Birds and Words

imagesThis month, Team Effort were invited to create a one off performance for Tramway as part of Rip It Up (the banner under which Tramway supports and presents new work by a variety of artists). I’m not going to outline the whole process here but instead I’m going to focus on one piece and the thoughts behind it, and how it relates to my work.

The idea of birds became integral to the process and the main theme that we explored for the piece. Prior to that we spoke of fear, darkness and creating an intense mood for the audience. I was interested in writing and performing something sinister, maybe as a disembodied voice in the space. I also thought that my current work could move to a darker, more aggressive place, especially with the chats I’d been having with Fergus abut masculinity and the depiction of men/monsters in horror.

With the themes of Birds and Horror as starting points it seemed the most sensible thing to do was to watch Hitchcock’s The Birds. I had the idea of doing some sort of audio commentary, but I wasn’t sure what that would be. I began by writing some narration over the top of the action. Then, as a reference I read the screenplay. From there I had the idea to remove all dialogue and detail, leaving only the direction. It looked a bit like this:

CLOSE SHOT – MELANIE seeing him, and then turning away

CLOSE SHOT – MITCH the canary in his hand.

CLOSE SHOT – MELANIE startled.

TWO SHOT – MELANIE AND MITCH

I liked a few things about this – the space between instructions that could help the audience imagine the scene, the allusions to the narrative and the repetition of the language, which was sometimes a bit hypnotic and at other times completely ridiculous.

This also reminded me of another piece I have written, and one that produces similar elements to those above. This is The Order of Mass:

We stand

We answer

The Priest says

We answer

The Priest says

We answer

The Priest continues

We answer

We sing

We kneel

The Priest says

We answer

This came from reading my own Mass book, given to me when I was at school. It contains all the spoken parts of the Mass and details what happens at each stage. Again, removing the detail, we are left with stark instruction, emphasising the interactive but subjective nature of worship. When performed this is also hypnotic, repetitive and ridiculous. I suppose these are the qualities of religion that I have identified through my current work. This structure also allows for the audience’s imagination to fill in the gaps.

I’m still not sure how much of The Birds piece was clear to the audience. I imagine they were in the dark at the beginning, but maybe with reference to some of the more popular images they understood the connection to the film. However I was quite interested in the fact that the film unfolded through the narration and that the audience had the space to imagine their own story, based on their level of knowledge of the film.

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