Workshops funded by Arts Council England (Yorkshire), Whitestone Arts (Yorkshire), Fifty-Nine Productions (London/NY) and the University of Huddersfield in January and May 2008.
A team of playwright + video/film designers, dancers, puppeteers, performers and musicians explored the physical and linguistic/aural text of a dramatisation of Angela Carter’s The Loves of Lady Purple.
Development workshops completed to explore a performance language for the iconic short story from the Fireworks collection by Angela Carter, with Fifty-Nine Productions, and dancers Holly Bright and Margie Gillis, musicians and singers Chris Coe and Eilon Morris, puppeteer John Barber, performers Karoliina Sandstrom, Nina Kane, Hannah Mills and David McBride, dramaturg Michael White, early film specialist Simon Warner and facilitator John Britton, lecturer at the University of Huddersfield Department of Drama, Theatre and Performance.
The puppet master is always dusted with a little darkness. He is the intermediary between us, his audience, the living, and they, the dolls, the undead, who cannot live at all, who cannot speak or weep, yet who still project those signals of signification we instantly recognise as language.
The Loves of Lady Purple (Fireworks) Angela Carter, pg 23.
The central character of this Angela Carter short story is the life-size puppet of a whore, who turns into flesh and wreaks havoc on the surrounding natural and human world.
..there were glass rubies in her head for eyes and her ferocious teeth, made of mother o’pearl, were always on show, for she had a permanent smile? Her beautiful hands seemed more like weapons because her nails were so long, her clothes were dyed a purple the colour of blood in a love suicide – not so much a cunningly simulated woman, as a monstrous goddess, at once preposterous and magnificent, who transcended the notion that she was dependent on his hands.
Ibid. pg 26/7
Her elderly maker speaks an obscure eastern tongue, and his young assistants are a deaf boy and a foundling dumb girl.
If they had taken separate paths to silence, all, in the end, signed a perfect pact with it (except when), sitting in the sun outside their booth in the mornings, they held interminable dialogues in sign language punctuated by soft, wordless grunts and whistles so that the choreographed quiet of their discourse was like the mating dance of tropic birds.
Ibid. pg 24
Paradoxically, the story’s creation lies rooted in Carter’s immense linguistic power, and the impact and subtlety of its themes and action require the story to be seen both in the context of its published collection, and in the context of her entire career.
My attraction to the challenge of realising this as a performance is that, whatever it is, it isn’t about a standard dramatisation, or the traditional “well-made play”. Exploring a form and visceral/verbal language for its realisation will examine broader aspects of the role of playwrighting, the use of text, and its links with visual and body languages.
This combination of massive physicality and contextual sensitivity has made this project something I have wanted to tackle for several years. I have gradually built up links with collaborators in the necessary fields of expertise to effectively realise the project.
In conceiving a script form with other disciplines, I want to explore the concept of language giving birth to, and being born from, a dance/silent world, through body-based, puppet-based, image-based elements; just as SFAiE was an exploration of text caught in webnet and Ghost, of text caught in the labyrinths and synapses of a dying mind.
Once upon a time, with the creation of photography, the image was considered to be truthful, whereas words could lie. Now it’s the turn of the word to be embraced as a plastic, creative, fluid and perhaps utterance-from-the-heart artform in performance again.
It has increasingly seemed to me that cross-art form productions have suffered most from the lack of, or bad quality of, written text, arising from an idea of the word as dangerously fixed and inflexible.
The genesis of this project for me is to set up as challenging a crucible as possible for this experiment, and see whether I can find a new form of text, as close as I can make it to voicing the physical.
JA (ACE workshop application – successful)