So then we had the post mortem and the ‘What next ?’ conversation. The characterisations are sound and need filling out and heightening by adding another layer of narrative, such as a celebration or a heartbreak. Then we can go back to the writing to show how they each handle their different struggles. We talked more about sound and text ; at the moment the soundtrack is from the surrounding environment, which adds authenticity, but could be added to.
Then we can start to play with moving from the literal back to the abstract, which is where this piece started, and see what works best on that axis. Traditionally performance art uses the ‘neutral body’ rather than character which is found more typically in drama.
What has also emerged during this development process is that the work is about many things, and it may work better to produce several different pieces rather than trying to cram everything into one.
Just before the dig was filled in, I did a final shoot.
Now the focus has been on more research, assembling props and refining performance details.
Research came from lots of different sources: George Anelay, the Director of Archaeology, Stuart Needham, the Subject Specialist for the period, Kathrin Pieren, Petersfield Museum Curator, David Hopkins, the Hampshire county archaeologist, Sabine Stevenson, a postgrad looking at contextual aspects of heritage and archaeology, Rosalind Norrell Learning and Community Engagement officer at Petersfield Museum, Maureen Page Director of Butser Ancient Farm (set up to develop experimental archaeology). All have been extremely generous with their time and have contributed hugely to my understanding of the sphere in which I am working.
Props have been assembled from diverse sources: loans from the museum, gift from a family member, charity shops, my wardrobe, online etc etc
And finally it all came together for the Open Rehearsal on site. We performed on an unexcavated barrow because, right at the 11th hour of the dig, a bronze age burial urn was discovered in the trench which was going to take a lot longer to get out.
We had good weather and an enthusiastic audience who seemed very absorbed in our piece.
We did some experimental run throughs on site. We tried performing in parallel, and performing in turn and then pausing whilst the other one does some. The parallel performance works much better, the serial one is a bit pedestrian and dull.
I like the way modern woman is oblivious to the earth despite her heels getting (literally) stuck in it. Neo woman is much more engaged with her surroundings.
We talked about how to create an identity for the two roles through the use of object (bowl for neo, mirror or phone for modern) and gesture (slower, more precise and grounded for neo and frenetic, birdlike for modern).
And we worked out ways to engage with the audience by using humour and exchanging objects with them.