Our performance-paper in Leeds

In November 2016, Jacqueline and I presented a performance-paper at Leeds Beckett University as part of Third Angel’s symposium ‘Where from here?’ to …..

“critically and performatively unfold our research, drawing on the multiple art forms we had encountered, and the critical and creative responses they provoked in us. We considered how multiplicity, non-linearity and the material and visceral dimensions of language normally considered as ‘other’, function as vital and powerful forms of signification, representation and communication in theatre and other art forms – and what are we actually looking for when we encounter a work of art. Combining Jacqueline’s experiences in creating hybrid academic material papers, with Caroline’s experience as a writer/performer, our presentation opened a space of rearrangement itself, enunciating the experimental and multi-layered nature of our research and champions alternative forms of encounter.”

There was a PowerPoint and a massive scroll of paper.

Some excerpts from the day:

A 7am train from Birmingham New Street which I nearly missed as I fell off my bike on route.

Some confusion over where the venue was – we were relieved to find it in an ‘other’ space in the form of a set of Portakabins.

Furtive rehearsals in the cleaning cupboard.

Availing ourselves of some of the excellent free stationery. Thank you.

Vegan lunch from the university canteen.

Our performance paper….


Some excerpts:

CH: In the last few years, I have found myself short of language and confused as I have tried to talk about the theatre I have been making. I have also struggled to find language to talk about pieces of theatre I have enjoyed or those I haven’t wanted to talk about at all because the words didn’t seem to work.

[PowerPoint slide “who stole the words? And a shit icon of a burglar”]

CH: So I decided to look for some new language or alternative frameworks to help me express both what I was interested in trying to make and what I experienced when encountering art.

[Skip to Jacqueline centre stage unraveling a huge swathe of paper on which the ….paper is written]

JT: Non-linear and circular wandering through the multi-layered and complex terrain that we’re negotiating.


JT: There seems to be an oscillation or tension on multiple levels:

  • Between play and safety – familiarity, boundaries, time, ritual
  • And between the abstract – the unconcrete – and the more concrete.
  • This has an ontological and epistemological dimension; affecting us in how we come to know and experience ourselves and the world.

tilting her head sideways to read the scroll…unraveling…I remember a feeling of mild confusion and surprise and intrigue in the room…

JT: the shift we’ve found in moving from making-meaning to things being meaningful – the things that make an art-form resonate with us or be on the edges of meaning or even cut or graze against a system.

crumpling the paper across the space, JT continues to read, undaunted…

JT: art is about giving and receiving – interchanges as Cixous would say …. a trace of its maker but with which the audience can co-construct their own encounter/experience/interpretation

unraveling… the paper is noisy and reminds me of a clown sketch where he performer kept dropping his piles of papers and slipping and falling and ultimately almost dancing. Needless to say we loved him more everytime he fell…

JT: I wonder if this co-construction relates to something always being a made thing still being made – rather than making sense

I notice that little of the scroll remains to be read but much of it remains to be written…

JT: Validity of otherness – not to maintain its position but to unveil an ‘otherness of otherness’ on a level playing field with the mainstream.

JT gathers her scroll noisily with great dignity and I conclude messily with something I wrote about art after coming out of Contes d’Hoffman in Cineworld the previous Wednesday…

CH: Often I want to be transformed by it in big ways or small ways I want to be a little bit different when I leave to how I was when I arrived usually I want to get more sensitive to feel like my armour has been peeled back just for a while often I want to be riveted but not necessarily from start to end sometimes I want to be shattered sometimes I want to cry often I want to laugh usually I want to laugh at the same time as everyone else I want to understand other people better because I am frequently narrow-minded I want a thrill a pleasure of some sort maybe in some way to be in awe maybe to tingle in some way I love words but I usually want it to feel to feel it’s more than about the words sometimes I’m happy to be entertained with no weirdness or after taste or challenge but generally I’ll admit I want something else as well something that hits me deeply I find total abstraction or chaos alienating I want enough structure I don’t want to randomly wander about with no footholds or certainly not for long we interviewed a psychotherapist and she talked about people needing to feel safe enough to play I want to feel safe enough to engage and dream around the images or the words or the people or a story I don’t want anything too solid I like gaps where there is space or silence or disjuncture where I can climb in and wander about and play and see parts of myself within the made thing and structure isn’t the same as narrative it has taken me a long time to understand that and in theatre in this country I feel they are often conflated I don’t have anything against a straightforward story it’s just it’s not always what I want or need I like it when structure offers me something different to the content when it isn’t simply a clear and efficient thing sometimes I like it when the structure doesn’t care or wobbles or is a bit sexy I like it when it flirts or teases or surprises I don’t much want stuff that’s clean and neat and well done or at least not for very long recently I liked watching a man stand under a bit of stage kit that made it rain on him for a good five minutes at the end of Paradise Lost and when in Men and Girls Dance the men were throwing all these little girl bodies into the air in front of us and the girls were delighted to be thrown and to be caught again and I wanted to cry but in a joyful way I liked it when we watched a 50 year old woman build a concrete wall and then when she had taken all her clothes off her thin skin was there next to the big concrete wall and it was incredible and we both cried this is personal though isn’t it so it’s hard to put my finger on why I think its important to talk like this a professor said to us on a Tuesday that if you try to put your finger on what makes a piece of work great you will kill it the professor also explained to me about what being a professor meant which was less interesting afterwards I want to feel excited about life in a way I don’t want to put into words sometimes I want to feel vulnerable sometimes I want to feel exposed sometimes I want to be to have space

to breathe a little

to step out of time

to go to the woods to go wild

to go quiet

often I want things that don’t apologise for themselves sometimes I want to be given permission sometimes I want to see something rebelling before me often I want to read or see something that sticks two fingers up at the world sometimes I want my vulnerability and shitness human crapness to be expressed and understood or just expressed before me sometimes I want hope I want to watch and feel that being alive is bearable or even brilliant despite everything I want to feel in my bones the wonder of the world and of humanity despite everything



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