Fest — 2

The temperature today is 25° less than on Friday, minus glaring blue sky, plus what is defined as “starker Regen”; mostly the streets are sluicing great sheets of water and everything is hydroplane-y. Naturally, I am in no doubt it’s perfect weather for either biking to rehearsal, or hiking in the Wald. Rehearsal it is, then.

My day’s routine has become lurching vertical-wards around 7am – I suspect induced mostly by it getting light around 4am – breakfast plus reading (my suitcase will be un-liftable by the time I return to Berlin), and then an hour and an half or so of yoga-ish antics. I’m somewhat out of routine with yoga, and last week was the first in a very long time when I’ve done yoga every day, and not even a heavy, Astanga workout, just a lot of floor stuff and at the end some light sun salutes. Seems enough though, and I add a little more every day.

Rehearsals, then. Sometimes starting in the afternoon, like today, other times in the morning (requiring diligence to get through yoga and standing on balance board in time for sitting on bike). Today was an afternoon start, so I bashed away at some code, and other computer stuff, then had a lazy lunch. More reading, obviously.

I’m not sure how much to say about rehearsals, so I shall be a little vague. Marko joined us from Rome on Saturday, and today was four of us, with Nicola returning from Berlin tomorrow. We’re doing a lot of ‘gardening’ on the second scene, which is to say, like gardening, we start at one end, dig the way to the other; a combination of scything through weeds and occasional exhuming large roots and boulders. Once one pass through the undergrowth is complete, we return for another. Today we carted off approximately one skip full. Accompanying the gardening is Ligeti, Stockhausen, Berg, Chinese classical, house music, hit ‘Play’ and hope for the best.

It’s a nice group to work with, and for me a new role, both as assistant and working on a piece that is currently text-heavy theatre, though somehow familiar, working with text, seeing the patterns, structures, and so on, a bit like coding, a bit like blogging, a bit like writing fiction (yes, is novel). Nice also being in Vienna with a good bike, getting soaked in pseudo-summer as warm as Australian winter.

the n+2 dimensional space for n>1 — day 10 & 11

It’s already over. We performed last night and today is Saturday, the residency finished. In-between now and Thursday morning, we spent most of our time in the studio, walking to and from, or asleep.

To Thursday then. A day for technical sortings out, with Silvano calmly attending to our needs, and the mess we had been accruing getting shifted to one side to be replaced with lights and other equipment. We worked out a couple more sections before, after, around this, and got through most of the list piled up before ‘tech run’.

After six o’clock, on our own, we prepared for our own run, which fell apart right where I begin tying Dasniya. This messy tying breeds uncertainty. Will the ropes hold or slip? Cinch in a bad place or begin sliding apart until all previous efforts are rendered null? It’s so unpredictable for me and the anxiety of it was making it impossible to even consider why I might be doing this, to concentrate on performing and directorial issues.

To make a performance in which the audience sees suffering or experiences it personally is one thing, and a thing which I’ve always had an attraction for. Against that, the last thing I want to do is cause the performers I work with to suffer, for the performance to be an unpleasant endurance. It’s easy enough when one is outside and observing something not working and causing pain to stop it, take a pause, try it in another way. When I’m inside it myself though, this ability vanishes. And so I became quite overwrought because of lengths of recalcitrant rope.

After much experimenting, failing, trying other approaches, we had something that worked, and commenced the run again. Alas what worked for me did not for Dasniya, and sliding the ropes off thwarted her.

Thursday finished around eleven in the evening, and Friday began twelve hours later.

Warming up three times, rehearsing some parts, getting through a dress run with Silvano, taking pauses, rummaging through the checklist, it starts, we wait, Jolivet begins, Ligeti, we progress through the scenes (five or seven depending on how you count), and it becomes over.

We have the videos, and some time next week photos from Silvano, so these shall make it here and elsewhere in due course. Today and Sunday we are still at Bains with a Yoga and Shibari workshop (which fortuitously has led to some China and South-East Asia connections), and Monday afternoon the flight (would that it were the train) t0 Berlin.

Some thank yous:

Bains Connective have made these two weeks possible and a joy in many ways. Dasniya and I would like to thank both Lilia and Diana for inviting us and our ropes. A particular mention must be for Silvano, for numerous things, not the least for operating sound, lights, filming with two cameras, taking photos, drilling suspension points, and keeping everything running smoothly. Also to Gala, who came in on Tuesday, watched through our first attempt at a run, gave an hour of of very appreciated notes, and cooked us dinner.

the n+2 dimensional space for n>1 — day 9

The last proper day of rehearsal, where we have the entire time to ourselves. Tomorrow we find our way through a couple of tech runs, make something of light and sound, and have an approximation of a dress rehearsal. Friday is dealing with the detritus of that and fixing whatever remains for the evening showing.

I spent some time on my own, working my way through Gala’s notes, trying to change things into something I can feel comfortable with, analysing each scene to define the changing relationship to the ropes, getting stuck once more on the only scene without ropes. It wasn’t until around 2 o’clock, schedules for the coming days written up, all the impedimenta between us and Friday evening accounted for, that we began rehearsing.

Yesterday in the last time before our first run-through, we played through a scene of tying each other together, which ends on the floor and somehow became tormenting each other, savaging nipples, lips, nostrils with pinching toes. We worked through this again, from my self-bondage (for some reason I think of Ophelia and Gertrude, or more precisely of what I imagine Daniel Schlusser’s recent performance looked like), to paired humiliation (which is really not the right work, it’s more of causing discomfort with rope), and through this scene of shame.

I’d found a video of Osada Steve tying Madame Butterfly, and this roughness, along with some videos we’ve watched a while ago of Japanese Shibari masters grunting and muttering as they tie fell into this scene today. It’s a little rough, also painful, and has sometimes for me a disturbing air about it.

Dasniya and I swapped roles in the final scene in darkness. Now she ties part of the room into an installation while I am outside untying the remaining ropes. She thought this scene should go for around half an hour or more, depending on the first half.

I find myself spending much time disentangling nests of ropes that are the leftovers from each scene and run-through, coiling, laying them in order … We began a run-through around 6 o’clock, this time taking 45 minutes. I’m not sure if we were much slower, or if all the scenes together now last that long, or if yesterday we were just fast with nerves. It’s a lot for only a few days rehearsing.

Questions of music remain. We’re using André Jolivet at the beginning, and some Ligeti also – both wind chamber music compositions. Throbbing Gristle also make an appearance. This is, along with lights, something for tomorrow to sort out. I find it difficult being on the inside to hear the music; it’s not like we are counting to it, so it rapidly leaves my attention. Everything is reducing to technical questions, transitions, where to go when so it works with what comes later, all the usual arrangements of objects in space over time. What it looks like by this time tomorrow is probably mostly what it will be for Friday.

the world is a poorer place

Sometimes I feel as if everyone who made the world brilliant, whose lives and works simply took humanity to new places is slipping away, and we are only left with the detritus, the shadows and the gutter. Gyorgy Ligeti died on Monday this week.

As a man who grew up in Hungary under German and Soviet tyrannies, when home was exactly where you did not want to be, who moved to Western Europe after the Russians extinguished Hungarian independence, and who had been footloose ever since, Mr. Ligeti had no simple notion of where he belonged, and this feeling informed his work.

One movement in his Trio for Violin, Horn and Piano from 1982, for example, is composed, as he put it, of “an imaginary, synthetic folklore of Latin-American and Balkan elements”; another recalls “the Gypsy music which affected me so strongly as a child.”

What, Mr. Ligeti asked himself, is being expressed here: “Nostalgia for a homeland that no longer exists?” And there he put his finger on something: home is not just a place, but also a time.

— New York Times

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