Friday, 24 October 2014

A Narrow Stage

The Tales from the Towpath performance was a marathon - all thirty three feet of the narrowboat's aisle: three shows in one evening. The first was still in daylight, the second two after dark, which was when the show really came alive. We had the most minimum of lighting, and as we read the story of Tib, Dan and ... (best not spoil the story as caches and zap codes are up until the end of the year at least), I was reminded of reading under bedcovers at night, and how totally absorbing and encompassing that was for my imagination.
Whatever I was told, or, in this case, was telling, seemed totally believable. And so it seemed to our audiences. They all entered into the spirit of building the possibilities of what and who could evolve from the original premise.
IMG_0081We had one rehearsal in situ although had the boat's dimensions taped out for a day previously. Add people dotted up and down the stage and we were really dancing in the crowd. Making the most of the boat's length was always central to our performance (arff arff), to bring the intimacy of the spoken voice close to everyone there, which may be uncomfortable for some, but I am sure they'll all have left with certain phrases and images spinning in their heads.
Inevitably the lighting emphasized this, focusing on our IMG_0048mouths in the main, freeing me, at least, to forget the external, my physical presentation, and pour all energy and focus into the voice and its delivery. The contained space of the narrowboat added to this aural dynamic, as well as providing a challenging screen for Helen to project images and text on to. Wood everywhere - what a wonderful acoustic.
Each performance had a very distinctive character - perhaps created by the audience's personality, aided by the start time. This difference really altered the peaks and curves of the story, where the humour or sorrow emerged, and, perhaps most crucially, how much detail we got on opening a lock. One day. Next project.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Everything We Have Ever Missed

The above, a collaboration between photographer Alastair Cook and poet John Glenday, arrived over the weekend. It is one of a series of work made by Absent Voices - an artist-led project. I like artist-led projects. They suggest energy, freedom, collaboration, all things I think can lead to beautiful, important work

This book is quiet, layered and insistent. The photos are double exposures, close-framed abstract pieces. They glimmer with alternative ways of seeing simple views. They are fixed and fluid, shadowy and concrete, of nature, of industry. I love the geometry of them. I love the snatches of light, the hinting at preciousness and life, at where humans stand next to or inside nature. I love the in-focus out-of-focus of them. I run my hand over them (printed on thick weighted, matt paper) expecting textures. Somehow feeling texture.

For every three photos there is a poem, each without a title - why have numerous titles when the book title is so achingly beautiful?  The poems may be regularly placed on the right hand page but there is nothing else regular about them. Form is played with. Sometimes informative, almost conversational in tone, in others I hear liturgies, a surefooted trail, even-fingered playing, real stories, mythic people. The poems find the gaps in the pictures and prise them wider. They speak literally to the image and then slide away, into that white space of their pages, taking me with them to my own world, to see the microscopic, the patterns, the abstract symbolism within how things layer upon each other, how they cast shadows, new life upon each other,

Absent Voices has been devised to explore and preserve in words, picture, song and sound, the legacy of Greenock's once mighty sugar industry. I only know Greenock as a standard port in the almanac, for calculating tides in the SW Scotland, This book brings that place, its history, to me, and in doing so shows me another way of seeing my place, its history, my history. What a gift!

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Counting fifty millionths of a nanosecond...

I'm involved in a wonderful project for Manchester Literature Festival: Tales from the Towpath. It is based around the waterways of Manchester, and, unsurprisingly, the story is all about water... I don't mean water simply as environment, but the threat that is facing water. The biggest issue I think is that no one knows what the consequence is. Yes, we know seas are warming, becoming more acidic, and that obviously threatens the marine life already balanced to the chemical make up of the sea, but what actually will happen is really anyone's guess.
Our story is not concerned with the sea, per se, but the water in the canals and rivers of Manchester. (Although you could argue, that just as all oceans are the same body of water, the cycle is delicate and connected) There is a prophetic element in our story, dealing with the various possibilities of what will happen to our water in the future.
We found research about water memory suggesting that water is more fragile than we'd suspected, to the point where the hydrogen bonds within its molecular structure can be broken down within fifty millionths of a nanosecond. This has potentially disastrous outcomes when you consider the ongoing degradation of plastics - what generally ends up in the water: be it canals, drains, the sea. All the plastics that have been made are still in existence in some form. Plastic breaks down and breaks down to microscopic particles, but as yet it has not completely disappeared. Water, fragile as some suggest, is vulnerable to this morphing of plastic. In some, possibly not too distant, future it may no longer be written as the familiar H2O compound but a new unfamiliar descendant. Cue mythological creatures that have adapted to such an environment....
The story trail opens tomorrow, Monday 6th October and runs, for free self-guided tours, for the duration of the festival, until 19th October. There is a performance on Friday 17th October, at Castlefield Basin on a traditional narrowboat, which will be a first for me