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plans, plans, plans…..

October 20, 2012

I wrote in my last post about the frustration of having to be a business when I don’t consider myself a business. I received a lot of responses to that – most of them echoing what I was writing. It is interesting that it is not only a European frustration…..

There was also a criticism that my post did not address relationship with audiences. I think this is a very important issue and one that it is easy to misunderstand and misrepresent. The relationship between artists and audience is complex and has a complicated history. It is an question I want to write about when I have time to make sure I can do so properly – which is not right now. Though I disagree profoundly that my first job is to consider ‘audience’, I respect the argument. It is one which has been around at least since the start of the last century – and like most of these arguments is unresolvable with different perspectives moving in and out of fashion depending on the politics of the day….

I’m going to return to the ‘audience’  question soon – in part because I am preparing to be part of a panel discussing the statement: ‘Commercial and professional imperatives profoundly inhibit the evolution of ensemble theatre practice with the UK’  .

It should be a fantastic discussion  – Tim Etchells from Forced Entertainment, Gillian Hanna and Mary McKusker from iconic feminist group Monstrous Regiment, Richard Katz from Complicite/RSC, Mattieu Leloup-Bellon from Bred in the Bone…. It should be a rich conversation and it will be streamed live via http://www.theargumentroom.net on November 30th at 6.30pm.

Which brings me to the subject of this post – though I am not a business, there are plans, plans, plans. This post is to let you know a few of them.

I am about to submit ‘Encountering Ensemble’ to Methuen – it is a book of essays and reflections on ensemble practices from Stanislavsky to the present day. I am incredibly excited about the range of contributors – academics, audience, practitioners. Some write about history, some about their own work. Some are analytic, some passionate and polemic. There is a huge range of voices and I think it can be read as a restatement of the absolute centrality of ‘ensemble’ to western performance – even though that centrality is often forgotten and ignored. The book only covers European and American work (perhaps there is a space for a follow-up looking at how notions of ‘ensemble’ differ when they emerge from cultures with other perspectives on the relationship of individual and group….). As far as I know, the book is slated for publication by Methuen/Bloomsbury in August 2013. It’s taken a year of my life. I am ready to move on….

Once the manuscript is submitted I go on the road – Munich for work with Hospital Clowns and improvisers/dancers, then Thessaloniki and Athens to work with musicians, dancers, actors, then Sweden to work with dancers, actors, circus performers, and a week with  Gotsunda Dance Theatre company near Stockholm.  If you are in any of those places, it would be great to see you.

In the new year I will do a little work in the UK – including perhaps a couple of performances of ‘Echo Chamber’ in Huddersfield. Then I go to Sweden again to work at the Balletakademien in Stockholm and directly on to India….

Ah yes,  India…..

This seems to be one of the places where – incredibly excitingly – DUENDE’s work might next develop. The Arshinagar Project, an organisation of performers, activists, environmentalists, educators, have invited me to visit. I will run a residential workshop in the South (Tamil-Nadu) for Indian and international performers.  Then I run workshops, perform ‘Echo Chamber’, ‘Starting From Now’ and improvisations in Bangalore, Calcutta, Delhi before   finally  I run an extended residential workshop for a small number of Indian and international performers in the forests of the Himalayas. It is even possible a couple of other members of DUENDE will be able to come and contribute to this residency. This last residency will culminate in a performance in the forests of the Himalayan foothills, and a showing of work in the ‘Ghosts of Shakespeare’ festival in Delhi. There are still spaces on both of these residencies. If you want details, please go to:  www.ensemblephysicaltheatre.com/John_Britton/Residential_Workshops.html

It will, I am certain, be a rich experience and a chance to meet artists and audiences from contemporary and traditional art-forms, inside and outside of ‘official’ institutions.

Then, in May, Greece, an educational project in Huddersfield, July a residency in Lesvos, September in Au Brana France, perhaps LA in October….. etc etc etc plans plans plans….

The big one though is ‘The Shattering Man‘. ‘The Shattering Man’ was the first show DUENDE made in 2010. I was very proud of what we achieved but it felt very much unfinished. It is time to revisit it and reinvent it. It has become – in my head – a show about what it is to be European today, in light of the collapse of the European economy, the relentless destruction of the ideals of ‘western civilisation’, and the enormous dangers (and possibilities) that are emerging as ‘austerity’ further entrenches the power of the rich and of governments at the expense of the rights of citizens.

It’s a show I need to do I think. Not only here, but in Greece. And then, talking with my friend Arka (of The Arshinagar Project) in India, I find he has a show, also (like ‘The Shattering Man’) a response to ‘Macbeth’. His too is a reflection on the current state of his culture – in particular in light of ‘The War on Terror’. So another plan….. In 2014 DUENDE will re-invent ‘The Shattering Man’. We will rehearse and perform it in France (where there is an organisation able and willing to support our work). We will tour it to Greece (where there are theatres keen to host and support our work). We will take it to India to perform in the 2014 ‘Ghosts of Shakespeare’ festival. Then we will return to the UK, with The Arshinagar Project, to present two productions – DUENDE’s response to Macbeth-as-European (‘The Shattering Man’), and The Arshinagar Project’s response to Macbeth-of-India (‘Death Infected’). It will be rich, fascinating, complex and extraordinary. I don’t yet know where and how this will happen. You see I’m not a business…

It will expensive and I am going to need help. If I had money I would employ help. But of course I don’t…..

So do you have any ideas? Sources of money? People with time and expertise to apply? Organisations that might want to partner DUENDE? Rich relatives? Do you know how it might be possible to bring this work – work emerging through the cracks of a decaying culture – to the sorts of audiences who might really value it….?

Feel free to contact me.

My work – and everything that DUENDE represents – is based on contact and communication. Not necessarily ‘mass-communcation’, but precise, respectful and detailed conversation between people who have something to say and people who have a willingness – a need – to listen. So please talk to me. If you are around anywhere where I am traveling, let’s meet. Let’s talk. Let’s see if we can to learn to whisper and be heard in a world full of shouting.

This is a list of what and where I’ll be in the next few months:

Workshops (Munich) November 2nd – 10th
Performances Munich November 6th & 10th
Workshops (Thessaloniki) November 13th -16th
Workshops (Thessaloniki) November 17th – 18th
Performance  Thessaloniki November 16th
Workshop (Athens) 24th & 25th November 
Workshop (Stockholm) November 27th – 29th
Workshop (Pantomimteatern, Stockholm) November 27th & 28th
Workshop (Circumsdance, Stockholm) November 29th
Workshop (Gotsunda Dance & Theatre, Upsala) December 3rd – 9th
Performance Upsala December 9th
Workshop Huddersfield University January 26th – 27th
Workshop (Balletakademien; Stockholm) March 4th – 8th
Residential workshop: ‘Self-With-Others’ (Tamil Nadu, India) March 11th – 18th 
Residential workshop ‘Macbeth in the Mountains’ (Himalayas & Delhi, India) April 6th – 23rd
– other workshops in India to be confirmed.
plans, plans, plans…….
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