A year ago I came up with a plan. A plan that revealed what my research practice would look like. I would create a 1 hour performance. It would incorporate all the stuff that I had been working on – a slideshow, a pack of cards, poetry, ladders – and some new work filling the gaps.
It would mostly be me talking to the audience and then there would be some sort of installation at the end, which would enable participation. The experience at the end making the sharing of stories possible – after all that’s the title of the thesis: Sharing Stories.
The work was done.
I was still experimenting but I had some substantial pieces, some fragments, and some ideas. All I had to do was thread them together, according to the plan.
This is not what I will be taking to Edinburgh this summer.
That plan is still theoretical. It exists as diagram. It will not be the conclusion of my thesis.
Instead I’ll be playing Lines And Ladders in The Forest Café in Edinburgh throughout August and this will form the final section of my thesis. Lines And Ladders is a board game played by 2-4 people. Using the principle of the game Snakes and Ladders as a starting point, players move across the board following DNA strands up or down. Each of these strands includes a prompt to tell a story: a story of adventures in family history research, of discoveries made or of the blocks encountered.
This game is a long way from the solo performance of the plan and yet it has come directly from it. As I struggled to piece the slices of movement, chunks of text and bits of games into a coherent whole, I realised that I needed to start again.
It was around this time that I struck on the notion of play as method. I realised that the fragments that I had were whole as performance experiments – as play. They form the earlier chapters of my thesis, but the final section needed something that could encompass the breadth of the research question whilst enabling that sharing that is so key to the project. This needed to be something less specifically concerned with my own family stories, but that could provide participants with the space and confidence to share their stories.
I experimented with packs of cards. These could present my family history to an audience. I could talk to the audience about their connections to the photographs, but ultimately it was my family history that was central.
I was thinking about Kim’s game – the memory game where you have a tray of items, remove one and the players have to guess what is gone. This could be used within performance as an analogy for forgotten stories. This could be presented within the solo performance, because I was still stuck with this idea. The solo performance concluding with audience participation.
I showed my plan to Carran Waterfield on one of the workshops that she has run, which have been so important in the development of this practice. She commented that it looked like Snakes and Ladders… and the route of the work took a new direction.