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Manifesto | Bristol Experimental Theatre Company

Manifesto

As the acceptance world tightens its grip, stifling the mere flicker of ideas, under a welter of knowledge based values, the creative whisper submerged in a swamp of useless information gasps its last breath. Retrospection becomes the new art focus, dressed in the emperor’s new clothes, with critics filling sheets of incomprehensible verbiage, justifying it as new art. Sentimentality continues in endless waves through our society, jingoism and patriotism concreting the population in their passivity. Thinking, now a rare concept has been devalued as irrelevant in the age of modern technology, where facts can be found within seconds and television programmes place more value on memory retrieval than how to evaluate the knowledge expressed. Mediocrity dominates every aspect of our lives, with projected realism becoming accepted as reality, reinforced in nearly every aspect of the media. Thoughtfulness has been reduced to a sound bite, posing as intelligence, cleverly constructed empty statements that on evaluation are meaningless. As the world spirals into self-destruction, the blinds continue to fall as people cocoon themselves from the pressing need for radical change. The tools and skills to be able to process ideas, debate and disseminate new visions have been buried under the new structures of conformity. Stupidity and ignorance are in ascendancy with the pretence that we are now smarter, brighter, more informed than previous generations. This acceptance of the new world order as progressive hides the unpleasant truth that decision making is now a reaction to events, with no vision to effect change. A holistic view of the world has been eroded by the narrowness of an education systems that concentrate on the particular, instead of the general.

Reaction to change is resistance; for many there is no clear vision for the future so the endless roundabout of the same perpetuates in all areas of society. With people consolidating their world with an extravaganza of material wealth, which seems to be motivated by a need that cannot be satisfied, money is never enough. The endless pursuit of capital is never fulfilling and the syphoning of wealth has become accepted and in most cases applauded, without looking at the devastating effect this has on individuals and society. That people are not encouraged to question the status quo but to accept it, as if there were no viable alternative, reinforcing the passivity that nothing can be done. Instead ideas become fortresses, as society protects itself from engaging in what it doesn’t understand, whether it be our neighbour, our community or other cultures. It does this on multiple levels both physically and in the abstract. We are retreating into what we perceive as our safety zones, making ourselves immune from what disturbs us.

To change the status quo, there needs to be a radical change in all sections of society. Individuals must take responsibility for changing their own lives, shaping a world for themselves that limits the damage to others and the environment. My work is a step towards this ideal.

As an artist staging performance art pieces it is my intention to encourage the audience to question what they are seeing. It isn’t my role to provide answers to any issue but to provide a continually changing perspective that stimulates individuals to question their own perception. Using archetypal characters in self-sustaining scenes with minimal sets and strong visual imagery that ensures the work is accessible to a wide range of audience. Emphasis is placed on comedy, satire and absurdity, providing not only entertainment but thought provoking productions. The actors demonstrate their roles through their physicality, creating visual pictures which allow the audience to concentrate on the issues being explored. The writing actively encourages interaction between audience and actors on many different levels, in thoughtful and emotional exploration of the issue being staged. There is no particular structure of time or place within the scenes, with actors playing many different roles and genders.

Individual responses whilst interacting with the production will be different, as seen through their own experience. The object of the production is to encourage them to reflect on their own understanding, and hopefully analyse the different perspectives and form new concepts.

An example of the company’s current work follows.

The play Twitching Curtains explores the issues of secrets in nine scenes with seven commentaries between them reflecting on what each situation has explored. Each scene stands alone and is linked by certain events and names. They all could be the same persons in different roles or representative of everyman/woman. The first scene opens with a man and woman on a train discovering that they live on the same road and both have a wife called Margaret who is very secretive. The ambiguity of their relationship lays the foundation of the play. Next we are introduced to MI5 with two status-seeking individuals who have a bizarre method of finding terrorists and the scene ends when they both ring up their partner Margaret. We are then introduced to Margaret in a toilet which, unknown to her is monitored by CCTV cameras. With direct dialogue to the audience and through a conversation on her mobile to her friend Angela she feels she is being watched. The next scene has an MI5 interrogation officer bring in a suspect who is a transgendered male called Margaret. This scene is linked to the MI5 scene. The next few scenes explore personal and government secrets revealing how they are manipulated and used by individuals for emotional satisfaction, power and money. The final scene brings the male and female back to the opening scene where this time they reveal that both their wives have been arrested on terrorist charges, with the final realisation that they have been married to the same woman for eight years. Because there is no story line or time flow the audience has to concentrate, having to change their perceptions constantly to make sense of what they are watching.