Chapter one: Telling Selves.

My approach to performance making is one that challenges the author (me) by placing myself in positions where 'I' am beyond control of the whole state of affairs. The work is always collaborative and implicitly and consciously improvisational. I am concerned with the notion of event in this thesis. In the way an artwork occurs live and the positions that the performing artist moves through.


My own training has moved through theatre studies, performance art, music and dance. Mine is an interdisciplinary practice that has never fitted comfortably into any particular genre. By dint of this the home for my practice and the main trajectory for this research is out of the field of live art.  Central to the debate of live art (formerly referred to as performance art) are the issues of categorisation and definition. Live art is an open field of practice that cuts across and subverts traditional art form boundaries. Live art has developed largely from a visual arts base, beginning when artists turned to themselves as either the source or primary material of their artistic explorations. Visual artists have drawn on the intimacy, tension and process of live action. Live art is a sprawling field that by nature cannot be defined but can move “fluidly and eloquently across genres, ideas and experiences… It is an area of practice that is uniquely equipped to reflect and to negotiate the intricate tapestry of modern lives and times”. (Keidan, 2002: 4)

In this thesis it is my assertion that a politic of presence prevails in live art and that a critical and physical attitude towards the definition of live art is what these artists share. Definition is something that these artists resist, and indelibly then, live art feels itself marginalised; fragile in a culture that still has a conservative attitude towards art form categories. Within this fragility, artists perform. The interdisciplinary nature of the field reflects the dialectical thinking of many artists working within it. Live art is not a genre but an attitude that is detectable in a mode of presentation and not limited to any aesthetic form or category.

Throughout the thesis I will write site as feminine and presence as site-full: full of site, that which is in between the art object and more importantly the body, and which ultimately undermines the autonomy of either. The site of performance and the live event of performing are central to my writing. The condition of performance, of the live event, is an unending negotiation of 'I': of who, where and how 'I' is.  My writing will always in part be in the present tense, aware of shifting subjects.

To study present-ness we must return to the subject and to the feeling of what happens when we perform. It is difficult at best to describe this state. It is not a thing and manifests exactly as it eludes 'thing-ness'. It is social because it cannot reduce itself to less than two. Two is the smallest unit of a social act.  I know 'me' and at the same time 'I' becomes part of what is 'unknown'. In theory I miss a story of the body which is allowing itself to be changeable and affected from one moment to the next, a body that allows this to be expressed, or allows this change to be expressed within the perimeters of a conceptual frame, exceeding the conceptualised body and bringing closer another's body in explicit and felt ways. This body knows I (the spectator) was there: a body in two minds; one committed to activity and the other to space. I miss risk. Not the risk of falling from a tight rope, messing up a dance step or forgetting one's lines, nor the risk from the audience being unimpressed or shocked or discerning, I miss a risk that is taken when one moves slightly out of - beyond control. The event is not written. Here be dragons. It is a virgin (unknown/unexplored) terrain. This is more than using the site of theatre to make proclamations about 'the real world out there'; it is a submission and a commitment to the real world in here. This is bliss. I approach performance as a researcher, as one who comes to hear as well as one who comes to tell.



In in his paper Performance as Revolutionary Activity: Liminality and social change (Friedman: 4) focuses on the life work of Fred Newman, through the Castillo Theatre, an off-off Broadway theatre in N.Y.C. Friedman refers to the revolutionary as potentially existing between I and I.  Friedman writes through Victor Turner and Brian Sutton-Smith, a developmental psychologist, towards the Castillo Theatre and what he believes to be the act of revolutionary performance. This is performance that transforms the person by “broadening each person's notion of 'what you're allowed to do'” through improvisational techniques of playing out different characters or parts of yourself that might not yet 'exist'. Referring to Marx’s Practical-Critical activity, revolutionary performance is that which is “moment to moment life experience, your life performance”.

When writing of max factory and of performance, I am not writing sameness into the individual persons of Felicity and me. That we enter into this experience together, to be open/effective/present, does not produce homogeneity or evenness. It demands acceptance.  In its naïve beginnings, the max factory was a project that sought to push individuality to a maximum and to find ways to allow different individuals, various bodies to exist fully, without hiding, within the same space and time. From the very beginning we would not become 'one' by submerging our personalities into a dominant manifesto which the words 'max factory' would define.

Mina Kaylan states that “not all actors/performers appear to have presence”. She describes presence as an attention which “does not work towards the resolution of meanings, but towards the subversion of meanings“ and that present-ness is “the absence of our consciousness as discrete bodies”. (Kaylan,1997: 52) For Kaylan a performer is not present simply by being there. There is a specific attention which is conscious and which postures towards an indiscretion, a dispersed hyper-awareness that refuses the performer assumptions of resolve. Presence is the ultimate dissolve of subject-object as here lays a process of cognition that never ceases.

Presence: neither 1) discrete nor 2) discreet

(Our presence not contained, one from another, like blood and guts.)

1)            Our presence not contained by flesh.

2)            Our presence containing the dust of our ancestors

3)            Careful to avoid embarrassment especially by keeping secrets (tactful or unobtrusive).

4)            Our presence cannot keep secrets, is not polite or courteous.

5)            Our presence is some how.

6)            Our presence is all that escapes and compliments and refreshes that which is civilized (brought out of savagery, barbarism

7)            Our presence is unrefined.

This is a premise upon which I write; that the space and time of theatre is virgin. I enter, a fumbling amateur. There is a difference between a body that is careless and a body that is critically caring less

There is a difference in the placement of effort.

There are no experts here, no scholars, no authors.

There is Nothing No-thing No thing.

Writing is no 'bodies' first language. As another 'I' am returned to the real and as such obliterated, rubbed out of, into, off on. I am quite literally speaking and thus, 'I' has no voice. As I sit here between practice and writing about practice, aware of the gaping breadth of one and the desired specificity of the other I can feel how one has what the other craves. Inside me both sit viscously opposed and inside me both feel impossibly complicit. Ambivalence rules me, underlines me, strikes through me and gets in between me-then and me-now.

To the naked eye, max factory does not present improvised performance. The work is always heavily scored.  The performers know where they should be going. I will write about the work as improvised, not explicitly, but implicitly, speaking of improvisation as moving from moment to moment within a set of pre-determined actions. Max factory is primarily concerned with an engagement with real time. The work might tell a story of the real world out there, and will indelibly be max factory's version of it. But its artistic pursuit is a revealing of the real world in here, which gets all mixed in, the story with the telling.

Throughout the length of a max factory project structures and content constantly change. The components can alter considerably from one event to the next as we adapt to different contexts and conditions. The materials can seem random, chosen for various and seemingly unconnected reasons. They become known (to us) through their engagement with the live event.  The materials gain history and three dimensionally within new contexts and reveal new meanings. We (re)discover in the live. The max factory follows a written score and invites deviations from this score. The score will be consciously scarce so that it will necessitate deviation, leaps (of faith) which must pass through the physical plane of the here and the now, allowing chance and forcing choice: a live (re)writing which by default renders its subjects exposed. The max factory project is the perusal of transformation through an attitude of improvisation, a practice of presence. Physically and mentally the performers are postured towards seeing and hearing, discovering and revealing the conditions we are in. Engagement with the event informs how the score gets performed. Our performing will never be a virtuoso execution.

My body is not the site for my art making. My art making is motivated by a want to expose relationships in, on and off my body. Max factory is a collaborative practice. As at least two, as co-authors of a score, we must place our focus off our own bodies towards, in the first place, each other. This intimate, dialogic activity has produced a form-less-ness and has been formative upon me within and without this project. An explicit relationship is held between us and this particular relating seeks to imply and involve the legion of 'relations' that are happening within our constructed performance frames. We have surrendered notions of the singular. A successful collaboration is when we do not know quite how an idea came to be. In this sense we surrender 'authority'. There is no origin because there are always at least two points. There is no origin because there are no points whose co-ordinates are all zero. We are no points. Zero. Our work seeks to make positive a negative, to presence and celebrate this absence. We are for the love of something. To acknowledge collaboration already begins to turn a negative space into a positive space, a new space of critical attention.

We work to decrease the significance of what we are doing by increasing the significance of what is happening to us. We want to increase the signifying process of how something happens, how it comes to be. Through the vehicle of our text-act we engage with site: with the event where the text-act is taking place. This collaboration makes 'I' more vulnerable. Our effort here is to constantly work against defence or working 'alone' to secure 'I'. Our effort is specific. We must not try too hard. We expose our vulnerability (weakness: exposure to attack or wound). Through our own will to be vulnerable, we begin to address our reliance on the complicity of every present body in the room. If a spectator becomes conscious of her own complicity then she is becoming conscious of her (in) part, her force and her presence. A loss of 'self' begins to gather and interlock a crowd.

In performance I enter space. The surface of my own skin, the walls of my body house, tremble with an intensification of social relations. I am intrinsically dialogic and this dialogue feels the matter of the time and space that I enter. I serve and observe both but I essentially, also, become part of both, am part. I notice I am conscious, feeling what happens, feeling this trembling.

There is a sameness that occurs within me that is temporal. I am the same person in the past that I am in the present, and will be in the future.  My body belongs to me. I will live and die within this body. I explore, through performance, the relationship between this sense of continuity and how it is confronted by the present, made unstable. Collaboration demands of the body a partial submission or rather dispersion of 'belonging'. I must confront the present head on. I must shift my consciousness and place it at the very edge of 'me', at the very edge of the future. I am beyond belief. In order for my body to be as-it-is in a place, my physical presence must remain in 'now' time. This time is not my own, it is not 'my' timing. It is a clock that ticks in space, that when I close my eyes, still ticks.


Avoid editing

Be fully exposed

Choice transition one moment to the next

Lay me in lists and snapshots

Force me into uncomfortable situations

Submit my body house

Feel it

Cope (improvise)

Fail

Fail brilliantly

 

When am I coping (in time) and when am I beginning to illustrate with my body what coping looks like (out of time), I must not illustrate. As the text-act gets done, whatever I am feeling on stage (about the temperature, about the woman on the front row, about my dry mouth) is where my work is. I cannot fake this and cannot let it get mixed up in the fiction of my text-act. Illustration is trying too hard and in this over-effort I undermine my own politics with regard to the site of my enquiry. There can be no illustration or explanation or even knowing quite why I am doing what I am doing otherwise the some thing that I illustrate will not have an optional truth. It will not be a conversation.

 

In the construction of our performance work we attend to this submission by developing tasks that will put us slightly beyond control. We have developed a mode of presenting which we hope works to collude our audience within the rules of our fictional/performative frame. This mode involves a physical attitude and does not know any better than our spectators what is going on, or more specifically how what will go on. Being beyond control we may look ridiculous/confused/messy/lost. These actions that we set ourselves to do will be purposefully impossible for us to do 'well'. Either we would do them well and nothing interesting would happen for us, or worse we would pretend, “the most disgusting artificiality” (Stanislavski, 1980: 41).  We never fake it. We are always coping for real. We wish to put the amateur body above and in front of the technically skilled body, the virtuoso master-author. We do not aspire towards perfection. The amateur body is not in control but beyond control and a body 'better' at being in the here-and-now. In my art making and in my performing I experience the loss of my body writing. I also experience my self as I write. Max factory does not present us. Rather, we (re)discover ourselves through exposing and observing how self meets self. This incites a re-discovery in our spectators and we hope, a thrill (an experience) of event, through a site that is not an empty space, but an unknown, where anything could and should happen. (My presence has a mirroring effect. My presence infects.)

 

Our performance work postures what Bert O States might call the self-expressive mode (in Zarrilli,1995: 24). Stanislavski talks about an actor:

(He) suddenly stopped in the middle of a sentence to portray the character feeling in his mouth for a hair from his fur collar, and went on for a long time moving his tongue around and 'trying to take the hair out' with his fingers while the sentence he had begun remained unfinished. (25)

States astutely describes this moment as one not simply of 'realism' “but an audacious display of the actor's power to be real on the 'micro-level'”. The actor has managed to unify to great success the physical real time dealing of his own body (a real need to remove a hair from his mouth) with the flow of theatre action.

It is not that the actor steps out of character in these moments but that he finds the fissure in the text that allows him to make his unique contribution. (26)

He improvises and his choice, his 'how' to do this is indicative of his 'person', his artistic self. His vision of the world exceeded and re-established his character within the limited frame of the fiction. The self-expressive nature of max factory's work is compatible with this example in all but one way, which is notably different. Our 'being real' on this micro level is not an attempt at an audacious display of skill and dexterity and our success does not depend upon it. In fact we pursue certain 'badness'. We hope that our audience will watch how we are getting along. In the example above the actor's fate (at the fissure in the text) is either the artist-actor in a “moment of genius, or conversely, the unshielded actor in a moment of flaw”. (26) Either way artistry becomes the object of the spectator's attention. As artists' bodies, max factory does not wish to be 'better bodies'.  Our artistry is a specific artlessness, free from deceit: ingenuous, natural, and unpretentious. We do not work to ensure our fate with our 'genius', rather we admire the moment of 'flaw', we allow confusion, we fall, and we fail.

I refer to John Keats and his thoughts on 'negative capability'.

The poet who possesses the quality of negative capability will be capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact or reason and it is precisely this irritable reaching after fact and reason which characterises the search of the consecutive man (in Trilling,1955: 29).

I do not wish to save myself, or show off any ability or desire to do so. In the reading of the max factory's performing, when looking for virtuosity, max factory might look like 'bad' or 'weak' or 'amateur' or 'ugly'. Our performing is consciously vulnerable.

Women who make spectacles of themselves are vulnerable, open to ridicule and trivialisation, but also vaguely demonic. (Rowe, 1995: 3)

We are ignorant and yes this is bliss. This ignorance has been achieved through a self-scrutiny, an analysis of what I think I know. This is a purposeful embrace of the naïve (artless, unaffected, amusingly simple) as a conscious ambivalence towards knowledge.

Ignorance does not come from lack of knowledge but rather it is from knowledge that one may achieve this ignorance. Then we shall be informed by the divine unconsciousness and in that our ignorance will be ennobled and adorned with supernatural knowledge. It is by reason of this fact that we are made perfect by what happens to us rather than by what we do. (Cage, 1990: 40)

Lionel Trilling manages to encapsulate Keats and his movement between the senses and the intellect as being of a kind that “the orthodox interpretation of Plato cannot approve”. (Trilling.1955: 38) Keats celebrated a pleasure of the senses as the ground on which he would realise an intellect. There is not, for Keats a departure from the senses and a movement towards the intellect. There is rather a characteristic mode of being transferable to the mode of presence towards which I write, which appeals to the intellect but which never denies the senses, which appeals to an intelligent sense.

A performer who performs with negative capability is experiencing or sensing at the same time as being consciously present to the intellectual eye of the observer. She is not a body who has experienced something and who now translates intellectually that experience. She is not in the position of 'knowing' in this sense. She is experiencing and this is being seen. She always speaks the truth, just not the whole truth, and it is through this impossibility that she touches another as substance, through the fluid myth that Freud called for us the libido.  She is present not as one who has lived, but as one(s), living live at and in the same time as her witness.

I cannot be wrong simply because I do not know exactly what it is I am doing. 'Entering' I am somehow cut out, sacral. I do not have any more responsibility, not even when everything goes wrong before a paying audience. The body finds in risk the perfect rhetoric of its own happening. The economy of technique will no longer save me. There is a presence: its wreckage. (Castellucci 2000: 27)

Keats, says Trilling, “had not the least impulse to hold himself aloof from the common pleasures of men - the community of pleasure, the generality of geniality, are an important part of his daily life” (Trilling, 1955: 7). How must I feel in order to inhabit a 'common place'?  Post structuralism seeks to transcend the polarities of the atomised individual and the structural forces that inform that individual.

Existing notions of the collaborative seem to me to be superficial in their analysis. The routes 'one' takes to producing an artwork individually are understood as different to those of the collaborating artists. However, we can bring the idea of collaboration inside to understand the individual as a collaborator within herself as well as without. Through a developed awareness of collaborative practice the relationship I have with myself, and my agency as an individual have changed. I have become more conscious and more playful, more full of play. To realise one's own work as an individual puts one in a necessarily active role. The relationship at first glance seems direct, 'one' way; authored. In a sense the 'centre' of the work seems fixed within the mind-body of the artist. To work in collaboration with another is to shift the centre explicitly and visibly, so then it sits in between at least two bodies. The plane of communication rests on a pivot. The separate bodies look towards each other, away from self and work to find balance by negotiating each other's weight so to speak. To visualise the pivot, the centre of things, and to keep balance, one must keep making eye contact (see) - tune into the other body (feel)  - listen (hear). What 'gets made' is done so in this state: two bodies working within a liminal state, which includes these bodies and also the distance between them and every thing else there in. I keep this sense of plurality within my singular self. My self, my body is too liminal to refer to as a site. 'I' happens in the margins of me, in the no man's land betwixt and between, which does not begin or end on the surface of my skin. 

Liminality is full of potency and potentiality. It may also be full of experimentation and play… a play of metaphors. In it, play is the thing. (Turner in Benamou/Carmello, 1977: 33)

I am both analyst and patient. I am cause and effect. I have an intimate relationship with myself. The ambivalence that arises from this negotiation that is an oscillation and so a blurring of my paradoxical state undermines any possibility to empirically test my 'truth'. To resolve this state is to 'cure' the sufferer in 'me'. I choose to neither cure nor suffer this state exactly by making public my private madness.

Julia Kristeva in her book Powers of Horror speaks of abjection and describes abjection as “a basic condition that unified rational or religious systems serve to mask”. She describes this basic condition as 'the horror of being':

“Is it the quiet shore of contemplation that I set aside for myself, as I lay bare, under the cunning, orderly surface of civilisations, the nurturing horror that they attend to pushing aside by purifying, systematising, and thinking; the horror that they seize on in order to build themselves up and function? (Life as we know it is built up to mask this abjection - our basic condition) I rather conceive it as a work of disappointment, of frustration, and hollowing - probably the only counterweight to abjection. While everything else - its archaeology and its exhaustion - is only literature: the sublime point at which the abject collapses in a burst of beauty that overwhelms us - and 'that cancels our existence'”. (Kristeva,1992: 133)

I embrace the abject as an imagining for my performing body. I am writing towards something unreachable. The effort, the posturing towards is what 'I' am. Any arrival, any clarity 'in a flash', any moment of 'rightness', or exactness is fleeting and I cannot have it or claim it for myself.  Considering abjection I can touch upon it. To have, or to desire or to believe that I can have, will ruin and blind me. Everything I do is 'mask'. I want this mask to be bad, barely veiling my abject presence; so much so that the spectator sees too much and stops trying to understand or look for meaning in me. In order to perform in a way that 'what happens' is a performative act for the spectator (something happens to them), my presence explodes into site/sight, right into the eyes of the spectator. I am so overflowing with signs and rambling signifiers that I cannot be deciphered. In order to ensure that I do not construct my body and offer it as an object that invites or feels comfortable with 'your' gaze I am self-conscious. So much so that I become in part a spectator to myself. I move beyond control and thus rely on an interlocking, a transaction with my spectator. 

Augusto Boal writes in The fable of Xua-Xua, the pre-human woman who discovered theatre that “All feeling is comparing” (Boal, 1979: 123). Xua-Xua, unbeknownst to her, is pregnant. When she enters labour and begins to give birth to the baby Boal describes Xua-Xua as a spect-actor, the term invented by Boal for his Theatre of the Oppressed. “Xua-Xua looked for answers by looking at herself... in this moment theatre was discovered” Her body is in direct communication, 'coping' with this event as it is happening. She is lost in the labour of her agony. She is a stage upon which she herself performs to, and for, herself.  How do we cope with the conflict between what we know, what is and what is becoming? Performance is the conscious activity of producing how we are in the world. Performance demands us to be both what we know and what we don't yet know.

Ambivalence: the co-existence of two opposed and conflicting emotions.

Ambivalence is, historically construed as a weakness, to sit on the fence, neither here nor there. Through our performance research, initially realising that the artefact of our performance is neither here nor there, by very dint of its being collaborative, we came to the question, is collaboration, is our ambivalence feminist and if so, how do we re-claim ambivalence as an empowering tool for occurrences that are both here and there?

I wish to discuss ambivalence through the concept of 'The Unruly Woman'. Kathleen Rowe in her book of the same name, provides a list derived from Historian Natalie Zemon Davis's 'Women on Top', of qualities and tendencies that occur in the unruly woman:


1.             She creates disorder... She is unable or unwilling to confine herself to her proper place.

2.             Her body is excessive or fat, suggesting her unwillingness or inability to control her physical appetites.

3.             Her speech is excessive, in quantity, content or tone.

4.             She makes jokes, or laughs herself.

5.             She may be androgynous or hermaphroditic, drawing attention to the social construction of gender.

6.             She may be old or a masculinised crone, for old women who refuse to become invisible in our culture are often considered grotesque.

7.             Her behaviour is associated with looseness and occasionally whorishness, but her sexuality is less narrowly and negatively defined than is that of the femme fatale. She may be pregnant.

8.            She is associated with dirt, liminality (thresholds, borders, or margins), and taboo, rendering her above all a figure of ambivalence.

(Rowe, 1995: 31)

 

The max factory bodies let something go. What I believe we 'fail', or rather refuse, is complicity with the unruly woman's opposite. I am writing towards self-expression and place it here as spillage: as 'riot'.

Riot: a disturbance made by an unruly 'mob' (by law, three or more persons). There is 'riot' within me and without. Unrestrained revelry: An occasion of boisterous merriment. I behave without restraint. Wanton lasciviousness.

Davis's book defines the unruly woman as one who disrupts the norms of femininity. Ideology holds that the “well adjusted” woman has what Helen Cixous has described as divine composure: ”She is silent, static, invisible - composed and divinely - apart from the hurly burly of life, process, and social power” (in Rowe, 1995: 31). The unruly woman, through her body, her speech and her laughter, especially in the public sphere, makes a disruptive spectacle of herself. She literally straddles herself between contesting ideologies.

Often, in our performances, we made people laugh. It was our curiosity about this that made us look to other women in comedy. We focused on 'woman as prop' in the famous TV comedies of our childhood: The Two Ronnies, Morecambe and Wise, Dads' Army, Benny Hill. Our formative years reared on women in bikinis, sexy nurses with huge breasts, aggressive housewives and men in drag. In these shows we saw women used as objects rather than subjects of laughter and out of these shows T.W.A.T.S. was conceived.

 T.W.A.T.S. (Theatre, Women and Tantric Sexuality).

By max factory (Croydon F, Smith S, 2001) - an extract of this performance can be seen at www.maxfactory.org.uk

Tantric: as in warp, to turn, or cause to turn, from a true, correct or proper course. 

Aside.

When the max factory performed at the Edinburgh festival, a man, the organiser of the event they were part of, approached one of the women and said something along the lines of: “The work confused me, but I suppose, even if people don't like your work, they can still feel gratification when watching your body. Later on, the same woman propositioned the man to pay her £25 to give him oral sex on the roof of the theatre. He accepted. He wrote a fake 'expenses' receipt and took the money out of the theatres petty cash box. Max factory received no other monies for its performance.

For one year we played out the roles of the women in these comedies. Rowe states “we must learn the languages we inherit, with their inescapable contradiction, before transforming and redirecting them towards our own ends”. (Rowe, 1995: 3)  We became the bikini clad, unintelligent, clumsy woman, the sexy nurse, and the housewife who bought into self-help, catalogue style. We became these images of women as these funny men and the culture they existed in, had attempted to understand them or position them. By 'wearing' these 'roles' and treating them as fictional frames, we hoped to transform or even liberate them. We did not write for them a revolution, a strategic script that would preach or demand some specific reconstruction for our audience.  Dan Friedman makes a distinction between 'revolutionary activity' and 'the activity of making the Revolution'. He states that, “whilst making the Revolution is certainly a revolutionary activity, it is not the only one, nor even the most radically transformative. In fact, it seems… it is precisely because 20th century revolutionaries confused making the Revolution with revolutionary activity that they failed to qualitatively transform anything” (Friedman, Body, Space & Technology Journal: 10)


We wanted to expose and break these images and we did so by simply wearing them. In the way we wore those costumes lay the tools of this breaking and in doing so, we ourselves became empowered. We entered these images in order to expose them as 'ill- fitting'. We reduced them to cloth. Through researching comedy about women, we had discovered comedy for women.


We succeeded in doing this because the distance between 'us' and 'them' was wide-open and spanned real time physical space. We performed what we were not and discovered more about what we were. How we did this was like an attempt. We 'made an effort', we tried to climb in to these images and the result of our endeavour was failure. Our trying was not hidden, these works were always 'in progress' and we understood that they could never be 'finished'. It is through an acute ambivalence that we began to give voice to the women that we are and the women that we are not. What occurred within and without us was subtle and complicated. If we imagine or better still do, make physical the social and literary traditions of carnival, to be everything at once, to be low class, accessed by all, there is a transgression and an ambivalence here that was an important and clarifying discovery for the performing artists of the max factory that has answered crucial questions regarding a politic of presence and presenting that max factory's work asks.


MY EX-WIFE IS AN EXCELLENT LAXATIVE.

(PAUSE)

IF THE SIGHT OF HER DOESN'T MAKE YOU CRAP YOURSELF,

SHE'LL IRRITATE THE SHIT OUT OF YOU IN A COUPLE OF

HOURS.

(Anon)

 

Fictional frame (collusion)

(Introduction - remembered/unscripted)

 

Good evening everybody. This is Felicity, I'm Sharon,

We are max factory - our stage names shall be

Gold Digger (Felicity) and Bomb Shell (myself). We composed this piece in a workshop organised by ourselves. This is the first opportunity we have had to perform this piece in public. We would like to thank Felicity's mum for making the costumes.

 

We replace truths with frames. What the unruly woman provides is a way of entering into existing frames and changing them. “Implicit in the unruly woman's heightened visibility is her potential to bring about a process Irving Goffman describes as 'breaking frame'”. (Rowe, 1995: 53) Goffman suggests that social life is an endless negotiation about which cultural frame should surround. He states that changing the frame in which it is perceived can radically alter the meaning of a social situation, and that frames are most vulnerable at their margins. Because she is dangerously situated in the margins of social life, the unruly woman enjoys heightened frame-busting power. The unruly woman uses the semiotics of unruliness to break frame, to disrupt, to expose the gaps in between 'realities'. Her desire has a different economy that “upsets the linearity of a project, undermines the goal - object of a desire, diffuses the polarisation toward a single pleasure, and disconcerts fidelity to a single discourse...” (Irigaray, 1985: 30) I reiterate that the unruly woman uses the semiotics of unruliness she is not actually beyond her ability to control her unruliness. She is making a choice to expose herself. Her spillage is conscious.


HOW MANY CHAUVINISTS DOES IT TAKE TO CHANGE A LIGHT

BULB?

(PAUSE)

NONE. LET THE COW COOK IN THE DARK.

(Anon)

 

Costume            Sharon:            Layer one (closest to the skin)- bikini. (flesh)

                                                Layer two -pixie outfit (fantasy)

                                                Layer three -ladies tracksuit (domestic goddess)


                                                Layer four -evening dress. (seductress)

                         Felicity:           Layer one -pixie outfit. (fantasy)

                                                Layer two -tantric/tantrum dress (transformation)

                                                Layer three -ladies tracksuit (domestic goddess)

                                                Layer four -evening dress. (seductress)


                         Both:               Shoes: high heels with pixie socks.

 

Props:             Table: 4 pints lager, 1 large pizza (pre cooked), two bottles of wine, 1 corkscrew. 1 sick bucket, 1 list of 'keep fit' exercises (task two). 1 portable tape recorder.

 Music:                                     1)Theme tune from M.A.S.H. Suicide is Painful.

                                                2)Jane Fonda Workout Audio track to Rocky theme.

                                                3)Ambient track (source unknown)

 Task 1:                                     a) play tape one track one.

b) drink two pints of lager and half of the pizza by the end of this song.

c) remove evening dresses to reveal tracksuits. Keep high heels on.

The audience will see any preparation the max factory might need to do in order to perform certain tasks. As an example, if we precursor an action or set of actions with the consumption of a large amount of alcohol, and if the audience see us drinking this alcohol two important things happen. One is that the audiences attention will be divided between what we are doing on stage and how we manage to do it. This exaggerates a tension that is complicit with the hyphen. Through this tension there is a closer scrutiny on how one is causing and affecting another.  There is an irreducible plurality. The second important point is that my body is physically feeling the effects of the alcohol and finds cognitive physical logic slightly more 'challenging'.


It is possible to write the aesthetics of the grotesque body as an overly expressive self, as one that 'spills'. The performer, who understands that all is improvisation and acknowledges the virginal space of performance as an interlocking of the social bodies within, may find an appropriate justification for doing so in the grotesque body. Because human bodies bear the traces of social structures, they can be read in terms of this aesthetic. The grotesque body exaggerates its processes whereas the static, monumental classical body conceals them. The grotesque body, says Kathleen Rowe, is the body in its lower stratum” (the eating, drinking, defecating, copulating body)” whereas the “classical body” privileges the “upper stratum (the head, the eyes, the faculties of reason)”. (Rowe, 1995: 33) 


WHY DON'T WOMEN FART AS MUCH AS MEN?

(PAUSE)

THEY CAN'T SHUT THEIR MOUTH LONG ENOUGH TO BUILD UP

THE PRESSURE.

(Anon)

 

Aside.

This is a celebration of the open orifice.

Her story oozes from her entrances and exits.

They drink down to laughter.

Taking it(like a man).

 Respect but

loose women stuff holes. 

They choke as they swallow.

Cheers to groans.

Freedom to terror.

Yes to No.

Task 2:           

S:             Reveals tantric/tantrum dress.

F:             Reveals pixie outfit.

Both:         Perform 'keep fit' routine then remove tracksuits and shoes.


We had turned to women's magazines and found a relentless demand on the woman's body to show self-control by conquering and in many cases therefore redesigning their bodies to show shapes and images of beauty as defined by media culture. We decided to perform a short series of popular aerobic exercises.  We always changed the order of the exercises, and thus had to refer to a list of instructions. We never practised the exercises before hand. We kept our high heels on. We were inebriated. This task is a ridiculous one, overloaded with 'information'. We allow our selves to spill out of the action through our laughter.


For many women, the social contradictions of gender have been played out most compellingly in artistic forms centred on their victimisation and tears rather than on their resistance and laughter. (4)


We follow our impulse to laugh at our own lack of control. Much contemporary cultural criticism, especially on the left, conveys a sense that cultural critique must be sombre and ascetic. In contrast, laughter undermines the notion that oppositional intellectual work must be by necessity a gloomy enterprise. It is our laughter that incites others to laugh. Laughter is never used as a sign in our work. Laughter is always 'real'. Laughter is a crack in things.


Aside.

We have not always laughed.  In one event everything felt very serious. I start by mentioning that, upon reflection, we realised why this might have been. Our audience, in this instance was seated far away from our action. Its physical distance from us caused some loss. We remember now to ensure that these actions are performed physically closely to our spectators, and better still, amongst. We had not attended to this. The performing of the tasks was too difficult. We became sick (we never before or since had to use our sick bucket). Without the intimate presence of the others, which it seems must 'help' us to get through, we suffered and the whole was harder.


Our ruling idea, as authors, is to make a mockery out of these images of woman, which we do not believe 'exist' as 'real' women so much as they are cultural constructions that satisfy a masculine desire. We do not victimise ourselves within these images. We are subjects to their objects and we 'laugh in the face' of these images. In this sense we reclaim our 'subjectivity'; our subjectivity is the 'ruling idea'. Our role here is not to dictate a new 'type' of woman, but to cast all 'types' of women aside by taking and leaving imagery and actions, by exposing them as powerless to 'bother us'. We do not arrive with a new image of 'woman'. We do not wish to conceptualise 'her' at all. In T.W.A.T.S, placed within a comedic frame, we were able to use distinct female 'constructions' and make fun of them. Not to parody 'women' but to expose the images as fictional, not as women but as 'ridiculous' constructions of woman.


WHAT DO WOMEN AND COW PATS HAVE IN COMMON?

(PAUSE)

THE OLDER THEY GET, THE EASIER THEY ARE TO PICK UP.

(Anon)


Aside

Would you rather I cried than rolled my eyes? Would you rather I absorbed your gaze without returning mine? Did I hear you think I am unreachable? Can you not feel how we are touching?


A woman has to present herself in certain prescriptive ways in order to sustain her visibility both in the domain of live art and in our society at large It seems necessary to take oneself quite seriously as a 'female' artist. The 'issues' of gender are discussed in theory at a safe distance from any leakage that might identify the woman writing as having feelings or experiences of her own. The seriousness with which a fine art discourse speaks about the body succeeds in keeping the artists body fixed (trapped almost) in a critical and potentially victimised place. She is marginal (nowhere) instead of liminal (everywhere). A female performer is required to tread carefully within the minefield of identity construction present in society and culture and in the art world.


Task 3:

S.                        a) take centre stage

F.                        a) sit at table, open one bottle of wine with corkscrew

S.                        b) begin to turn around and around your own  axis

F.                        b) begin to drink the red wine

 

Rule:  The drinker must consume the entire contents of the bottle before the turner may stop turning.

Repeat task three with roles reversed.

 

 

F.                         Takes the tantric/tantrum dress

S.                         Reveals pixie outfit. When completed, the tantric/tantrum dress is discarded.

F.                         Left in pixie outfit.

S.                         Removes hers to reveal the bikini.

 

This whole scene works towards what is to me a transformative moment, when Felicity, who drinks then turns, throws herself into the activity of turning which has become an impossible task. The combination of drinking and turning causes her to lose her centre of gravity. Her centre slips wildly around her periphery, pulling her body with it. She is being her self lost. Her movements become extremely un-co-ordinated. She works hard at her task, but stumbles constantly to the floor. I am struggling to drink the bottle of wine. My own eyes see a room that still turns. Both the audience and I understand that Felicity must keep working to turn until I have finished drinking the wine. Something has moved too far... or beyond. What begins as a social, humorous demonstration of 'bravado' or control moves out of control. Felicity moves us into the anti-social, i.e. she becomes destructive. She passes through, into site and our engagement is rooted in a collective and I would say liminal state. It is by no means an emotional unity. There is a coalition, quite a tense and pensive state, expressing laughter, repulsion and desire (that she goes on, that she stops, that some body stops her). There is quiet and there is shouting. People talk to each other; move in their seats...  Transformation happens in the way that all imagery collides and falls into her as her moving body brings to life an infinity in the present. It is the present tense that dominates us, suspends our imaginings and our memory.

 

Task 4:             

S.                        Pick up the melodica and attempt to play the Benny Hill theme tune.

F.                        Chase S. around the space. Use the whole space.

 

Rowe paraphrases Mary Anne Doane to say that the tropes of melodrama which melodrama valorise - need to be made to appear “fantastic, literally incredible”. This can happen, Doane suggests, through a kind of mimicry or masquerade, “a parodic performance of the feminine that 'makes visible' what is supposed to remain concealed: the artifice of femininity, the gap between an impossible role and the woman playing it” (33). This 'gap' is created by the irreconcilability (by the reader) of the text-activity with the body presenting it. The way max factory approaches its text-activity, its ambivalent and indiscreet mode of performance objectifies the text-activity and not the body performing. It is this ambivalence that is the transgressive and radical vehicle. It destabilises the patriarchal structures and shapes existent in western culture into which the women who make up max factory certainly do not fit.


Distinguishing pastiche and parody we can see that whilst both forms mimic the mannerisms and stylish twitches of other styles, they differ in their allusions to normalcy. Parody, I would suggest, is a linguistic norm, that has an ulterior motive. This motive is to indirectly suggest that there exists something 'normal' in contrast to the comic over exaggeration of that which is being performed. Pastiche does not have this ulterior motive. It does not mock but rather is an engagement with a style or a cultural cliché that declares itself (perhaps nostalgically) unable to identify with an image, or have any natural 'style' of its own. The practice of pastiche can be seen as symptomatic of a conceptual schema which views personal experience as socially and historically determined. Parody produces an ambivalent, simultaneous image and clearly illustrates which part of that image is ridiculous. It therefore answers its own questions, or it directs its reader towards its own versions of 'truth'. Pastiche could be said to pursue an absence or a blurring of such significant absences allowing for the spectator a more personal attachment and the generation of private meanings.  Following this comparison, we can see that the work of max factory, and work like it, can only really be critically read in terms of the mode of its performers' engagement with the texts and actions they perform (as opposed to a semiotic reading of the texts and actions themselves). T.W.A.T.S. is a pastiche. It does 'mock' like parody, but in contrast, what is presented is not 'normal' it is 'me' and it is 'me' in the condition of the here and now, which is conscious of being part of a gathered crowd. My ulterior motive is, like pastiche, to be unable to identify in a successful or positive manner with the images and actions I perform. But I do not embody this inability as a symptom to which I have 'fallen ill'. 


Because the performers perform the material somewhat earnestly or at least openly enough to allow a poetics, an ambivalent set of possible meanings. This engagement is specific in the way it is anti-dynamic. It does not point to or prefer a particular reading or image because the performers do not want to announce their version of normal. If an audience looks towards these performers for clues as to its own artistic intentions or political statement, it would become confused. Hopefully then, its focus is shifted and broadened, becoming more inclusive of the whole space, and also, as the performers are enjoying a certain liberation through their ambivalence, so too the witness might consider her own and become more self consciously and critically aware of her own experience.


Finale:            S.             Completes the tune

                     F.             Catches S. Puts her up against the back wall and 'takes her from behind'.

 

When life is understood from a collective rather than individual perspective, time becomes the necessary link in the process of communal growth and renewal. Within the aesthetics of the grotesque we choose immersion over defensiveness. We can exaggerate incompleteness, process and change whilst maintaining ambivalence towards time and ultimately towards 'death'. The unruly body breaks down the boundaries between itself and the world outside it. Transgressive women never escape their vulnerability. Because they are ambivalent they are open to conflicting appropriations. These conflicting appropriations are surely nourishing a fertile ground for a new social order, and equip us better than the out dated dryness of post modernism's intellectual reluctance to say anything. Instead of the artist deferring herself from the images and actions she creates, a subtle but fundamental shift in her self image is that she is not deferred or absent, but she is so overly present that she loses specificity.  The veil of post modernism has at what must be its natural end a liberal, passive, uninvolved body that remains safe or politically correct in performance. Political correctness imposed upon any land means people will not tell their own stories. There will be no place for who they actually are. Post modernism is dead and so too must be the deadpan nonchalance of its performers especially its women. The death of the author, with regards to the max factory, has given life to the feminine site and developed for us ambivalence towards sight, towards image. Through liminality and its licence to play we were able to explore our own frame busting potential.

 

WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A WOMAN AND A COMPUTER?

(PAUSE)

YOU ONLY HAVE TO PUNCH INFORMATION INTO A COMPUTER ONCE

(Anon)

 

End.                        Against the wall.

                       

 

MOCKs - performance installation by max factory

In MOCKs we have placed 25 examination tables in a room above a pub, in an art gallery, in a theatre space and in a dance space. A maximum of 25 people is invited to sit their G.C.S.E Drama Exam. MOCKs, spends about an hour and a half framing anxiety which is scrutinised both by the performers and the spectators as roles within the performance shift and blur. The audience member must shift positions between her roles as observer, player and collaborator within a shifting frame of a play about an exam and an exam.


In MOCKs max factory takes on the role of schoolmistresses and assumes on behalf of our audience, it in the role of students. We give a social gathering a false/fictional frame, a reason/excuse to come together. We can interact freely with an audience once the fictional frame is applied. At no point would anybody ever suspect that we really were teachers, or that we knew anything about teaching. As performers we do not have to believe in this 'authority' as it exists within a fiction. We do not work to make seamless the gap between our selves and the fiction. We work to keep the gap there. Our selves do not relate to the character but our selves do have a relationship with character. In the simplest understanding of Role Play we are able to use the characters to say what we need to say to get the job done (to make the performance happen). It is through the characters that we can cajole the audience indirectly. (We can be cheeky, bossy, instructive, sarcastic, etc.)


We dress ourselves in costume. It is obviously not our ordinary daywear because the dresses are the same (like a uniform) and they are ridiculous. I will refer to our bodies as a means to distinguish what we wear and what we do from us, from our physical presence, which is for the most part distinctly separate from our costumes and text-activity. Our bodies in these dresses work to set ourselves against the outfits. The costume somehow becomes a character or a stereotype. We work to emphasise that this is exactly what they are. They are performatives. We allow the costume do all the talking about this 'character'; our bodies are doing something else, getting on with the tasks at hand. Our bodies are thinking about other things and NOT immersing in any psychology of the 'character' (there is no subtext, no history). The costumes provide us with 'cardboard cut outs' like a persona, or bad masks.


Somewhere in the way that we do things, it is not clear to the audience whether something is meant to happen or not, or whether something is going right or wrong. It is difficult to tell. This blur is pursued through our attention to 'what is happening now?' as opposed to 'what I am going to do now?' or 'what do I do next?' We consciously care less, are less precious about a successful execution of a text-act because we want it to have the potential to become something we could not have anticipated. We fold into our relationship a care and attention to all that is actually happening. We would be breaking this rule if we were to pretend some things had not happened, or to prioritise (through signifying) some things over others.


MOCKs is an interactive performance held together by a fictional/conceptual frame. The spectator's role shifts as she is explicitly both watching and taking part in the work as it happens.  The frame constructs and colludes our audience. The frames and the fictions of MOCKs induce a performative relationship by the spectator with the performance and between the spectator and the performers. We, the performers, induce a feeling of self-consciousness that we play with and on, aiming to ease self-consciousness in our guests. Through playing with this audience anxiety, we begin to trivialise it slightly. Our actual feelings of self-consciousness become less problematic and maybe more entertaining as the work begins to be, in part, about self-consciousness and audience anxiety. 'We are all in it together'. 

There was always a second room off the performance space. The audience enters this room first. It is asked to choose from a row of neckties and is instructed to wear them. Here there was a collection of people busy with 'getting into costume', sharing 'pre-show' smiles and feeling slightly anxious or nervous about what was to come. We were simulating a stress of examinations in order actually to speak about audience anxiety, about a conventional passivity and role of spectator or consumer in regard to this performance work, its authorship and its creative processes.

The members of the audience looked to each other for reassurance. They gathered. The group interlocks. They will need not only to collude with our 'play' but with each other.

There is a three-way relationship between the performer-author, the frame (text-act) and the reader-spectator. The max factory develops frames that check, limit and restrain all involved. Of course none of us are being held there against our will. We are coaxing each other, and the work also becomes about our complicity in social situations. We work to define or 'set up' a standard within which all variables can be compared or rather related to: performed. Fictional narratives have the ability to substitute but also resemble real life narratives. All social spaces ask for a certain amount of 'role play': the mainland station, the public house, the street, and the airport. An undisclosed but 'hopefully' accepted set of rules, which although designate different roles for different people, do include everyone. We are all expected to comply with certain roles, as they conceptually exist. As social beings we are used to falling into line in this way. We are used to complying with the use of 'appropriate behaviour'. MOCKs  takes advantage of this as well as shedding light upon it. A performative or fictional frame uses the social by colluding the audience and interlocking every body, even though the roles may be different (actor - spectator) every body is working within the same fiction; the same rules of the same game. All there is a series of fictions.

 

Augusto Boal describes interactive performance by positioning all players as spect-actors. His Forum Theatre approached workshops as performances and exploited the rules of social forums such as sporting events.


Forum Theatre is a sort of fight or game, and like all forms of game or fight there are rules. They can be modified, but they still exist, to ensure that all the players are involved in the same enterprise, and to facilitate the generation of serious and fruitful discussion” (Boal, 1979: 139).

The audience and our selves have equal control over what actually happens during the performance. It is our submission to role-play and then our view from here and there as spect-actors that we begin to work together. Our spectators grant any 'authority' to us. They grant us permission to control, judge, or prohibit their actions. They give us permission. We are put in control by dint of the condition in which everybody has put themselves, the fictional roles that we have all accepted. We do not ask the audience to believe what they see. On the contrary we pursue, in the spectator, disbelief. True to the traditions of theatre we ask the audience to suspend this disbelief and through this enter play. We expose the contract that is being made. In the most ideal instance this collusion is relaxed and is one could say, even flirtatious; it arouses without emotional commitment. It is a temporary state, a one-night stand.  Max factory holds no authority over the results of these 'plays'. We put ourselves within these controlled frames and on the level of experience, are rendered observers of (our own) action and of 'what happens'.

Everyone is given a Vodka drink in a plastic cup. We make a toast to the 'show', wish everybody good luck. We proceed to come together in a circle and perform a standard warm up exercise which one might do in a variety of movement, dance, theatre workshop situations. It is a copying and exaggerating exercise. It is performed for the duration of a seven-minute rock record. During this time a strange and hilarious dance happens, out of the copying and exaggerating of each other's tiniest twitches and gestures. The exercise works as a chain reaction and demands the participation of everybody in order for it to work. One becomes much more visible if one remains still. To drop out now is to look even more ridiculous. Everybody joins in. I think this exercise induces anxiety and then expels it,  'mocks' it at the same time. At the end everybody feels more relaxed and quite energised or flushed. In our bodies we have become looser, less rigid. We have lessened the force of effort or concentration. We have laughed with and at each other and have become less formal. After the warm up is complete, the audience is lead into the exam room. People sit at desks with numbers that correlate with numbers they have been given. They must write their name and address on all pieces of paper. The first question is read out and the students are told that they have one hour to complete the exam.

At the front of the room, the direction they were all facing, we had a large table full of theatrical props, crayons, music tapes, performance, theatre and dance theory books, costumes and a whole load of performance materials to tempt the thespian pallet. Behind that we hung two very large mirrors through which the audience could see themselves reflected. This was important. When the spectator, later on, would remember the performance, in the room, inside her own pictorial memory of the performance, she would see herself. A clock tells the real time.

 

Question 1

Either: (a) Trace the development of your role in this devised work. Consider how your role has emerged and developed, and how is the role being communicated to the audience.

Or:      (b) 'Young people cannot tackle big issues in their drama. They merely focus on their own everyday problems

Discuss this statement with reference to this devised work. Refer to content, theme and style.

The audience is left alone. Felicity and Sharon visit a nearby toilet, taking the microphone with them.

The following text is a transcription of a conversation that took place between Croydon and Smith. The conversation originally discussed a private hypnosis session where both Croydon and Smith failed to become hypnotised. Some words have been changed to draw a seriously playful parallel between the relationship of the hypnotist to the hypnotised, and the actor to the spectator.

A - It's a really strange thing I think we both understood before hand that it was a lot to do with will, to have the will to do something, he gets you to a certain place through an 'induction' where he works on making you quite relaxed and then says, for example “you can't move your foot” and you can tell yourself that you can move your foot, if you wanted to move your foot, that voice isn't allowed to be there because it is what he calls 'blocking' you, blocking your will and so your ability to 'act'.

B - you have to create the truth and if the truth is that that man is wearing no clothes then that is the truth and you can imagine that so fully and learn to feel it fully then it doesn't matter that it's not 'real'.

A - I had to forget the number 7 so he made me count out my fingers and when I got to my seventy finger I wasn't supposed to know that it was my seventh finger, and of course he did it twice on me and both times I said 'seven'. It didn't work, he kept saying, 'oh you've gone all quiet', you've gone all serious' and you know, I was trying to concentrate... he'd say 'lighten up'... which of course made me very uptight, he didn't service me.

B - You have to fall backwards and imagine a string coming out of the back of your neck, he pulls the string to make you fall backwards, he's relaxing you, you know that the couch is there and you have to trust him.

A - He's the voice of confidence, he's the voice that's asking you to try something out and then, to be a successful 'customer' you have to believe what he's telling you, you have to believe that when he says that his dick is on fire that his dick is on fire, you have to believe that even though you know his dick isn't on fire, that's the only way that the acting will work on you, if you can block out your own voice.

B - You have to enter into the fiction of the thing, to accept it, as truth and it will eventually become truth.

A - He's the voice of confidence, he's the voice that's asking you to try something out and then, to be a successful 'customer' you have to believe what he's telling you, you have to believe that when he says that his dick is on fire that his dick is on fire, you have to believe that even though you know his dick isn't on fire, that's the only way that the acting will work on you, if you can block out your own voice.

B -- It's a massive leap of faith, a power over your own mind - but he couldn't do anything for us, he tried once and then he just gave up.

A - He's the voice of confidence, he's the voice that's asking you to try something out and then, to be a successful 'customer' you have to believe what he's telling you, you have to believe that when he says that his dick is on fire that his dick is on fire, you have to believe that even though you know his dick isn't on fire, that's the only way that the acting will work on you, if you can block out your own voice.


Eventually I re-enter the room to invigilate. I am 'on stage' so to speak, sitting in what is traditionally known as centre stage, in costume, taking on the role of the character of a schoolteacher. All things considered I get little or no attention from the audience as it has become completely absorbed in its own role(s). The level of concentration upon the exam paper is surprisingly high. I am front stage centre, being ignored. I have explored this moment by 'acting erotic'. I push my hands up my skirt, lick my lips, dribble, and throw back my head. Still nobody notices, so intent are they upon answering their questions well. Over time this moment within the work has interested me the most. I wait for somebody to look at me. I make eye contact with them. A secret pocket opens and exists within the room for this time. I over-act and remain invisible on stage to the majority of the audience. Centre stage has been eliminated. (Once, Felicity Croydon urinated in a sink in full view of the audience. Nobody noticed.)

During the time given for Question 1, max factory present, without announcement, ten theatrical tableaux. This is a play within a play. The audience watches this play at the same time as remaining in the bigger play.  We choose at random, costumes and props from the table, and strike a pose.  This pose is an immediate response to ten titles, ten 'styles' of theatre, which we have written on a small piece of paper that lies nearby.

At some point the teachers take the students through a visualisation exercise.

Imagine spending time releasing your imagination, expanding your mind, following your heart, liberating your voice, healing your wounds.

Imagine taking a step out of your life as it is at the moment.

Imagine entering an environment where you can discover your ability to sing, dance and write.

Imagine a chance to study the key ideas that have shaped the way we think about ourselves.

Imagine taking a journey to discover what you really think.

Imagine an opportunity to break the patterns that hold you back from becoming all that you can be.


This text continues to become an imagination exercise. The audience is asked to close its eyes, relax, role their heads, shake out their arms etc. (Exactly what is said always changes.) I ask the audience to imagine a black box, enter inside, see something or someone, see what the object does or hear what the person says etc. In different moments I have asked for words, pictures and movements.

We work from the premise that 'truth' does not need to be embodied or believed once we are working within collusion.  We all play along with the game. We are not approaching the creative act as precious or mysterious. We perform with a carelessness, which undermines the grave seriousness that shrouds such preparations to create, to 'free'.  Nobody has ever reported not being able to see any images inside her own head. Treating the exercise with less care has never prevented the student's entry into it. The creative process is not such a fragile magic that it will be damaged or 'upset' by a heavy hand. It is attainable to us all at all times. Here we all are.

By the end of this exercise the students have written or drawn things on paper. The teachers gather the papers. As with the warm up exercise, this visualisation exercise is quite generic in theatre workshops, or in creative workshops of all kinds. These exercises construct scenes within the play of the max factory. It would be critically useless to scrutinize these scenes by their content. The play itself begins to contradict, or render futile the questions that the exam paper asks.

The text-activities of MOCKs function as vehicles to facilitate this coming together, to interlock the gathered crowd.

Question 2

You should use the Pre released Stimulus Material for this question.

Use your knowledge and experience of techniques for devising theatre in order to create a piece of drama.

You may record your answer in the form of a first scene scenario, script or script extract or a storyboard or any combination of these forms.

Either:  (a) Using the Stimulus Material devise a piece of drama in the style of a known playwright or practitioner you know. Describe the drama and identify how the features (for example; language, acting style, shape of play) reflect your chosen style.

Or:     (b) Taking your ideas from the Stimulus Material, devise a piece of drama for performance where the focus is on the contrast between normality and tension.

The audience is put into groups. We give them approximately ten minutes to interpret question three. The transformation of our roles within the theatre is complete. Felicity and I sit as audience members and our audience performs for our scrutiny and pleasure.           

Exam results are sent out in the post a few weeks later.

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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