PROVOCATION ABOUT JOURNEY’S
What kind of journeys do people make and why do they take them? Physical journeys of necessity, pleasure, or work, adventure or escape. Think of the t journeys in literature; Canterbury Tales, a Kentish pilgrimage where fellow travellers shared stories; Pilgrims Progress, a journey from this world to that world which is to come. The Wizard of Oz, where Dorothy follows the yellow brick road to both find her way home and save Oz from the wicked witch, and on route picks up fellow travellers who help her, but have personal missions of their own, one to gain a heart, another a brain and a third to find courage. The Hobbit, a chosen band on a quest to win a share of treasure guarded by a fearsome dragon. Or think of real, local characters who are likely to have once walked through Happy Valley; would we like to meet our ancestors and hear stories from our own community?
Imagine an audience, not merely witnessing a story being played out before them, but actually taken on a journey, fellow travellers with the actors. Might they collectively be set a task, or have personal missions of their own, what might they discover, what and who might they meet on the way? what paths do they travel, do they have choices about which route to take? How do we go about creating a real adventure for them?
Imagine an audience divided into different travelling groups, will they be given a guide, or discover cast members as travellers as they set out? Will each group or indeed individual experience a different journey or story to the others? Where will the journey end?
In Happy Valley there are many potential performance areas, where scenes can happen, events and rituals can take place, story circles can be created. Most notably there is a large natural amphitheatre. Could this be where the final part of the story is told, and what would that be? Maybe it's the journey's end, if so, where could that be?
This conversation is about gathering ideas that reveal how this unusual performance style might work, how we can both tell a story and involve the audience in the adventure. Could it be that the final outcome in not known to anyone, not even the cast?
DEVISING SESSION NOTES ON "JOURNEYS"
Present; Michael and Sonia Lawrence, John Harris, Paul Fulton, Gilly Blaydon, Gill Scott, David Brett, Richard Sylvester, Alison Mackenzie, Julie and Bernie Madden, Sally Sugg, Kate Sargent, MaryJane, Jeremy Woodruff, Jon Oram, Becca Maher. Mark Broad registered his interest but had to leave.
David talked about Nana Tomova a Sussex based storyteller. She is a qualified guide and professional storyteller who takes people across the Sussex Downs to tell her stories.
Jon suggested play where the audience could be travellers be implicated in the drama. He reminded us that we will have to be flexible in the mechanics of the show because of COVID restrictions. Rather than thinking this as a restriction, perhaps it’s an opportunity to create a theatre experience that engages the audience into conversation, and physical engagement.
There are connections with first world war Belgians refugees in Happy Valley. Also, the Beacon pub housed Jewish refugee children during the second world war. Different destinations, rushing. Encounter images/events on way, Exhibitions in a suitcase. Problem pictures. Tableaux. Refugees take them on a journey. Audience as refugees- stories told to each other. Maybe 3 groups encounter different scenes different strands of a story. Referred to Kentwell House in Suffolk as potential style – an area of re-enactment, crafts people – a living community in the valley. Canterbury Tales, encounter Inns on your travels, Sweeps cave? Fox hunting took place in Happy Valley audience hide the fox. The idea of suicide as there are places from where you can jump – audience engaged in persuasion (talking them down) Reference to “wonderful walks” an article Alison discovered. In the 1890’s there were geological walks, extraordinary descriptive language. In 1975 Rusthall primary school undertook a project called Wonderful walks where they walked around Happy Valley and wrote about it. Flash mob implicating audience actors not in costume.
Audience given a letter to deliver (refrences to Claque Mystery Houses where single audience member is engaged in one-minute theatre experience, where they make decisions.
Sweeps cage possible refreshment area,
An actor/ guide leading people through different experiences, meeting at a central point, experience of place/geography. Audience having independent choices of which paths to take Go down one path you receive a reward, or a negative experience (out of tune violin?).
Meeting figures from history, journeys happy and sad. Searching: “Where is Home” Caves/carvings/sacrifice/mythical energy about the rocks. Graffiti- loves lost/loves found. Murder most foul. Supernatural area -Owls in trees, themed areas; people in the trees. Land art in the trees.
Paths not taken. Do you involve audience. Actors not learning lines, but improvised characters.
Story stations, leader/guide/character. Chest of drawers with ancestral belongings, claimed by characters. The film The Point, starring Wayne Sleep. His character was ostracised and teased. He went on a journey and discovered everyone has a point. An outer and inner journey, bringing all stories together at the end.
Responding to environment. Boarding houses. Moved to Pantiles. William Cobbett. Actors question audience, “why are you travelling?”. A quest, letter in envelope.
Jon described his life changing experience of a little girl during a community play taking his hand and asking why a child in the play was being hanged for stealing bread as he was hungry. How those moments of reaching across the centuries to others like us can be so powerful for example a Jewish refugee child at The Beacon. Where is home? John Harries knows Peter Cornwell the owner of The Beacon. His son runs a theatre company. They have an amphitheatre in the grounds of The Beacon. The 101 steps down to the cold baths lead to a No Entry sign. Could we use masks (might be necessary anyway re: COVID). Land Art, Field, Forest and Sky on iPlayer.
These notes reflect the meeting as one idea stimulated another so are written in the order or form in which ideas flowed. They can act as stimulus for developing the form of the performance; also a provocation to develop of discover new ideas.
Overall, it seems that there is a feeling for hearing, seeing, witnessing, participating in a collection of stories which come together at the end so there is a sense of unity, a final event that connects all the stories or lives we’ve heard on the journey.