Lines And Ladders Performance Diary 06: The Laboratory

The laboratory.

Waves crashing. Ripping plastic.
Noise.
This is why I am here.
Shapes forming.
An ocean rustles into being.

This is why I am here.

 I have been fortunate throughout this process to work with Carran Waterfield. My first experience of her work was as an audience member witnessing The House. Twice. It is a significant work, devised and performed by Carran, which makes use of her own family history to explore wider societal concerns. Since then I have interviewed Carran and attended a series of performance making workshops that she has run in Cumbria, York and Salford.

There is always something of a homecoming at Heron Corn Mill in Cumbria, where this cycle of courses started. The space is offered for reflection and exploration. Nearly an hour spent discussing our work in a way that would not make sense or be helpful anywhere else.

Carran leads a warm up to start the day’s training, though the term ‘warm up’ feels inadequate. These exercises are so important. They help me to find the space to make my work. To listen to myself. They become part of my process when I work on my own.

I wrote the verse that starts this blog in the barn at Heron Corn Mill. I was writing on an ancient laptop – no internet – no temptation to drift. And yet I do. I am in the room and become conscious of what is happening around me. Four of us were present. Four who attended the first course, here again after nearly two years. Luke Crookes is experimenting with his bassoon and recordings of the sea. Another participant is creating waves with plastic and fabric. Carran is watching. In this place we are all making. In this place there is security to experiment.

My ideas have wandered in this place and have been influenced by conversations, by others’ work, by a metal staircase and by being given the time, space and structure to play.

The game that I have made is an attempt to explore family histories, but there is another story here. This working genealogy is important. The questioning, the listening, the activities all form part of the heritage of the work that is created.

I was working in a dark corner of the Mill when Carran made her observation that my plan looked like Snakes and Ladders. It was October. I was cold. I was frustrated. There was so much to include. So many issues to address. So much material to develop. Carran’s statement was a prompt from a place of understanding. A recognition of the need for direction. I toyed with the idea of making it into a board game as a distraction, but Lines And Ladders became a way of including almost everything, if not every time.

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