Miray Sidhom, Assistant Artist on Contact Young Company’s next show Baby Fever, has kindly offered to share her insights on what happens inside the rehearsal room!
Week by week she will be giving you an exclusive behind the scenes look at the process of what it takes to devise a show!
This week, James Monaghan, experimental theatre-maker, led a workshop about performing the self. The self has been the subject of many of our discussions so far, so making the self performative was a natural progression. James began with a quote by Erving Goffman from The Performance of the Everyday; summed up, it’s about the detail of everyday choices we make and how they reveal something about ourselves, whether it’s playful, compassionate or arrogant.
We learn who we are from moments and interactions with other people, whether they seem meaningless or significant. We also spoke about authenticity, and how we perform different roles in different situations; around family or friends, at work or at home, we are constantly performing a version of ourselves. Though this may seem by its very nature inauthentic, it’s coming from a place of honesty. But what is honesty anyway?
We sat in a row, on plastic chairs. Only one person could move at a time, and you had to move your chair with you. At first, we simply crossed from one side of the room to the other, but as the exercise progressed, we began testing the boundaries and rules of the game. We could go anywhere in the space. We were no longer bound to our chair. Relationships and meaning were formed in simple interactions.
Several performers abandoned their chairs, which triggered another performer to organise the chairs into a formation and sit down, trying to impose order on the chaos, tired of people messing with her system. Another image created was of a male performer lying down, whilst two female performers stood on chairs above him, leading me to think of killers standing above their victim’s grave.
We stood in a circle with a pile of questions in the centre. Without speaking, each person picked a question and performed a response. It could be words, dance or song. Some questions were straightforward:
- Do you think there will be a statue of you in the future? Yes!
- When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up? A Ballerina.
Others were more philosophical:
- Is ambition a curse?
- What standards do you judge yourself by?
- What are your biggest fears for the future?
I found the most interesting things happened whilst the person digested the question. They furrowed their brow or shifted from one foot to the other, thinking about how to respond.
A dance from memory
The second half of the session was inspired by James’ performance at Wallflower, a dance marathon produced by Quarantine. The performers took it in turns to perform a dance from memory and tell us the story behind it. It took us on a colourful journey through world-cup choreographies performed at family gatherings to swaying and clicking to Boney M on repeat after 12 hours of partying.
Silent discos playing Come on Eileen and dancing with your family in a rare moment you’re all together. Old friends who were always two-stepping, with or without music. Going mad from boredom in a hospital games room and dancing for hours while throwing sand everywhere. Being at a rave and incorporating the action of fanning yourself into your dance moves because it’s too hot!
In an unexpected turn, the memory of a sister who would do the robot every time the Simpson’s theme was on (this was strangely ironic, I can totally see it becoming the next Macarena).
The group finished with an interpretation of ballet by non-ballerinas, performing as an ensemble, then in pairs and finally a solo. They danced in leaps, spins and other ballet moves as a low-quality recording of Swan Lake hummed in the background. It was very honest and endearing, even though they were trying to be something they weren’t.
Honesty was found in the moments they gestured to each other to begin the next move, in the intense eye contact to tell a partner ‘you’re doing it wrong’. The group had succeeded in performing themselves, and performing happiness in the way they danced and shared their memories. The exercise was a great way of instantly creating something that’s honest, meaningful, and incredibly entertaining.
Raving at 9 am
Our second workshop of the week wasn’t a workshop at all. It was a rave. A morning rave! We met at Hatch, a colourful stack of shipping containers under the Mancunian Way. I gave the group their assignment for the day: to create Instagram style posts of them living their absolute best life.
And in we went. Dance music blared out of speakers, glitter-covered every one and everything and multiple hula-hoops were in orbit. It took a minute to adjust to the fact that it was 9 am and we were all exceptionally sober.
Everyone seemed genuinely happy and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t too, as I danced away to remixed classics. It was a different kind of happy to what you usually saw at a rave; there were no undertones of self-destruction or sleazy overtones of misogyny. It was as though hedonism had come out of rehab, discovered mindfulness and settled into a family-friendly vibe.
What we were experiencing was part of the conscious rave phenomenon. For decades, it’s been quietly accepted that the only way to deal with the mundanity of everyday life was to get off your face and dance your troubles away.
But recently it’s become apparent that the-living-for-the-weekend mentality is far from healthy. The idea then, of creating an experience which has the escapism and euphoria of raving without the need for drugs and alcohol, was irresistible to our current social appetite.
After all, if you can have a burger without meat, why can’t you have the endorphins and sense of community of a rave, without inebriation?
As consumers, we’re now at a time where we’re far more likely to spend money on experiences rather than products. Most of us wouldn’t dream of spending £300 on a designer bag but would happily pay that for a festival. The commodification of happiness has, therefore, had to evolve with the way we spend our money. It was £12 a ticket. This is reasonable considering there are DJs and yoga instructors who have to get paid.
But once you’re in, you’d assume you were in a hippie utopia where money had no use. You’d be wrong. If you want your face-painted to look ravetastic, that’s another £3. Vegan brownies, £2. The yoga was free, and it was also free to get a stranger to ‘feel your energy’ (but it’d be rude not to tip).
The whole event was designed to make you feel happy. So, did it work? I can honestly say that I left feeling far more positive than I ever have at the end of a rave.
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Contact Young Company and Degasten: Baby Fever
If happiness can be bought, are milestones the new currency?
Created by Contact Young Company in collaboration with Theater Degasten, Baby Fever explores the relationship between milestones and materialism. In a world of depleting resources, how do people feel about having children? Can they afford to? Do they even want to?