Hatch Twelve: Hannah Torrance

Text: Wayne Burrows
Photography: Julian Hughes

Hannah Torrance: A Cinderella Story

A young woman sits at a sewing machine, busily cutting and pinning differently patterned fabrics, happy to chat to passers by about her motives, but also in her own world, detached from her immediate surroundings by headphones that make it seem she might be engaged in a kind of secret performance – after all, ABC’s Twelve requires its participants to wear headphones, from which we receive instructions, so it seems reasonable to wonder what Hannah Torrance might be listening to as she works on what seems an ordinary task, hardly a performance at all, building an elaborate patchwork dress around a mannequin in the windows of a cafe-bar.

The clue is in the title, of course. It might seem an everyday action straightforwardly performed, but Torrance’s experiment for today is to test the limits of performance: is the making of a costume a performance in itself? When I ask what she’s making, Torrance takes off her headset and replies: “Cinderella’s ballgown”. There is no ball, either, or at least, if there is, Torrance doesn’t know where it is. She works against the clock – not quite striving to complete the dress before the stroke of midnight (we end at 11pm, rather than midnight, after all) – and she’s not sure whether she’ll wear it, except to check that it fits.

But there’s clearly some symbolism in the construction of this garment – she tells me it’s being colour-coded so that the Chinese and Indian colours of wealth make up the front panels, and blues and greys the reverse, to reflect Cinderella’s leaving behind of her cold fireplaces. There might have been wings, too, made of willow, had the season been different. When I leave Torrance to her work, another woman sits in the seat I’ve vacated and happily watches for a very long time. If this is a performance, it ends just where the pantomime would usually begin, with Cinderella putting on the dress.


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