As you may know by know I use this column as a sort of sounding board for my various sorties into the areas of Performance Art.
Sometimes one avenue leads up one way and then you meet someone and it takes you down an other.
I met Dominic Campbell www.homeofthebewildered.com writer, director, artist, and producer.
First at the Fluxes Concert and later at The Black Swans Project (see previous reports.) He invited me to the challenge of being in his Ultra Fringe production “Angry School” September 5th at 11 Aran Street, Smithfield, Dublin.
This production ticked all the boxes of being a really interesting mix of pseudo reality, bordering on a performance/theatre mix.
As with all experimental or boundary blurring works there would be a risk factor; some “catch on” and “get it” others come with different expectations and have different realisations.
At this time of unrest, frustration and confused mixed messages and issues in society I thought it would be a great “escape valve” but also an opportunity to really get to discuss issues with others not normally in ones range daily.
The pre production blurb invited one to “Come to school on time,” after enrolling and passing an entrance exam one could move on and ask questions of real experts, one to one on any issues on a range of topics that moved from hour to hour; Justice, Health, Equality, Waste, Global, Political etc.
The experts were:
Madeline Boughton: Justice
Chris Robson: Gay Rights Activist
Catherine Rose: Age and Opportunity publisher
Tony Weeks: Environmental Economist
Gabriel Gbadamosi: Playwright and Thinker
Martin Collins: Traveller and Actor
Michael Finnucane: Lawyer
The students then had a break with a snack bar while they speed dated each other. “Audience” was always part of the “cast” and “scenarios” were followed but the script and actions were the response of the one to ones of the two sides; both playing public and `others` in the production.
I was an Examiner with other elder females. We all looked serious and professional dressed in black or/and red.
The pupils came to us having being coached in the slogan of the school “There are no wrong answers”, but they had to repeat it in Mandarin!
They sat opposite us in pairs where we examined them with a range of questions to define their “expertise”.
“Can you stand on your head?”
“Can you wiggle your toes?”
were among a range of questions which we could tease and play with them.
I had a great variety of people some of whom were prepared to sing, dance and be daft just for the fun of it.
The next section of questions got more serious for example Chinas refusal to free Tibet makes you:
(a) cold, (b) warm up to (d) incandescent, and why.
This prompted some discussions from the students, some of which were really insightful, some had not a clue, “Where is Tibet?”
I had some time to acquaint myself with possible discussion topics on the range of issues (We had two evenings of organised rehearsals of sorts).
I felt it better to stick to the role and let the students lead the topic direction, some were very interesting but time always made one move on.
The groups had time spent in an Art room, This space allowed the student to draw around each other with marker pens on the wall, attach symbols or drawings of themselves and their anger. They then could attach wool threads and weave it around others and re – attach it to someone else’s form which might have some resonance with ones own.
The conclusion of each group of twelve pupils was to write and present a speech of one and a half minutes on their anger topic, and how they were going to deal with it to the rest of the school
This was recorded on video with prior permission.
This format worked well for an hour or two but the numbers dwindled off later in the evening. However, this format allowed us, the cast of sorts, to become participators. I found myself in discussion with experts, drawing myself onto a wall, writing and presenting my speech and gaining myself a diploma in Acceptance Therapy.
I felt the bigger issues were beyond our control but smaller ones might enable us to make a small protest.
My small peeves were:
Ladies in big SUVs who dominated the road space and loud vulgar mobile conversations in my ears in buses. What was I going to do?
Drive slowly in front of the former and protest loudly to the latter.
In conclusion we all ended up chatting and drinking coffee and wine, all students, all experts, all slightly cured of anger? All met and mixed with a variety of humankind.
Does this kind of staged “Happening” work? It can be great if there is a cohesive collective stirring and something then takes off that is unexpected and unnerving but interesting and exiting, The school did work but perhaps lost its momentum, maybe Saturday evenings TV and pubs took precedence?
I was interested in another production Becket’s ‘Play Without Words’ enacted on the streets with two characters in sleeping bags, so “real” people confused it as voyeurs watching the homeless.
I found each time I made my way into this area of Dublin the increasing numbers of drug related young males and females were very much evident, a sort of double play was going on outside this work where a crowd of people were smoking, hanging around, talking; some with crutches, sometimes minor arguments broke out, sometimes friendly banter and pushing but a collection of street people all with a tragedy of their own.
I left the scene.
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