Archive for the 'It’s About Time' Category

Hatch at NEAT11: A Brief Guide To The Performance-y

I’ve been asked by Hatch to document the series of performances taking place during NEAT11, and over the coming weeks I’ll be attending and responding to the various events taking place under the Hatch banner as they happen. NEAT11 is also a moment where Hatch (to labour the egg metaphor) pecks through the shell of its own history and spreads its wings, building on its previous metamorphoses from one-night programmes taking over a single Nottingham venue (The Maze, Loggerheads, Bar Deux and The Ropewalk among them) to one-night programmes taking over entire streets (Broad Street in Hockley for Hatch: Abroad, St James’ Street for Hatch: Across) and most recently, during Sideshow2010, presenting Hatch: It’s About Time in two different forms, first at Embrace Arts in Leicester, then exactly a month later at Nottingham Castle.

This time, Hatch takes a radically different form, offering a series of performances in a whole range of venues – from an outdoor green at Wellington Circus (with Medium Rare and Zoo Indigo) to a room at the Nottingham Forest football stadium (for Mehrdad Seyf and Chris Dobrowolski’s Poland 3 Iran 2); from the Polish Eagle Social Club in Sherwood (for Krissi Musiol’s Sugar Statues) to The Space at Nottingham Contemporary for Gabriele Reuter’s Tourist. As always with Hatch, the work will be informed by and reflect on its location, but this time the performances are more self-contained, and the total event will only be visible as each takes place over the two weeks of Hatch at NEAT11. As we prepare to start this journey through the city’s history, and take in some of its more curious spaces, it seemed worth thinking about what Hatch is, and below are a few notes on some of its ‘performance-y’ precursors:

One Voice and an Audience

From the earliest days of human existence, telling stories has been the most traditional form of performance known. Whether it’s Stone Age tribes around a fire, recollecting the deeds of ancestors and the details of that day’s hunt, the tellers of tall tales like Gawain and the Green Knight in Saxon England or Charles Dickens doing his reading tours (on one memorable occasion, at the Mechanics Institute in Nottingham), the performance involving a single person with something to say and a knack of saying it engagingly has been at the root of every other form of theatre for thousands of years. One of the more memorable experiences on offer at Hatch: One at the Ropewalk was being enveloped by scents under a duvet while Sam Rose created a one-on-one performance in which she whispered her words directly into the ears of her audience, while  Hatch: It’s About Time gave Chris Dobrowolski an opportunity to demonstrate just how much ground one man with a few slides and a story to tell could cover.

A Slightly Absurd Sense Of Humour

The idea of the absurd in theatre is usually traced to the Ground Zero of Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi in 1896, and Jarry’s sterling effort certainly covers things for much of the modern era, give or take the occasional melodrama that crossed the line of plausibility, or such determinedly non-realistic traditions as the Punch and Judy show. Yet many point out that Aristophanes was already presenting material of an absurdist bent at the Dionysian Theatre Festivals of Ancient Greece, and a quick glance at plays like The Frogs and The Acharnians – where actors playing male roles sported huge padded or leather phalluses alongside female characters played by men – reveals that much of the humour was far from sophisticated or respectful. Slapstick, ludicrous musical taunts, score-settling with rivals, all contained in plots that spiral quickly into absurdity, before a few token lessons are learned. Anyone who saw the Oyster Eyes performance at Hatch: It’s About Time, or the odd puppet show staged in a cardboard ice-cream van by Brosnan & Goodge as part of Hatch: Wish You Were Here will know that few Hatch sessions pass without an absurd moment or two.

The Site-Specific Performance

The earliest dramatic plays written in England are the Medieval Mystery cycles, and these were always site-specific, designed to be performed at religious festivals in the towns that created them by casts drawn from the local population. Whether it’s the celebrated York, Chester and Lichfield plays, or such one-off dramas as Everyman – usually performed in churches – Medieval theatre was constructed on improvised stages in specific places, taking performances to their audiences in a manner that is very Hatch-like. In the 60s and 70s, these traditions were revived by companies like Welfare State International in the UK, or Bread and Puppet Theatre in the US, each working to create performances that got out from beneath the proscenium arches and went wherever their audiences were likely to be, absorbing them into the spectacle as they went. Whether it’s Frank Abbott reconstructing The Tales of Robin Hood in the grounds of Nottingham Castle for Hatch: It’s About Time or Adam Goodge in his finest sparkly waistcoat offering philosophical lessons on the green baize in Riley’s Snooker Hall at Hatch: Across there are some performances that just couldn’t happen anywhere else.

The Act Of Not-Acting

Sometimes, a performance involves someone appearing to reveal that they’re not acting, while in fact not really being themselves. Of course, there’s always been a need for audiences to pretend we don’t notice famous actors in traditional theatre: who didn’t know that Laurence Olivier was, in fact, Laurence Olivier when he played Hamlet or Henry V? But at Hatch these games can go further, as when The Megaphones presented their Time Freeze reunion at Hatch: It’s About Time, slipping between pretending to be the stars of a terrible 1980s TV show and being blatantly themselves, while still pretending to be the stars of that show. Others might do the reverse and make their characters seem entirely real. I’m fairly sure that Gemma Neep isn’t actually an obsessive Facebook stalker prone to emotionally blackmailing everyone around her, and she seemed lovely after her show had finished, but the way she played exactly that character in her performance at Hatch: It’s About Time might lead us to think otherwise, and I’d be rather wary of clicking on the invite if she did send a Friend request. I’m fairly sure that some Hatch performers are being themselves, though. Well, perhaps…

The Lecture, Talk and Guided Tour

Of course, that business of pretending to be someone else is less noticeable when performers purport to be doing something other than performing: perhaps, like Southpaw Junction at Hatch: It’s About Time or Jenna Finch and Gareth Morgan during NEAT11, they’ll be offering guided coach tours, or explaining the history of a place. Perhaps they’ll be offering a lecture on a subject you’re unfamiliar with, or taking you out on a walk and pointing out the sites of historical interest. Is this experimental? Well, I’ve been on many Ghost Walks, listened to lots of reflections on the past, and heard specialists in various disciplines making highly contentious assertions with absolute conviction, so such things might easily be mistaken for performance. Hatch performers might, like real lecturers, guides and raconteurs, be embellishing and inventing things, just to liven the whole experience up, holding your attention by adding the very things they know you want to hear. They might be leading you up a particularly scenic garden path, with just a small grain of objective truth at the end of it. As a rule, the more outlandish it is, the more likely it is to be true. Be especially wary when performers offer proof of their assertions. The chances are it’s all been fabricated.

The Crossover

Like many other aspects of experimental performance, the crossing of art-form boundaries is usually thought of as a contemporary concern, at the cutting edge of things. But as Ben Jonson’s collaborations with Inigo Jones to create lavish Masques during the early 1600s show there’s nothing all that new about the business of writers, artists, musicians and dancers coming together to create performances involving all these disciplines and more besides. It’s often forgotten that Handel’s Water Music was created for a performance on a barge on the River Thames in 1717 rather than a concert hall, while his Music for the Royal Fireworks was written in 1749 with a Pyrotechnic display over Vauxhall Gardens in mind. Whether it’s W.B. Yeats writing plays to be performed in the style of Japanese Noh for the Abbey Theatre in 1917 or Sheffield’s Forced Entertainment and Nottingham’s Reckless Sleepers and Gob Squad adding film and video to the mix in 2011, the ways devised by performers to transgress the fixed boundaries of the seemingly conventional stage production by introducing elements now considered alien to it are as old as the conventions themselves. Rules, like eggs, are there to be broken.

So, where does the Hatch idea of the Performance-y sit on the experimental/traditional continuum? In truth, the traditional idea of theatre as a proscenium stage where audiences listen quietly to the lines spoken by professional actors is a fairly recent invention (dating to around the eighteenth century) that was never the whole story, being both pre- and post-dated by other ways of doing things. From Victorian Music Hall and fairground melodrama to the audience participation at Edwardian pantomimes and reports of groundlings playing cards on the edge of the stage at Shakespeare’s Globe in the 1590s while vendors and prostitutes plied their trades during the soliloquies, it seems performance has looked more like one of the many incarnations of Hatch than the main stage at The National for most of its recorded history. That Hatch and its performance-y ethos fits so well into the programme of NEAT11 – which itself spans the full range of European theatre today – only supports the point.

Hatch: It’s About Time – print your own programme, choose your own adventure

If you’re coming to Hatch: It’s About Time at Nottingham Castle, there’ll be plenty of programmes available on the night, but for the first time we’re making the programme available to download in advance. So if you want to meticulously plan your visit down to the last minute and make sure you catch as much as possible, or if you’re just trying to find out more about what’s happening, please help yourself to a copy using the link below. And if you’d like a vision of the deeper chronographic architecture of the event, you can see a larger version of our time/space matrix by clicking on the image above.

Hatch It’s About Time Programme Nottingham (pdf download)

Hatch: It’s About Time

WHAT:

Nottingham-based performance and live art platform, Hatch, has invited sixteen artists to respond to notions of time. For one night only, they storm Nottingham Castle and the Castle Pub as part of Sideshow, the official fringe to the British Art Show 2010.

Frank Abbott revisits his involvement in creating The Tales of Robin Hood 20 years ago and rewrites its architecture onto the Castle Green. British Antarctic Survey artist in residence, Chris Dobrowolski presents an artist’s talk at the Castle about the time it took to get to the Antarctic and what he found when he got there. Hetain Patel experiments with ‘stand up’ for the first time at the Castle Pub. His work-in-progress reflects on the time he spent growing his hair to explore his cultural identity. Medium Rare, a collective of Nottingham Trent University students and Southpaw Junction, recent graduates from De Montfort University, present time-themed performance installations en route. Other work inhabits unusual locations around the Castle including one-to-one performances in the gatehouse and the caves.

WHERE:

Wednesday 10 November 2010
6pm – 9pm
Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery

Followed by
The Castle Pub (opposite)
9pm until late

WHO:

Artists: Frank Abbott, Wayne Burrows, Kathryn Cooper, Chris Dobrowolski, Graham Elstone, Rachel Gomme, Kristy Guest, Johanna Hällsten, Lucky Fin Productions, Medium Rare, The Megaphones, Gemma Neep, Oyster Eyes, Hetain Patel, Daniel Somerville & Southpaw Junction

HOW:

Just turn up – It’s FREE!

INFO:

Hatch: It’s About Time is supported by Embrace Arts at the RA Centre, Nottingham Castle and Museum and Sideshow. Hatch is a peripatetic platform for performance work based in Nottingham established in 2008 to transform the regional live art landscape through platform events… and a good night out!

It’s About Time: Print your own programme, choose your own adventure


If you’re coming to Hatch: It’s About Time at Embrace Arts on Sunday, there’ll be plenty of programmes available on the night, but for the first time we’re making the programme available to download in advance. So if you want to meticulously plan your visit down to the last minute and make sure you catch as much as possible, or if you’re just trying to find out more about what’s happening, please help yourself to a copy using the link below.

Hatch Its About Time Programme Leicester (pdf download)

Hatch: It’s About Time

WHAT

The East Midlands’ premier performance & live art platform showcases new work exploring the architecture of time as a physical force. Hatch has invited 16 live art and performance artists to fill, kill and to share time with you. Explore New Walk in Leicester and take a journey to Embrace Arts at the RA centre for this free event.

Hatch: It’s About Time is supported by Sideshow 2010 and Embrace Arts and will travel to Nottingham on 10 November 2010 for the second part of this project at Nottingham Castle Museum and Gallery as part of the fringe to the British Art Show.

WHERE

Sunday 10 October 2010
6pm until late
Embrace Arts at the RA Centre

Lancaster Road
Leicester
LE1 7HA

WHO

Frank Abbott, Wayne Burrows, Kathryn Cooper, Chris Dobrowolski, Graham Elstone, Rachel Gomme, Kristy Guest, Johanna Hällsten, Lucky Fin Productions, Medium Rare, The Megaphones, Gemma Neep, Oyster Eyes, Hetain Patel, Daniel Somerville & Southpaw Junction.

HOW

To guarantee entry, tickets can be reserved through Embrace Arts:
0116 252 2455
www.le.ac.uk/racentre

photo credit: Frank Abbot

image design: randomobject

Time After Time #009: It’s About Time

The last couple of entries from Time After Time have got a bit heavy and involved, so perhaps we should lighten things up a bit. Also, we’re about to go all out promoting It’s About Time very soon now, so here’s something to maybe help you remember the name:

It’s About Time (the 1966 version above, that is) was created by Sherwood Schwarz as the follow up to his previous hit, Gilligan’s Island. If you watch some of the clips from the show available online, you can probably tell why it only ever ran for one season. Still, it’s got a pretty jaunty theme tune, no?

Time After Time #008: Sergey Larenkov

Stunning images by Sergey Larenkov, blending contemporary photographs of cities in Russia, Germany and the Czech Republic with shots taken in exactly the same spots during the Second World War. Fascinating and chilling, looking at them is like walking over someone’s grave, while somebody else walks over yours.

There’s a few more images after the jump, but make sure to check out Larenkov’s livejournal, which has lots.

Continue reading ‘Time After Time #008: Sergey Larenkov’