Shining lights on fabric and our own bodies might not sound like a terribly persuasive premise for a week of work, but during a week in Lancaster Arts’ Nuffield Theatre (as Nuffield Bursary recipients for 2017) it’s been brilliant.
The first day, we figure out how we can fly things. What ropes, what bars, where in the space we can use. We dig through an archive of the materials which have transformed the bare cement blocks of this room into a theatre.
And then we begin to play. We shift around the elements of our world, and place ourselves amongst them. This is what we’re playing with — difference — and it can be tiny and it can be huge, it can be funny and it can be heart-breaking. The technical support we have from David McBride, a lighting designer with a keen sense of how light contributes to the dramaturgy of theatre, gives us ever-increasing opportunities to try new ideas. With each shift of a lantern, each change to the order of our elements on the stage, we see new possibilities.
This has to stop. We need discipline.
We create a simple sequence of movement which allows us to move through the different parts of our space, a range of actions and speeds. Repeating this, we can more precisely plot the differences we’re interested in: the relationships which develop between a person and an object, a mood that person travels through, an interesting difference between one body and another doing the same thing differently.
We realise we’re building a kind of theatrical microscope. Everything is enlarged. Watching, the tiniest shifts demand our attention. This is working.
And all too quickly, it’s over. We’re taking everything down, returning to the bare walls and fluorescent working lights. All that has happened exists only in our memories and notes: the videos we’ve made record only the biggest changes, the subtleties of mood and rhythm and those exciting moments between light and shadow lost between its digital binaries.
And hasn’t that been the point? That the differences are so delicate that explaining them, recording them, describing them, is a futile attempt? It’s a satisfying week.
Now we have the model of our microscope, we must find the funding to build it. Here’s hoping that part of our journey will be just as fruitful!