … part Maori and part Samoan…”
“I was brought up and influenced by my Samoan grandmother in oral histories and crafts..."
“I want to leave the audience feeling empowered not manipulated …”
“in Slovenia I felt belittled by their reactions and one inner voice said ‘you don’t have to take this shit’ and another inner voice said ‘you started this dialogue now you have to follow it through’ … I learned so much about how to work with what actually happens to make the conversation … what can I use now to make this conversation happen? …”
“my film is about how my mother parented me and what was taken and rejected from how her mother brought her up …”
“some things are so ingrained you can’t let go of them …”
“how we move is African – they couldn’t beat that out of us …”
this is the show we saw last night - from nz as you will see.
and interestingly we were a split jury on this one:
i loved it and martyn hated it (amended this to a more neutral response after hearing them talk about the making and performing of it in the post show talk).
they take the model of a band performing a set of 'songs', except that in this case the 'songs' are written dialogues and monologues of an array of characters trying to get through a long night of sleeplessness to the morning, written and performed by duncan sarkies with live music made and performed by nic mcgowan. they made the show very much together in a series of 'jam sessions' -impro-ing the words alongside the music.
the piece is very laid back, lethargic, melancholic, amorphic (add further nightime slowmoving adjectives of your choice - martyn's might be laconic. soporiphic. deadly...) - very nz in in this deliberately unhurried atmosphere and one of our criticisms is that all the effects added together into this one same affect - music, lighting, words performance, images - there was nothing acting in counterpoint. so what you got was a stage full of tech kit - sound gear & musical instruments (keyboards, vodophone, weird electronic thingy - therefone we think it's called - you play it with your hands seemingly thru thin air), microphone, music stand that duncan used to work thru and discard his scripts from, video camera, old fashioned record player with a sarah vaughn l.p. on it. and behind them a large screen that images were played on and that we saw thru the layer of them and their equipment. they wanted us to see them physically making the show as it happened and to know that all the sound and many of the video images were live. so you get this very trance like music being set up in a series of layered loops building up on top of and over each other: keyboard, synth orchestral sounds, voice, etc etc etc. behind this different night time images suggesting the scene of the story.
and we get story after story - always from the 1st person - so either monoloque or dialogue. all performed thru a microphone so the change in voices and sounds that duncan was able to give us was phenomenal.
we start with...
...a house at night with it's lights on until we see a shadowey person come thru into the front room and then leave turning out the lights:
"we haven't told wendy about the ghost that lives in her room. wendy is our new flatmate and we want her to stay for a bit. so we haven't told her about the ghost. but the ghost seems to like wendy. it is always there in her room when she comes home from work. and again when she goes up to bed..."
"it's 3am and i'm here at radio whatever waiting to take your calls. whatever your problems give me a call and let's talk. well i see the board is clear so i'm standing by and ready for your call. we all have problems. and let's face it anyone who is awake and listening to this show at this time in the morning has certainly got a problem or two. so the board is still showing clear so i'm ready to talk to you. well perhaps i should get the ball rolling. i had a troubled childhood. like a lot of people. not a happy little child...."
"...i'm on my way home. and i know that i'm not going to like what i find when i get there. i know my wife will be home. but i also know she won't be very happy to see me. chances are she'll be in bed already, pretending to be asleep when i walk in. there'll be nothing for dinner i shouldn't think..."
"...so what if we could rewind the tape of our lives. where would you like to go back to? back to that time you were young and out partying every night? back to being at school and never getting picked for the cool teams? back to being a young kid and...."
"...huston this is friendship, over"
" friendship this is huston. receiving you loud and clear, over"
"roger that huston. nothing to report. all isgood here. over"
" copy that friendship."
"actually, when i say all is good here there that's not quite the truth. actually, i'm not so good with words, but well how to say, i guess it's just that i'm really bored. over"
"huston? please confirm you are receiving. over"
"oh. this is huston. yes. copy that friendship. just can't think of how to help really. over."
"this is friendship. yes roger that huston. i guess this is one i'll just have to work through by myself"
"actually frienship, i'm pretty bored myself as it happens. over"
"oh. well i've got a power nap scheduled so i'll sign out huston"
"there's nothing to do here. and i haven't even got a window. what do you see through your window friendship? over"
"well huston. you know the pictures of the earth you see quite often on the covers of those atlases?"
"well the view from my windon pretty much looks like that."
"oh. copy that friendship"
(bass voice) "did you hear about the brazillian?"
(pipey voice) "that's a landing strip isn't it?"
"no. i mean the people. from brazil. the brazillian the police shot in london in the tube station?"
"it's not right that. it's just because he was of the wrong colour."
"yeah.you've got to be right colour these days"
"especially over there you do. since 9/11 they've got police everywhere."
"wasn't 9/11 america?"
"well you know what i mean. they've toughened all the security up and you can't move anywhere over there now"
"really? sounds like a terrible place to be"
"are you enjoying this?"
"yes i am. it's interesting."
"oh. do you think so."
"yes i do. why? what do you want to watch?"
"no no this is fine."
"if you want to watch something else just say so."
"no this is fine."
"we could turn it off."
"and do what?"
"and have a conversation. we never talk."
"what do you want to talk about?"
"you start. it was your idea."
"ok... this is a really nice cup of tea"
" on no no no. that's not a conversation. you cannot have a conversation about a cup of tea"
"...how did i get so lucky. i'd resigned myself to spending the rest of my love life lover-less. and then you came along. what did i do to deserve you? ..."
wow this is so exciting and what a brilliant model for a way to make a show and how great to be given all this space to have my own thoughts and dreams in and maybe these aren't the stories i would want to be telling but as a jumping off point for imagining and experiencing something how rish and wonderful and how cool that i'm gonna get the chance to be learning some of this technology at g'smiths and yes yes yes ...
"wasn't that so great. what did you think?"
"i hated it!"
"oh god i recognise all these no-hoper losers all too well and i am so not interested in their stories and god this is self-indulgent and slow and who cares and this is soooo nz not in a good way and all right all right i get the message move on already ..."
"...to help build a world of happier people who thrive on change and inspire people around them..."