Working with what feels right

‘Play as a state in which meaning is flux, in which possibility thrives, in which versions multiply in which the confines of what is real are blurred, buckled, broken. Play as endless transformation, transformation without end and never stillness.’

Tim Etchells, ‘Certain Fragments’, 1999, page 53, from ‘Play On: Collaboration and Process’

Just before Christmas, we presented a scratch of our new work in the studio at Tramway for an invited audience. It existed in fragments, as tiny particles of something much larger – something we don’t quite yet know the shape of. It was a marker in the sand, a provocation, a culmination of the initial ideas we had explored up until that point. It felt really important to offer our first explorations to an audience as a way of stimulating, of navigating, of clarifying. We didn’t judge it; we took ownership over it and found empowerment within this space to embrace the fluidity of an enquiry.

A couple of months on, the parameters of what we’re dealing with seem different – they seem clearer and less fixed – but the structures, texts and actions explored in the scratch have undoubtedly informed where we’re at now. As we step into the middle of March, and move ever closer to presenting the work in the summer, we find ourselves in a place of research and experimentation. In many ways, I’d say that the research is experimentation, as we build a layered understanding of the themes and complexities of the show by doing and making.

This practice-as-research methodology has allowed us to quicken the pace of our sessions, keeping the rhythms of group tasks dynamic. We’ve investigated working under ridiculously small time frames to generate performance moments – sometimes as small as seven seconds – and engaged in fast-paced debates and answering questions spontaneously. This has been really great in holding the focus and energy in the room, and, in many cases, produced some of the most complex moments, instantly digging deep into unexplored ground. It really says a lot about instinct, and how working in a fluid or experiential way allow us to access the most pertinent places. So far, the process has produced moments that are spoken, still, anarchic, tender, choreographic, provocative, and moments that have erupted into whole-group hilarity.

We are working with what’s alive in the room, what feels present in our bodies, what we feel we cannot ignore. We are working with our lived experiences, we are working with what is intuitive, we are working with the personal as political. We are working with instinct, emotion, and investment. We are working with moving beyond thinking, we are working with feeling. We are working with the questions about the world we cannot answer; we are working with living those questions until something might surface.