First Steps Towards a Site-Specific Performance 1

Well my project proposal is in and in a months time I will know whether it has been excepted and I will be able to share my journey with you on this blog. Yesterday was my final day at university before Christmas and I have been given homework alongside my own reading to do. On the same day, I received through the post Site Specific Performance by Mike Pearson, and performing site specific theatre edited by Anna Birch and Joanne Tompkins. I think it’s safe to say, that if you are only reading this post, you can guess what the subject of my proposal may be from the titles of my new reading books. My homework entails taking one of my aims and devising an exercise that will help me achieve it, then showing it back on January 10th.

With my aims in mind I am going to look at Phil Smith’s first steps towards site-specific performance, I know there’s a similar exercise in the Mike Pearson book so I will be explaining the outcome in a new year post having applied both ideas.

Starting Out

Working in a non-theatre site is very different from working in a theatre. From the start it is best to assume everything will be unfamiliar. You are taking a journey that begins in the dark. “Site-specificity” means getting your inspiration from and working in and for your site. Sharp perception counts for more than past experience. Long before you get to “script”, “plot” or “character”, your site should be touched, stroked, collected from, mapped, played in, observed, framed, listened to and analysed. Maybe inhabit it for a while?

You can use the destinationless “drift” of the situationists: follow your instincts, feel out the atmospheres of places, choose your site according to its psychological (or “psychogeographical”) effect on you. This way you are more likely to find genuinely hidden places, rather than ones widely known as “unknown”.

There is a rough theatricality about places that are usually unvisited – basements, rooftops, tunnels. Just looking and discovering may provide you with material for performance.

Found a site that attracts you? Then fingertip search it like a crime-scene, diagnose it like a sick body, wander in it as if it were a dream. Speculate on how it came to be like it is. Write its creation myth. Once the site begins to respond in its own terms, adopt those terms as your own.

Smith, Phil (2010) ‘Endnotes’ in The Hidden City Festival Handbook. Ed. Roberta Mock. Plymouth: University of Plymouth Press

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