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Fri 7 Dec 2012, by Hannah
On Friday 9 Novemeber we were treated to Lunchtime Talk from Studio residents, Keda Breeze and Rowan Fae directors of circus theatre company Lumiere Digitale. During the talk they unveiled their ambitious plans for a new show that draws together elements of dance, circus, projection mapping and tracking into a unique and exciting audience experience. They shared their processes for creating the work, and talked through the project developments so far. There are a few spoilers in this talk write-up, so stop reading now if you would prefer to be completely surprised during the show! They started the talk by introducing their background:
Before dedicating herself full time to arts producing Keda worked as an international circus show woman. Her ten year experience in the entertainment industry spans across celebrity parties, high end corporate events, prime time television appearances to underground arts festivals and events. Keda is curator of Hoochie Coochie, one of the UK’s longest running performance/party events. Keda’s performance training includes Circomedia Circus School, dance, choreography, various theatre forms and theatre devising and art at physical theatre school LISPA. Keda explained that studying at LISPA really changed her practice, as students are really encouraged to find out who they are as artists by going out and studying lots of different art forms. Keda explained that this multidisciplinary approach started to draw her away from physical work, and she began to focus on the aesthetics of a piece.
Rowan is a choreographer, director and physical performer with ten years experience creating theatre, circus and dance productions for national and international touring and events. Rowan has a firm understanding of making all kinds of bespoke performance, tailoring her creative skills to events or brands with ease and artistic intelligence. She has co-produced large-scale immersive circus theatre shows with the Invisible Circus and Arcadia Spectacular. Designed lighting for Carnesky Productions and choreographed work for Trash City and the Caravan Stage Company. She has made work for the stage across several different disciplines including dance, physical theatre, clown, circus, and magic. She has been a long-standing contributor to the UKs thriving contemporary circus and cutting edge immersive theatre scene, assisting new work in both creative and producer roles. Rowan explained that what really drives her is finding out what can exist from collaboration between dance, theatre and circus performance. Rowan and Keda then went on to talk about how why they formed the company:
Keda and Rowan started working together at the start of 2012; they found that although they both came from a performance background they had very different areas of skill. Keda is used to making experiences, with strong ideas about visuals whereas Rowan is used to creating dynamic physical work with the technicalities of large-scale circus production. In April this year they joined the studio to focus and develop their work. Their company Lumiere Digitale was created as a response to the rapid developments in digital technology and projection based arts. They feel that for the performing arts to stay current they need to embrace these developments. The company hope that their pioneering investigations into the fusion of circus theatre with video arts will contribute to live performance gaining a foothold in this digital age. They then went on to talk about their first large scale performance that is taking place early next year:
They are creating an interdisciplinary, site-specific piece of promenade theatre, which will be staged, in a beautiful old crown court in the centre of Bristol in February 2013. The show has been has been commissioned by Battlebox Productions (Promoter Julian Smith, Massive Attacks Rob Del Naja), and received further support from the Arts Council England, grants for the arts. Keda explained that being surrounded by people working with projections, animations, programming and mapping really excited her as it felt like a new, fresh art form with lots of possibilities. One of the possibilities they want to explore is how the technology can change perceptions of the physical body.
One of the main catalysts for this project was the building itself. Keda loved the architecture of the building, and when she found out it was getting dilapidated inside she started to get really excited about creating a piece of work in it, looking specifically at the falling splendour of the building. Keda then contacted the person who held the lease to find out if it would be possible to create the work. When it was approved Keda and Rowan visited to the building to decide what areas they wanted to use. They immediately connected with three spaces; an underground complex of cells, a beautiful pillared ornate room with stain glass windows and the main courthouse. They then moved on to thinking about the challenges of creating a piece of site-specific work:
-How do you move the audience through a place are they ‘fed and led’ or are they free to roam?
-How do you keep them engaged as they move through the space? They explained that these are all things they are still exploring. The fact there aren’t clear parameters within the space mean they still have a lot of unknowns, but ultimately a lot more freedom.
The next stage was to come up with a concept to for the performance from which to develop a driving narrative. They wanted to use a theme that referenced the original use of the building, the courtrooms themselves, but they weren’t feeling overly inspired by the concepts of law & order and crime and punishment. Keda then went away and started to look at poetry around Justice. This led her to look at poetic justice and Dante’s Devine Comedy. Dante’s Devine Comedy, written in the 13th century, is not only one of the greatest known works of divine justice but also thought of as one of the greatest literary of all time. The poem is divided into three parts; Inferno (hell), Purgatorio (limbo) and Paradiso (heaven). This really seemed to fit with the three spaces they wanted to use and the aesthetics they wanted to create. They decided they wanted to focus on the emotional context and visual details within the text, translating this to the spaces for the physical and visual performance:
The cells are a complex of underground rooms, corridors and passages. They lend themselves to a very intimate audience experience. Their aim is to curate nine installations that explore the sins that are in Dante’s Inferno, and bring them to life through sound and lighting.
Green Room (Purgatorio):
The room has a classic, natural interesting feel to it, but is the most challenging of all the spaces. They are going to try and lift the natural features of the room and use the space to explore the introduction of love and the first female character in Dante’s purgatorio.
Court Room (Paradiso):
Keda feels that this space will really lend itself to classical art references, and imagery from classical sculpture. They want to find the juxtaposition of where old meets new in the space and explore futuristic aesthetics. They want to transform the walls with projection mapping and make it a 360degree experience where the performance can reach its climax.
They explained that as producers, they don’t necessarily have the experience to know what it takes to take a technical idea from concept to realisation in a logistical sense. Therefore as some of the technical experiences they want to create are completely new and untested, they know they are likely to have to make compromises, but they are working with a technical team to try and realise their key objectives.
What role do you want the audience to play?
Rowan: We want them to fully engage in the works, come on a journey with us and leave their world behind; we want them to emotionally engage. We were discussing the different methods the other day: for example if you ask the audience to crawl through a small hole or into a corridor or passage they immediately have to commit to the work.
How many performers are you working with?
Rowan: We will be working with a mixture of volunteer performers and paid professional staff. We’re planning to have eight physical circus performers that will form an ensemble cast throughout the show.
Can you talk a little bit about the relationship between the audiovisual installations and the live performance work?
Keda: Most of this is still in conception stage; we’ve had lots of ideas about content but the logistics around how to put on this performance are just so different to anything we’ve done and so all consuming, that we are still in the early stages.
Rowan: One of our ideas is filming some dance in the space, which will then projected back on to the building, with a live performer responding to it, creating a layer effect.
Am I right in thinking that there are plans to open the venue on a more permanent basic as a space for dance, arts and other interdisciplinary work?
Rowan: You’re right; our project is in the very first opening weeks of the venue. There are plans to open it four times this year and then four times next year but it has to be on a popup basis as the building could be sold at any time.
Lumiere Digitale currently have opportunities to get involved in their upcoming production to find out more visit their wonderful website here: http://ldigitale.com/