The Centre for Performance Innovation and Evaluation is set up to explore performance in practical and applied contexts. Our work interacts with many communities and engages in a variety of performance modes through various different media. We view performance as affective, immersive and embodied, qualities that inform the dynamics of our centre.
Conan Lawrence’s work has involved collaborations with the heritage sector, the military and international theatre companies to explore how lived experience can be performed to stimulate memory, cultural cohesion and communal well-being.
Dambusters 70 (March - May 2013) was performed at RAF Scampton on 16th May, 2013 as part of the national commemoration of the Dambusters Raid. Itused verbatim theatre to explore the effects on individual memory of a major national narrative affecting local communities and military personnel in Lincolnshire (the retrospective of the Dambusters raid). The revisiting of personal experience through performance had recognised impact on participants (performers), observers (audiences) and communities (local, regional, national). It played to an audience of 500 in an original 617 Squadron Hangar, and was also adapted for BBC Radio Lincolnshire and documented by BBC North.
STORM (Shakespeare’s Tempest: Ontology, Reconstruction and Manipulation) (May 2011 – April 2012) (funded by the European Union, Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency) was a pan-European project relating to cultural production, translation, dissemination and movement in the performance and heritage sectors. In collaboration with Theatre Companies Fatias de Cá (Tomar, Portugal) and Teatr im Aleksandra Sewruka (Elblag, Poland), Storm’s research explored the collaborative development of a performance model that can encompass multiple languages and cater for an audience who may not be multilingual. Storm enabled three companies with a common interest in site-based performance to develop a style where diversity was publicly celebrated and transported and present it to public audiences in three countries with differing heritages, access to heritage sites and notions of identity, transforming all three.
'IT HAPPENED HERE'
It Happened Here (2009)was a site-specific, community-based heritage project engaging 12– 19 year olds in inner London. Funded by the Lottery and Hackney Heritage Built Environment Partnership, it explored issues of archiving, memory, place and community arts practice. The project arose from a ‘Site Specific’ module at the University of East London, and interest in how performance might archive a site’s heritage through exploring living (and lived) memory. The project’s research aims were: to gather and archive a site’s cultural history; to explore a hypothetical working model for site-specific research; and to explore the exigencies of performance in relation to living memory. Developing a methodology for exploring lived experience of sites through performance raised a number of issues concerning the relationships between researchers/subjects and performers/audiences; the selective nature of researching and archiving, especially when performance-based; and the ethics of exploring/representing archived lives. The process led to performances at Hoxton Hall, The Geffrye Museum and The Shoreditch Festival (with the BridgeAcademy) in 2009-10. Hoxton Hall now houses an archive of material uncovered. The memorial of process as a process of memorial demonstrates the project’s conceptual strength, and its continuing presence in the fabric of the site is evidenced by subsequent continued engagement.
A further collaboration in the field involved Lawrencesupervising student-producers in the delivery of a two month interactive performance process in a Lincoln nursing home (Lace Housing). Developed, devised and performed in dialogue with elderly service users with Alzheimer’s the process explored memories of travel, friendship and time in their place of care. Benefits included increased self-esteem through physical embodiment of experience (for service users), exposure to a methodology for exercising and performing memory (their carers) and professional practice (for student-producers as aspiring Dramatherapists). The process involved three Undergraduates, twenty service users and three carers and is being considered as a component of CPIE’s Performance Enterprise Initiative to offer Graduates professional employment.
Andrew Westerside is a co-director of Proto-type Theater, whose work has been toured internationally with support from the British Council. His research interests focus on composition, rhythm, and theatricality as they relate to the philosophies of performance experience, aesthetics, and recuperated notions of taste. His work considers the aesthetic qua aesthetic as a site for the articulation and composition of experimental performance practice, and crosses over into the fields of painting, installation, live-art and sculpture.
Fortnight (2012-13)is a two-week immersive experience exploring technology, intimacy, alienation and place. In each iteration (Bristol, Lancaster, Manchester, etc.), up to 200 participants received messages sent to phones, email, and home addresses, containing poetic nudges encouraging them to question their sense of place. Participants also received daily invitations to visit locations to reflect on what it means to 'be here' now. Our primary research concerned intimacy and alienation and explored how technology brings us together, yet often leaves us distanced from our sense of community. My engagement stemmed from wider research into digital technology in contemporary performance practice; Fortnight has informed that research, playing with and ‘mis-using’ technologies to explore anxieties of intimacy and alienation. Fortnight was commissioned by various organisations including Nuffield Theatre Lancaster, Mayfest, Watershed, Theatre Sandbox and supported by Arts Council England, Manchester Metropolitan University, Bristol Old Vic and Contact Theatre.
'THIRD PERSON: BONNIE AND CLYDE (REDUX)'
In 2004, Proto-type Theater created Third Person, about a collapsing relationship between two jaded New Yorkers. Third Person: Bonnie & Clyde (redux) (2010-12) remade the show in the context of the company’s relocation to England, layering the existing premise onto the historical relationship of infamous outlaws Bonnie and Clyde. Third Person: Bonnie & Clyde (redux) examined the process of storytelling, memory and moral ambiguity. An important technique in its devising involved taking documented events and scratching at the surface of their ‘truth’, inserting the subjectivities and identities of performers who mis-remember and fabricate. It explored ideas of authorial voice, control and miscommunication, and it interrogated ideas of fact, fantasy, evidence and rumour in various mediations of information. Delivered in the third person through a variety of lo-fi media including video, drawings and overhead projection, the piece staged a collaboration between its former iteration and its present. The company was invited to Armenia and Zimbabwe by the British Council to share this devising methodology with performers and students.
Aylwyn is a South African performance maker who works in social and political performance. Her interests are in everyday performance, activism, and radical performance pedagogies. She is currently working on performances related to protests, crisis and austerity. She also creates theatre in prisons with women, which forms part of her PhD.
HMP DRAKE HALL
The HMP Drake Hall project (February – August 2012), led by Aylwyn Walsh in collaboration with the charity Women in Prison, the Arts Alliance and Clean Break Theatre Company, involved practical theatre-based workshops with women at HMP Drake Hall in Staffordshire. The project engaged with a core performance group of 15 prisoners, developed a research focus group with 10 further prisoners, and had an audience of 45 prisoners and staff. It centred on the life experience of women prisoners, considering how incarcerated individuals might transcend the reduced horizons of the prison environment through the embodied voice of performance. It developed through radical performance pedagogies and feminist approaches to inclusive methodologies. The research explored the ways performance tactics are adopted as ‘resistance’ or ‘compliance’. Coverage of the project targeted the UK female prison population through Women in Prison’s Ready Steady Go Magazine, thus enabling a ‘remote’ creative process to all women’s prisons in the UK of up to 8000 readers. The process was also discussed in an issue of Total Theatre Magazine. Aylwyn Walsh was awarded TAPRA's PG Essay Prize 2012 and the IFTR's Helsinki Prize 2013 for her work in this area.
HEPATITIS C INTERACTIVE THEATRE
The Hepatitis C Interactive Theatre process (January – April 2013), in collaboration with United Lincolnshire Hospitals, involved collaboration with healthcare professionals and service users in a verbatim theatre exploration of key issues affecting Hepatitis C carriers and their families and partners. This process culminated in a performance attended by an audience of over 50 sector professionals and users. The process was shortlisted for the Nursing Times Award for Team of the Year 2013 for promoting awareness of the Hepatitis C Virus. Aylwyn Walsh is producing a DVD of performed materials aimed at service providers and users.
IT'S A BEAUTIFUL THING, THE DESTRUCTION OF WOR(L)DS
The resistant performances of the 'outraged' in Athens have gathered momentum in recent years, transforming the fixed landscape of a city into a platform for negotiation and dialogue. Both are connected with existing social conditions: austerity measures, mass immigration and 'crisis'. The concept of 'occupying' in resistance movements is performative, embodied and affective, giving birth to a new street-level language that twists, innovates and fills in the gaps of a culture's hegemonic discourse. 'It's a Beautiful Thing' is a practice as research project by Aylwyn Walsh and Myrto Tsilimpounidi, exploring the urban remapping of a politically charged multitiude (in squares and streets) alongside individual narratives of personal resistance from within institutions (prisons). The common element is a view of resistance as embodied and aiming to radically transform the spaces of domination and oppression perceived to be limiting the human rights of the subject. 'It's a Beautiful Thing' has been performed at a number of events, including the Berlin Biennale, (Berlin, 27 – 29 June 2012); ‘Making Connections’ (Loughborough University, 3-5 September 2012); ‘Riot, Revolt, Revolution’ (Brighton University, 5-7 September 2012); 14th Mediterranean research Meeting: ‘Social Media, Urban Movements and Grass-Roots Creativity in the Mediterranean during the Crisis’ (Mersin, 20-23 March 2013); 20th International Conference for Europeanists: Crisis and Contingency: States of (In)stability Workshop: ‘Europe in Crisis: Urban Performances of Capitalism and Resistance’ (Amsterdam, 25- 27 June 2013); International Visual Sociological Association ‘The Public Image’ (London, 8 – 10 July 2013); 17th World Congress of IUAES (International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Studies (Manchester, 5 – 10 August 2013).
Michael Pinchbeck explores performance through his own practice as research, as well as acting as dramaturg for artists and companies such as Zoi Dimitiou, Hetain Patel and Reckless Sleepers. His performan
ce work is often (auto)biographical, deconstructing both ‘writing’ and ‘playing’ to ask how we perform writing and how writing performs.
The Beginning (2012-13) instances my ongoing performative exploration of how dramaturgy, writing and performance coalesce. With performers Nicki Hobday and Ollie Smith I explore how dynamics from text, devising, personal experience, collaboration and interpretation weave together to create the texture of a theatre piece. The project explores two main ideas: how iterations of our previous experience trespass into our present; and how the dialogism of collaboration obscures the stability of a text. Having previously (performatively) promised never to perform again, in this project I step outside my work and remain in the margins, both physically and metaphorically (by sitting in the wings; by being an ‘outside eye’). Writing a script for myself to perform, I have then passed it over to be rewritten for Ollie, then rewritten again for Nicki, such that it has become composed of a shared handwriting. It is an attempt at discovering an ‘autographology’ where autobiography meets the study of handwriting. Having given ‘my’ material to others, I do not perform, other than in the role of technician, or prompt.
The End (2010-11)was devised in collaboration with Ollie Smith and Mole Wetherell (Reckless Sleepers), with visual artist Hetain Patel as dramaturg and an original live soundtrack by Chris Cousin (Bathysphere). It emerged from a commission in Holland to contribute the final part to a theatre piece called Beginning Middle End. Since then, I have explored the idea of endings and exits through periods of workshopping and devising in Cambridge, Brighton and Nottingham. Periodically, works in progress responding to this philosophical exploration have been presented to audiences around Europe. In part, this project has been an investigation of absence and loss, and a re-staging of real-life experiences such as a relationship break-up or facing a firing squad; in part it has been influenced by the after-life of any piece of art coming to an end yet lingering in the memory. Conceptually, I have both explored and articulated this theme with a ‘dot dot dot’, not a full stop—The End therefore evolves, reflecting on its own last ‘ending’ and revising its position. As such it explores the process of writing, part of my ongoing performative exploration of how dramaturgy, writing and performance coalesce.