The Porcelain Project: a (mis)communication across objects and space

With Grace Ellen Barkey

Initiated by Mary Kate Connolly and Eleanor Hadley Kershaw

The Porcelain Project

Barbican, Silk Street Theatre

14, 15 April 2009

Grace Ellen Barkey and Eleanor Hadley Kershaw take a seat at a table outside the Waterside Café, Barbican. The fountain on the other side of the patio is gushing and people at other tables chatter happily over coffee in the afternoon sunshine. Eleanor places a tape recorder on the table between her fizzy water and Grace’s tea. They start to discuss Spill: Overspill and The Porcelain Project. The conversation quickly turns to the story of the performance’s evolution.

Grace: I work quite intuitively. I don’t really think beforehand, “what does it mean?”. I consider it more like when a painter paints. Just go [she makes a hand gesture to suggest throwing] with the paint and the white thing. You have all your luggage with you, all your knowledge and your life and your dreams and you just go for something…

I always tell the story that Lot, my partner in crime, and me, we were having a bit of time off… and we decided to do something small. Lot was a ceramicist, but she hadn’t practiced for years and years and I don’t know why but she started to study it again. I am a very big fan of porcelain, I just love to touch it, and in a flea market I always go to the cups. I have a whole collection of the most fragile cups, the more fragile the better. I think we [envisioned] a picture of a Louis XIV-style room - a room full of porcelain - and we said to each other, let’s do something with it.

For me, theatre is a puppet theatre, in the sense of the absurdity and the grotesque nature of a puppet play; [where there might be] a kind of strange repeating, like “children did you see…”, and then something pops up there [she makes a hand gesture like a hand-puppet popping up]. I said to Lot, let’s make a puppetry of porcelain, but really recognisable things like cups. So Lot started to make all the pottery. [We built] a little temple; on this platform there were porcelain things standing and hanging, and we would pull on wires and all these [pieces of porcelain] would move. For example, there’s this snake of cups moving [she makes a hand gesture to suggest a rolling wave]. It’s just like a dream of little objects moving. We still show it sometimes in museums, this little manipulation of the porcelain, it takes like 10 minutes. So that’s how it started…

And when it was my turn to do a big production, at first we had another idea for a setting, but because we had so much porcelain we said, “we have spent so much time already with this porcelain, so let’s just throw it on the big stage and see what happens…” And that’s how it grew.

Eleanor: Is the relationship between the audience and the porcelain the same in the installation and in the performance?

Grace: It’s completely different. The trembling table that you see on stage is also in the installation. When it starts the people come in and they see all this porcelain falling and they can come much closer, they can express their curiosity differently. They go and look at the table and try to figure out “why does it tremble?” and “how does the porcelain fall?”. They are already completely into it before we even start the manipulation. And during the manipulation they come very close, very very close. It’s very light. And the porcelain has a quality, it’s very tender, it is beautiful. The music of it is tender.

In the show, we have this poetry of the porcelain in the temple, but I also wanted to show another side of it. It’s more absurd when a body carries the porcelain. When you have a porcelain nose you’re immediately a clownesque person. These objects become a part of the body but at the same time they are more like an aggressive outburst of the body. You want to touch another body but because of the porcelain it’s an impossibility: I wanted to play with this impossibility.

Eleanor: One of the things that we noted in the performance is that the porcelain is not porous, there’s no way of getting through it. It feels like it’s getting between these bodies. We wondered whether you see the porcelain as something completely exterior; external to the body? Or do you see it as a representation of something more internal?

Grace: Of course, it’s not only an external thing. When you make theatre you are instantly telling something, in some way, even if the performance is abstract. You have the space, you have the time, you have the whole aspect of theatre: you are telling a story. What I try to do together with the dancers and Lot, is to create something new.

To trigger fantasy, to show that you can come up with something that doesn’t exist yet. The material and what I try to say grow together in relation to each other; it is something that I completely trust. It will tell a story whether you want it to or not - it is there. I sometimes say it’s kind of a meditation. To create something, you just have to go into it and try to open yourself to all the possibilities. And of course I have limited time with the dancers, I don’t have years and years. So I have to begin with an idea and very soon they start to understand, and come into my meditation too. We are working together, and this whole new world grows.

Eleanor: The porcelain seems to almost create a language of its own – how would you describe this language? Would it be very formal and ornate, or sketchy and in note form, or something else entirely?

Grace: I’m not so good in words, I really think in images. If it is a language it is a physical one, and of course there’s the sound that the porcelain makes. This is almost like a presence for me. The porcelain as an image is very present and I am always surprised to hear it. It’s such a beautiful gift of the porcelain to make sound.

Eleanor: As much as I enjoyed the performance I also found it quite unsettling, specifically when thinking about the colonial connotations of the porcelain…

Grace: My work is really about the absurd and the grotesque: the poetry of the theatre, the mythical figures that represent the good and the bad. The mythical figure becomes human, and the human figure fails. It is always disturbing and always funny to see human people trying to communicate and failing. And along with the porcelain, the mythical figures and the kings are an excuse to trigger something; to do something else with time, with material, to play, to invent. So the kings were a fascination because it’s such a terrific question – what is it to be a king? It’s a shame that there are no good kings any more. A good king should be on the square every Sunday and… dance for the people [laughs]… And why do all these kings go so crazy? To go so far in their rituals and to get so caught up with this absurd life they’re living.

Eleanor: This really came across in the performance – they’re so overindulgent and decadent that their world just falls apart and becomes chaotic…

Grace: And at the same time it’s a fairytale, the king and the princess and the frog.

Eleanor: And in creating the show you were “playing” and you see theatre as puppetry. As an audience member, you get the sense that these beings on stage are almost like children, in the way that they’re teasing each other. They often look at us for our approval; they’re playing to us. I felt very implicated; that they might not be doing that if I wasn’t watching. And when the movement becomes disturbing and sexual, I felt responsible for this descent into chaos. It’s a very interesting relationship that the performers establish with the audience by continuously looking back to us.

Grace: It’s a weird choice to make: are we going to look or not? And that’s why we put what we call “soldiers” [line of tall vases] at the front of the stage, so that they can’t come out, so that they can’t escape. So that we ask the audience just to look and say “what the fuck are they doing?!” It’s important to feel an energy that’s completely useless, because that’s what we are. You would look down from there [gestures to sky] at us and at how we fight each other, and how this one is for this god, and that one is for that god, and the people on the other planets would say “what the fuck are they doing?!”.

Eleanor: So you’re putting the audience in the position of looking in from the outside, from “outer space”.

At the end of the performance one of the vases broke. It was very shocking, and it brought back the idea that the porcelain is so fragile. We wondered whether that moment was intentional?

Grace: No. But every performance something breaks. We don’t know when and we don’t know why. It can be that something tinkles too hard, or somebody stumbles over something or several things, three or four things.

Eleanor: It really is unpredictable – as life is.

Has something ever broken in a way that has made it difficult for the performance to continue?

Grace: Well if something breaks there is a broom and Misha, in character, can come and clean it up.

Grace and Eleanor continue their discussion while finishing their drinks. They shake hands and smile. Eleanor exits through the café. Grace exits across the patio. A waitress enters from the café door and clears Grace’s teacup and Eleanor’s water bottle onto a tray, then exits.

Mary Kate is a freelance writer on performance and live art, based in London.

Eleanor Hadley Kershaw is a writer focusing on performance and live art, currently based between Brussels, London and

Small talk 04 - Saving the World by Alex Eisenberg

Saving the World by Gob Squad

Greenwich Dance Agency

10th April 2009

3.09pm – 3.17pm

Unreserved Seating:

Third Row – Seat 1 - (A)

Third Row – Seat 2 - (L)

Third Row – Seat 3 - (C)

You can read an introduction to Small Talk here.



A: Hello

L: Hiya…

A: How are you?

L: I’m okay, you?

A: I’m alright…had to wolf down a sandwich just before I came in…I came a bit late…I’ve made it.

So what do you think it's going to be like?

L: I’ve got no idea? What about you?

A: Well…I think there are going to be a fair few projections…it looks like…

L: Seven screens…

Have you seen anything by them before?

A: No…have you?

L: Yeah we went to see something last year called ‘Kitchen’.

A: Oh right…how was that?

L: Amazing, amazing!

A: Oh really…

L: Yeah…it was kind of…it was at the Soho Theatre and it was kind of…the stage was a screen but they were filming everything behind the screen and projecting it live and it ended up with members of the audience going behind the screen and participating, and my partner, she went to it twice and actually performed in it once.

A: Oh wow…

L: Cos she was dragged off…by the company. And you know, it was great…very funny…very interesting ideas!

A: Great…

L: And we were totally blown away by them so that’s why we came today.

A: Have you been to any other things in the festival?

L: We went to see Inferno last week and C went to Purgatory as well…yeah, I liked Inferno but the people I was with didn’t like it that much…what about you?

A: I’ve seen things yeah…

L: Any recommendations?

A: Well…everything’s only on for a couple of days.

Hello J…!!

J: Hello Al…you alright?

A: Yeah good…

J: Busy working?

A: Busy…yep…yep…busy working…

J: Saw you talking to them out there…apparently Berlin, Germany…it's the place to be!

A: It's the place to be…this is what I have said…

L: Generally or….

J: And you can live for a fiver for a year!

A: Fifty – you can live for fifty quid a week…

J: Fifty quid a year!

L: Fifty quid a decade!

J: Live on cheese and sausage…

A: Not cheese…!

L: Fifty quid – how would you live?

A: You’d get a nice little flat…you can get…food…bratwurst…

J: You may even get a ‘driver’ for that much…in Berlin, it really is…it's the answer!


L: Fantastic…

J: They don’t ask you how you are spending the public’s money…

L: It's the way it should be…

J: It's basically elevated to a social concern, in that a healthy mind is something that should be part of public spending.

L: Yeah…

J: Whereas over here we’ve got the Olympics – so it's healthy body.

L: Slightly bigger bill as well, probably.

J: Yeah…well obesity is more of a hot topic…we’re the third most obese or second most obese after Germany.

L: It's all that bratwurst…they get it so cheap!

A: What do you think of this then J?

J: Absolute gold…I mean those projectors…I could just watch them for a while.


L: Yeah…it will probably be a disappointment when they actually turn on…won’t it…it’ll ruin it…

J: Yup…turning on will turn you off!...


Right, I am going to my seat now.

L: Enjoy the show…

A: See you….

A: Its not that busy is it?

L: No…no…cos they are doing two evenings…when is it? Last night and tonight?

A: Yeah…so I think there’s one on tonight…

L: It's a weird time for people to come in the afternoon on a Friday.

A: It is Good Friday though.

L: This is true…and we made a day trip of it…we came from North London…

A: Me too…

L: Day trip to Greenwich. We got the bus here.

A: I drove…but I had to stop in Tower Hill, so a sort of two-leg journey.

L: Well we were up at Kings Cross, and we thought, we could get on the tube…

A: You took the bus all the way here?

L: We got two buses, one to Peckham and one to here…it only took…less than an hour.

A: That’s pretty good actually…

L: And it's not often we get down to Greenwich.

A: I’ve been here a few times but hardly.

L: This place is amazing…is this quite a well known sort of dance place…?

A: Yeah…

L: Is it a school or a…?

A: Yeah it's space and support for artists.

L: So where do you live in North London?

A: Near Golders Green at the moment.

L: Yeah…we live in Holloway.

A: I drove through there this morning.

L: Holloway Road looking glorious on the bank holiday morning.

A: Quite empty…which is good for the drivers.

L: Yeah…everywhere was very quiet today…it's one of the quietest days of the year I reckon.

A: You know I didn’t even realise it was actually a Bank Holiday today.

L: You notice it when you get out though…on the streets.

A: You do…it's definitely quiet.

L: Yeah…I think the only place that’s busy today is Greenwich. [LAUGH]

A: What…cos we’re here!

L: Yeah…us…amongst others.

A: Slightly tricky seats, aren’t they? Mine’s got a bit of a dip.

L: They remind me a bit of school seats.

A: Yeah…very stackable.

L: Yeah…good for stacking – not for sitting.

A: Not the best! [LAUGH]

L: So I’m wondering if any people are going to appear?

A: Yeah, me too.

L: Or if it's just going to be….screens?


How many are there in the company?

A: About four or five I think.

L: Some from Nottingham?

A: And from Germany…they are a mixture of Germany and England.

You know…I’ve got…hayfever’s coming at this time of the year you see…so I’ve got quite an itchy eye.

L: You taken anything for it?

A: Usually, but I keep forgetting to go and buy them.

L: Hmmmm….I’ve had hayfever for many, many years and I tried last year…

A: The injection?

L: No…just to not take anything…

A: Right…

L: And it was kind of okay, once I got used to it…more comfortable…I think I did last year……C, did I not take anything for hayfever last year? Did I completely stop?...And it kind of worked didn’t it…?

C: I thought you had something for your eyes.

A: Yeah…I have the eyes coming now…

C: Reddy eyes?

A: Yeah…

L: Not much you can do when the eyes come…you’ve got to take a tablet really. You can’t just hope they are going to go away.

A: Every time before I see a show…I sit here and I start scratching my eyes!

L: Wow….

A: I know…

L: That’s quite early…because I think I get it a bit later…it depends on different kinds of pollen…doesn’t it…

C: Do you know what yours is? Is it grass or trees or…?

A: I don’t know specifically…but I do get it quite badly…so I ought to know.

L: Hmmmm…mine’s kind of grassy isn’t it….and then trees…and probably flowers as well…in fact it’s everything!

A: It's pollen! [ALL LAUGH]

L: It's pollen!

A: But…where is the pollen in grass?

L: Ummm…some grass will have little seeds…won’t it? Is there pollen in there?

A: I don’t know? There’s hay…?

C: What about flowers, no…?

A: Cos they say hay and hayfever…?

L: Yeah….hmmmm…

A: Oh…I think it's going a bit more quite now…





To find out about Alex's Small Talk click here: Small Talk by Alex Eisenberg

Alex Eisenberg is an artist making performance. He is helping to coordinate SPILL: Overspill over the course of the festival.

Ecology up the money tree: Pacitti Company's A Forest by David Berridge

A Forest

Conceived and directed by Robert Pacitti

Co-devised and performed by Richard Eton, Sheila Ghelani and Robert Pacitti

The Pit, Barbican

7-9 April

There’s been little about nature in the shows at this years SPILL. Or, at least, not much about the non-, other- or more-than human bits of it, if one excludes the dogs and horses of Castellucci. So, feeling a bit eco-starved, I felt somewhat expectant waiting outside the Barbican’s Pit to see a show called A Forest.

Actually, A Forest, too, had little in the way of nature, if by that I meant pastoral landscapes, lush vegetation, living animals, or just lots of green. For their hour long show Pacitti Company had modified the Pit into a small space in which a circle of chairs surrounded an island of 2p pieces. If the shape suggested an island biogeography, with all the uniqueness and variability Darwin found so exciting on the Galapagos Islands, then its bronze mass suggested geography had become money slightly quicker than money had become landscape.

A man lying on the coins. I can’t remember if he was naked at the beginning of the show, but he was naked at the end, and in the beginning, if he wasn’t, he acted as if he wished he was. He writhed on the coins, kissing and licking them. At the end of the show a bare tree was arranged above his naked body, both trapping and growing out of his body like some mutant rib-cage extension. No leaves, though, or not until two other performers had pinned a show-off, greedy foliage of fifty pound notes to its branches.

In-between these two scenes, A Forest sought to construct its own biogeography, defined by how body, nature, and money were all a part of some slightly traumatic ecosystem of desire. Central to this eco-restoration endeavor was a man stood at a microphone telling stories. The details haven’t stayed with me, and maybe that was the point. If the style and tone of his narratives reminded me of folk stories, he had a relish for details that stood out from and even abolished the narrative, proposing instead an immediate, visceral value. A man threading his eyes with red thread, for example, or sticking pins in his heart.

Over on the other side of coin island was its ring-mistress. On entering the Pit all of the audience were handed two pence pieces, before finding bald dolls on their seats. The woman came round with a money box, and everyone placed their coins inside. That seemed the end of the matter, but then the woman was back to show the audience, not the money box but both her breasts. Later she came round with a tray on which was a pair of pigs trotters. Were these the principle raw materials on which this economy-ecology depends? Later still, she collected the bald dolls, covering them in coins, both burial and blessing.

Her relationship to the man in the middle was more hands-on. Not that the man didn’t have actions to perform under his own volition. At one point he ran around the circle of coins, like a lurcher running and running until it just collapses. But ultimately his movements were determined by the woman, who tied antlers to his back. Or she ran back and forth over the coins, jumping over his naked body. Such actions summed up the tone of their relationship and the piece as a whole: caught in a tension between conscious and unconscious; autonomy and projection; flow of narrative against the fixed, iconographic image.

The naked man with the antlers on his back captured a lot of these tensions. As an image was it a mythical creation, or product of performance’s capitalist need for ever new product diversification, or both? Similarly, A Forest used storytelling to see if its conservative forms and agendas could be applicable to a more political, Queer agenda. Or does the poetic power of such stories always overwhelm the political interests of a particular teller and time? Pacitti Company hopes for the former, but tentatively, and A Forest was a laboratory for such a hope.

Take the coins themselves and how they were lit. Sometimes they were isolated in the space: a warm light gave them a semi-magical bronze-becoming-gold aura. Other times the light was more flat and the coins were part of the broader environment. Not totally ordinary, of course, because it was an enormous very non-everyday number of 2p pieces. If we can’t make stories our own, or insert them into our own political and performance agendas, we can at least work back and forth between their magic and their almost-everydayness, and see what, if anything, happens.

David Berridge writes and edits the blogzine More Milk Yvette: A Journal of the Broken Screen.

Telling the telling of a tale by Mary Paterson

Void Story

by Forced Entertainment

Soho Theatre

21- 25 April

The set for Void Story, Forced Entertainment’s latest show, is made up of two small desks, one large desk and four chairs. There are four lamps – one to illuminate the desk space of each actor – four scripts, and four microphones. On the long desk, there are two Apple Mac laptops and a mixing desk with a complex system of dials and wires. At the back of the stage is a screen, onto which are projected a series of static, collaged images in black and white that correspond to the story. The story is being told by the four actors at the utilitarian desks, reading their scripts, and speaking into their microphones.

In other words, Void Story looks like the making of a radio play. The actors perform for an aural, and not a visual, effect – the mixing deck provides background noise and other distortions, and they also use more old fashioned techniques like rustling a crisp packet to make a phone line crack up. The images onscreen look like black and white photos that have been cut and pasted, then photocopied together. The result is a collection of flat, studio poses (woman and man standing, woman and man looking surprised, woman and man lying on floor) inside a series of banal, disjointed landscapes (tower next to tree next to lamppost) which make no attempt at perspective or verisimilitude. Rather than illustrate the story being told – a twisting tale of two protagonists caught in a hostile, post-apocalyptic world – these collages approximate elements of it. Just like listening to a play on the radio, then, the real pictures are conjured in the audience’s minds.

But the presence of these almost-illustrations, as well as the physical presence of the actors and equipment onstage, means that the viewer cannot simply drift into an imagined landscape of her own. Seeing the constituent parts means you can never quite suspend your disbelief and surrender to the fictional whole. That child you hear is actually the voice of a grown woman, distorted through an orange microphone and a glowing computer; that robot is the voice of a middle aged man. Both product and production, Void Story dissects the body of the play like a living autopsy. It’s not just the inanimate objects that make up the ‘equipment’ in this show; I should also have listed the voices of two women and two men, not anchored to their bodies but practically deployed wherever they come in useful.

In fact, voices, images, plot devices and other pieces of equipment are used and re-used throughout the play, as if they are interchangeable tools fit for any purpose. Photographs that show a woman and man scream, for example, are used later in the play to represent them dance. In the context of theatre, of course, the word for this is 'prop': an incidental, almost abritrary object that carries no value of its own.  Void Story uses props as props –as tools to point towards an act of storytelling, rather than elements subsumed into a story.

And what of the story itself? The protagonists, Kim and Jackson, are chased, attacked, victimised, cheated and conned by people acting in inexplicable ways. They are pushed from event to event, journeying to unknown places and meeting a cast of strangers. In other words, it is every story ever told, every fairytale ever uttered, every dream you’ve ever had. It is Everyman and Everywoman, in Everywhere, affected by everything. As such, the story is both the bare skeletons of a tale and the full body of an epic. On one hand it is a series of unlikely things happening to two people you don’t know; but on the other it is a universal story of people dealing with adversity, of humanity in the face of fear. There is so much left unsaid that the story never reaches a narrative arc. Instead, it begins with a bang and ends only when the protagonists fail to react to the world around them. And this ending, too, is unresolved – like a computer game, the characters could just have faded away to start once again at the beginning.

In Void Story, then, even the plot is a prop – one of a collection of instruments that can sustain the whole. But if everything is a tool, what can the greater whole be?  Instead of a whole there is a hole, a void, at the the heart of this story. What is left is the process of story-telling and story-watching itself. Beneath the thick and delicious syrup of fiction, lies an equally warm and spicy blend – the desire for fiction to take place. It is made in the affectionate looks between actors as they wait for each other’s cues. It is the cocked heads of the audience as they follow the actor’s leads. It is also the naïve collages that bear so obviously the mark of a human hand. Unlike pictures made in Photoshop, for example, the smudges and imperfections of these images trace their own means of production. In the same way, by exposing the aural ‘tricks’ of a radio play, Void Story does not simply tell a tale, but also tells the telling of the tale.

Sitting in the packed auditorium of Soho Theatre, it felt like the play was a balloon that the audience and the actors were bouncing in the air between them. Perhaps it wouldn’t matter if the balloon fell to the ground – we can always pick it up and start again. But first, let’s enjoy the game of keeping it afloat, of making the play together.

Mary Paterson is Co-Director of Open Dialogues

Impossible Tolerance by Mary Paterson

Orgy of Tolerance

Jan Fabre

Royal Festival Hall

15 and 16 April.

In a world where everything is tolerated, how do you know what it means? If we agree that taste is relative, then what’s the point discussing taste at all? If consumerism doesn’t have a moral or ethical cloak – you don’t need to consume for any other reason – then why will having things make you happy?

In a world like this, mightn’t the journey of life just as well be a round of competitive masturbation – an exercise in ostentatious self pleasuring, the rivalry of which stops it being pleasurable at all?

If there is no moral compass, in other words, the drive for personal fulfilment has no context, and no prize.

Welcome, to the Orgy of Tolerance.

Jan Fabre’s production really does begin with a round of competitive masturbation, in which two men and two women try to orgasm to the vicious encouragement of a team of military coaches. It is the woman who loses, lying shivering and unfulfilled at the front of the stage, who introduces the rest of the show - she is ‘very excited’ [to welcome us to the show] she tells us, although she is crying with the frustration of not being able to come. Unable to amuse herself like the other contestants, this loser sets the scene for an indictment of contemporary culture, consumerism and the liberals who pretend they don’t take part.

In a collection of scenes that dissolve into each other like photos in a digital picture frame, Orgy of Tolerance tweaks the small things in otherwise recognisable scenarios. A group of people takes an exercise class – to exercise money. Three pregnant women give birth – to supermarket goods. The result is a grotesque image of modern values, obsessed with the inexplicable pursuit of inexplicable things. In one scene a woman has sex with a sofa, with the help of two leering and excited men. It is hard to think of an object that is less erotic, less able to resemble a human, less an object of desire than a sofa. And yet here in the UK, furniture giant DFS is having its famous sale again every weekend, so there must be something attractive about spending hundreds of pounds on a leather three-seater.

This complacency of desire in Fabre’s play is neither a solution to unhappiness, nor a useful tonic for it. Early on, Jesus makes an entrance. Bearing his cross on the way to dying for man’s sins, he is immediately spotted and styled by a camp fashion director, and his cross is removed. Instead of relieving Jesus of his burden, however, this propels him to spend the rest of the play wandering on and off stage, balancing an imaginary cross like a deluded circus performer. Later, couples wander on stage and start to pick out parts of the set to buy for their living rooms, but they can’t get their fix from consumerism alone: they also need a good snorting of cocaine to help them on their way. And what of the men who are fellated by silent, stiletto-wearing slaves as they discuss their ‘trophies’ from human hunts? Nodding sagely at each other’s racist jokes, they slide imperceptibly into barking madness – one of them sticks his rifle up his arse and yelps like a rabid dog.

The irony of Orgy of Tolerance is that one of the ways it fulfils its title by trying to be as offensive as possible. At one stage all the actors line up and shout ‘Fuck You!’ at every social group imaginable. Personally, the moment I got offended was when a woman wearing a Klu Klux Klan outfit started moonwalking to the sound of The Beatles' 'Come Together'. What was this collection of cultural references doing together in a visual trick? And when did it become ok to impersonate the KKK?

The point, of course, is that it’s not ok. It is also not ok to turn the famous images of torture at Abu Ghraib into jokes for an audience to smirk at in the Queen Elizabeth Hall. It is by being so relentlessly offensive that Fabre hopes to make his point – moral relativism can only go so far; you need to have a sense of right and wrong before anything can make sense at all. An Orgy of Tolerance, the play suggests, is a degraded and putrid place, where meaning is squeezed out of the vacuum packaging of consumer goods. Tolerance, paradoxically, is only feasible if the rest of the world is tolerable. The problem the play sets itself is: how do you make this point without simulating the Orgy?

Mary Paterson is Co-director of Open Dialogues

National Platform - Day One - 18th April 2009

National Theatre Studio

18 April 2009

Over two days, the SPILL National Platform presented 20 performance works by emerging artists, selected from almost 300 applications. The works reflected an incredibly diverse range of forms and themes: durational and installation work, engagements with the conventions of theatre, interactive provocations, and autobiographical narrative.

As writers, we knew we would be unable to respond in detail to all of the work, but we also wanted to avoid imposing any selective criteria, even a random one, on which work was covered. We decided in advance of the Platform that we would impose a constraint on our responses. This would provide a structure for giving equal space to each of the performances and would make the most of our limited time. We decided that we would respond to each of the works, and we would limit our response to the space of a 3x5 index card.

We like the idea that each of the identical cards seems analogous to the opportunity offered to the emerging artists: a blank slot, to be filled individually, but unavoidably to be experienced side-by-side with the rest of the programme, as part of an assembly or collection of material.

Although for the most part we have prepared our cards after the event, there’s also something about this format that reflects the experience of writing: taking notes in the dark, collecting fragments and impressions and responses. Trying to capture not just the event on stage but our internal journeys. Thinking always, at every moment, even before the moment has finished, about how to translate into words the transient and complex experience.

These cards are only scraps, only partial and inadequate records of the events of the weekend, but we hope something of the extraordinary and boundless diversity of work is reflected by these responses. Perhaps they can stand as the beginning of a discussion – please add your own comments below.

Theron Schmidt

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Mamoru Iriguchi - Pregnant?!

by Alex Eisenberg

Madeleine Trigg - Sutre

by Mary Paterson

Elyssa Livergant - A Kiss From the Last Red Squirrel
by Mary Kate Connolly

Neil Trefor Hughes
Minimalist Music for Young People
by Alex Eisenberg
Alex continues his response to this work here.

Claire Adams -Photopollution
By Rachel Lois Clapham

Catalina Garces - Identi-ffy
By Rachel Lois Clapham

Mitch and Parry

I Host You, Now Tonight, Let Me Show You How

by Alex Eisenberg

Alex continues his response to Mitch and Parry here.

Amanda Couch - Dust Passing
by Mary Paterson

Other, Other, Other
Long Winded in Five Parts
by Eleanor Hadley Kershaw

Nathan Walker - Bad Bad
by Mary Kate Connolly

To read cards from day two click here.

The writers participating were Mary Kate Connolly, Rachel Lois Clapham, Alex Eisenberg, Eleanor Hadley Kershaw, Mary Paterson and Theron Schmidt.