On April 16th six of us went to the People's Assembly organised Anti-Austerity demo in central London: Lucy, Rebecca, Mariam, Michael, Angi and Irma. Partly due to a desire to demonstrate our feelings and partly to experiment with movements and sounds toward the big song and dance number taking place in the demonstration scene
in the script.
We tried a few games, e.g. "Ha Hoo Hey", Swedish Clap (our own variants being embodiments of e.g. "social Housing", "David Cameron", "Gentrification") and "in and out the arches"
We had planned also to do more with our voices, with asking other demonstrators why they were here and variations on selfie games but we detoured to check out a protest at Savills on Regent street, Savills being apparently in cahoots with local and national government in a plan to demolish 100 more Social Housing Estates nationwide. We unfortunately missed this demonstration and instead adjourned to a Soho bar for a debrief.
We concluded that it was a successful experiment, actually good that we were small in number as in many ways it was a first sketch for thinking how we can incorporate our actions in a public demonstration and better to be reasonably subtle since the work we plan to do is still sketchily known.
It was very interesting to note how very unusual were our physical activities among the other demonstrators doggedly plodding forward. Our activities were met with good will and banter, though one man stated (with a twinkle in his eye) "you're not here to enjoy yourselves".
Actually I can't see why it's inappropriate to enjoy oneself on a demonstration as are we not imagining the society we would rather live in as well as demonstrating our opposition to aspects of the current situation. (This approach was more prevalent in late 90s/ early 00s with the Reclaim the Streets movement, though I think that our aesthetic differ substantially from this)
We concluded that in order to be more effective we require:
Props for dancing with e.g. a rolled up banner creating a snake like effect
This experiment was stimulating in script writing terms as it helped with planning the group that we need to gather for the "real thing". Beaver's friends Max and Niamh are demonstrating with her sister Seb and a large group of their friends who we have met the previous evening to create their banners and props. This will be a colourful, musical and motley crew. Somehow I find it easier to envision these things having interacted not only with thoughts in the course of an actual demonstration.
This group will then be joined by Beaver, Saffron and perhaps Floyd and his friends and other characters for the climactic scene.
In November after a number of training sessions we (Director/ Performer Lucy Thane, Lead Choreographer Rebecca Bogue, Cinematographer Erifili Missiou, Performer/ Choroegrapher Seke Chimutengwende, Amazing assistants Caroline Melia and Irma Irma Redikaite, Performer/ Painter Maryam Hashemi, Performer/ Painter Gina Birch and our wonderful ensemble of Vanio Papadelli, Zoe Tstaff, Amanda Bentham, George Binette, Gergely Soltész, Michael Nique, Ali Baybutt, Jane Munro, Tania Soubry, Letizia Binda-Partensky, Lieve Carchon
The Shoot took a lot of organising and it was a freezing cold (but blessedly sunny) November day but it really was an inspiring pleasure of a day. Everybody did their job to perfection and Erifili's cinematography is exquisite and a great time was had by all. We shot everything we feasibly could with such short hours of daylight.
There were 2 painting shows and a live music session also part of the proceedings. Maryam, as her character, Beaver, displayed her excellent paintings in the market
And Gina Birch of the Raincoats displayed her paintings and songs in Sarah's excellent vintage furniture shop on Broadway Market and had a lively opening in the evening. She also performed 2 of her songs on the market. The excellent musician Rebecca Bouche kindly gave up her spot for the purpose.
SO! The next installment of “live-dance-film” I am not a village (www.iamnotavillage.com) is upon us.
We are shooting the Broadway Market scene on Saturday Nov 21st 2015
I am delighted to announce the participation of lead choreographer Rebecca Bogue and performer/ choreographer/ improviser/ dancer Seke Chimutengwende, cinematographer Erifili Missiou, painter/ performer Maryam Hashemi and painter/ punk rock star (the Raincoats), Gina Birch.
I would like to invite you help us to create this exciting experience.
There will be 3 rehearsal workshops run by Rebecca Bogue, Seke Chimutengwende, Erifili Missiou, Caroline Melia and myself .
We will develop choreography and improvisation in public places using cameras.
We will provide £20 expenses and food for each performer
as well as a very creative, informative, inspirational and enjoyable experience.
We are currently fundraising and I hope to be able to pay more standard fees in future.
Rehearsal dates are:
Saturday November 7th 12-4
Friday November 13th 12-4
Saturday November 14th 12-4
Shoot date is Saturday November 21st (Call times TBC)
The scene we are planning is an interactive dance through the market and musicians, then a game of catch with a pile of money between the bus-top by London fields and a stall where Maryam will be displaying her beautiful paintings.
As well as being filmed by Erifili the action will be captured using gopros and footage shot by members of the public with their iphones.
There will simultaneously be a stall of Maryam Hashemi’s paintings and an installation of paintings and music by Gina Birch of the Raincoats in the furniture shop at no. 14 Broadway market.
At which there will also be food and drink and live music at the end of the day.
Meet at Unit 61 Regent Studios, 8 Andrews Road, London E8 QN
Email me or Call 07890 990 274 any qs or probs
Please get in touch if you or anyone you know is interested in participation/ if you can make some or all of the training days and I will tell you more information.
IS “SORRY” THE ONLY WORD YOU SAID TO OR HEARD FROM A STRANGER TODAY?
Preparation for the scene in Broadway Market
WORKSHOP NUMBER ONE
Saturday April 18th 2-5pm
Present Marina Sossi, Lucy Thane, Maria Pia, Minqwa, Lisa Alexander, Glemerson Carrilho
PART ONE: STUDIO
1. Preparing body-mind-spirit with Marina Sossi (30 mins)
2. Forum Theatre Game (Thanks Augusto Boal and Clemence Viel and Future Forum):
a. All in the circle with backs to each other
b. When a word is called all turn to face the circle in the shape of that word (as it feels to you) WORDS: FAMILY, SOCIETY, NATURE, MARKET
c. One participant moves to centre and adds movement to the shape. One by one the participants are tapped on the shoulder and they then join the person in the middle by moving their shape until everybody is moving together
3. "Sorry" games: Walking around the room and experimenting with methods of greeting/ not greeting each other/ strangers (i.e. when our paths cross)
a. Saying "Sorry" in a variety of ways
b. Not saying "Sorry" , finding non-verbal alternatives
c. Not saying "Sorry" , finding verbal alternatives
d. splitting into groups (ideally of 2 but we had uneven numbers). One in each group using a mobile phone to record their groups' activities, with a number of choices of how to do so: Surreptitiously, casually, blatantly, obtrusively AKA friend/ cctv/ paparazzi/ tourist/ selfie/ photojournalist. Exchanging the roles
4. Explanation by me of the central ideas behind this: My fear of dystopian future in which the only ways strangers in urban situations communicate with each other is by saying “Sorry” or photographing/ filming each other
And to build toward:
50. Saffron enters street market. As she moves through the affluent crowd, The word “Sorry” builds up percussively until like an Opera of Sorry the word rings out from all directions.
PART TWO: IN BROADWAY MARKET
5. Remaining in our groups we experimented with the same “Sorry” not Sorry, verbal, non-verbal and movement games that we had rehearsed in the studio, but this time exploring our encounters with real strangers we encountered in a sunny afternoon in Broadway market.
PART THREE: EVALUATION IN STUDIO
We were all given paper and pens and wrote silently for 20 minutes
We then had a closing discussion
Walking moving saying “Sorry” and not saying “Sorry and looking looking looking where should I look to? Walking toward in between what comes toward me, what walks away, moving like fishes, swimming in the mire of being; feeling and seeing and sensing the stream of energy; the firey tail of where I’ve just been, the fluid haze, the smokey wall of left behind, a part of me; my soul, swell, face, smile. I skimmed your elbow with the side of my arm or did you swing your hips in my direction? A foot, a hand , an arm flung out with joy punches someone in the face a helping hand topples her over and brings me to my knees. Bodies, bodies, bodies. Expletives! Fuck! Ow! No! Stop! Don’t! Hey! Oy! Parted with a glance that is piercing, fires tiny daggers into yours, then halts, then melts, there are eyes of “Sorry”, really sorry “I meant to do no harm.. I’m Sorry” There is an opening door there is an expansion There is possibilities of expansion that starts with an unintentional shove a naughty nudge a mismatched speed or unexpected stalling in mid flow. To stop and stand in the street. An aggressive act in this place. To stop. To pause out of step with everybody else. To go against the flow to create a dischordant ‘note| to block stand your ground be still. To be quiet in a noisy place to be slow in a fast moving flow. To dance your own tune. To melt into the one. Stop. Start. Stop. Stop. Stall. My heel is held on pause- floating in a mistimed suspension. Wasting time. I’m sorry to have wasted your time holding on when I should’ve let go so long before
Really interesting experimenting with human conditioning and reactions to personal space. People naturally want to avoid contact, or feel they are sorry. It made me feel invisible or all not connected by challenging human way. When challenged by causing a response once again caution is taken first awareness is seen with personal space but not awareness of what is in front of them. By the end it makes me want to force myself and invade everybodys’ space. Instead it disheartens me for this moment, it’s bad to touch or fear that who or what you don’t know is bad and contagious. You must be crazy ‘cos I don’t know you.
It is like being a child learning to open yourself up again to express your feelings honestly rather than what we have always known.
Know thy neighbour
A lot of people are not aware of what is happening around them except for the brief moments of contact and then “Sorry” is the usual response. When Marina’s movement became more expansive it was part of the movement of the market and again there was barely any recognition from passersby. A lot of people moving past each other or sitting with their own groups without contact, inhabiting the space as separate people or groups. Surface level. I moved through a couple to get to the potatoes when there was an obvious easier route, they smiled and said “Oh Sorry”. Stopping entirely creates more confusion- on the edge of a bench with a group of friends who I didn’t know, their reaction was as if they were grasping to understand what they meant especially when I said “Sorry” but stayed seated.
Eyes without contact. General lack of attention outside their own group. People watching people without seeing, movement without body, speaking without the voice. A general disconnection even in connection, speaking without conversation. Inhabiting space posturing, posing attention on the idea of what this market is whilst being there in person erasure. Moments of contact following certain principles without deviation (even deviation isn’t deviation) everybody normalised. Smells and clothes. Lobotomisation. Being mainly an observer removed me.
Walking through Broadway market the most noticeable thing was the tremendous desire of people to avoid communication of any kind- not to touch-not to interact-not to speak-not to make eye contact. The thesis was horribly proven, the only twinkles in the eye communication WAS when people said “Sorry”, when they said it more often than not eye contact was made and there was an apparent sincerity in the interaction. As people were so adept at avoiding getting into my path, I tried to intentionally cross paths with many people (in an apparently absent minded rather than aggressive manner) and even then it was tremendously hard to find any contact. People SWERVED, turned away, undulated their bodies any way they could to avoid that apparently abominable meeting/ interacting with a stranger. Min held her arms out with full warmth to a man, who instinctively responded with equal warmth, then stopped and said “Do I know you?” and coldness descended and he backed then walked away a bit miffed. I did not have a single warm or funny or sweet encounter (which growing up going to markets have somewhat led me to expect) beyond that minor twinkle in the eye of a few “Sorry” sayers. I started to try to mirroring and echoing peoples’ actions avoiding a little exaggeratedly and that I think began to get more of a reaction, like to shift things they had to get more performative. I am still not sure how much good will this elicited. This is also something to develop.
I also didn’t fully anticipate the shyness of some of my fellow performers, it is quite a big ask. When I do this again it might be worth shifting some of the exercises we did in the studio into the market, perhaps even as we get bolder to invite market goers to participate.
It might also be interesting to try this in different markets, Roman road, Ridley road, Greenwich, Hoxton street? (a travelling troupe of “Sorry sayers”), especially Roman road as that is also in the script.
I find the workshop really interesting, fun and inspiring on a creative level and in terms of working with the group of people we formed- fantastic: Min, Marina, Maria, Lisa, Glemerson. But very dispiriting on a social level, if not entirely surprising.
n.b.: I did the forum theatre exercise because I had done it in a forum training I had undergone a few days previously (run by Clemence Viel and the Future Climate change activist group): In both cases when the word “SOCIETY” was introduced I was the only person with a positive response, me lonely reaching out to the boundless strangers with eager arms, surrounded by anxious oppressed, scared, confused people. Is this because the London I grew up in taught me to see the social world as opportunity and promise not threat?
MARIA PIA GRIZZUTI
It was very interesting to see people’s reaction. A great ability on their side to avoid contact. We must definitely ensure we’ll go at lunch time next time we try so they have no escape!
It would be useful to work just in pair to make the filming easier. I felt that at times it was not possible to follow well both people in the group.
It would be interesting to have a set routine, starting from simple sorry and increasingly make it more theatrical. I found that the stronger reaction came when we were playing with physical contact, so it would be interesting playing more with that. Also strong reaction when interfering in more ‘private’ spaces, for instance when going between a couple.
Another thing worth exploring would be to see the reaction when we impose on situations rather than just walking through the market, for instance finding a way to interact with people standing in front of a market stall or looking at the shop windows.
It was challenging at first to switch from ‘sorry’ only verbal communication to something else. Maybe we should take a moment or find an exercise to do for a couple of minutes to switch. Or have different pairs having different types of interactions with the people.
Were we setting ourselves up for disappointment by having expectations of communion partially inspired by the togetherness we found in the studio? How can we find out why market-goers on a sunny Saturday are so apparently uninterested by their fellow human? Why does it matter? Does it matter? Would it be notably different in a different market? Should we try to do a more exaggerated or “performed” action? Paint our faces green or dress as clowns or aliens or more “norm-core” ourselves? Can/ should we elicit the participation/ interest of these market-goers? Do we want to? Why is this perfectly reasonable behaviour for them and evidently not for us? Are they afraid or insecure? Are they just very content in their own worlds and people? Are they as absent as we perceive them to be? If so where are they? Are they “them”? Are we trying to transform the situation or merely to record, reflect, imitate it? Is this about social class and gentrification? Is this about Capitalism? Is this about England and northern Europe? Is this about affluence and entitlement? Why do I believe that “there’s no such thing as strangers just friends you haven’t met yet” and others believe that strangers are at best unimportant, at worst, a threat? Where and how did we all learn to experience strangers in these different ways? Can these differences co-exist? Were the teenage black boys repeatedly rounded up in police vans to make way for this? Is this what the alchoholic drinking corner up by the park was removed to make way for? Why are the police still standing on every corner? (How) can we impact on this possibly much bigger social situation that these experiences apparently indicate? Are we dealing with forces beyond our understanding or control? Is their room for change? Is change really necessary? Are we too judgemental? Is this “norm-core”? Are these “Hipsters”? Is this “fun”? Is this “Leisure”? Is this a “lifestyle” worth striving for? Is this Hackney? Is this London?
We will do another version of this experiment next Saturday. Watch this space!