One of the things that most excited me about moving to the North West again (apart from being back in my native North West of England territory!), was the opportunity to share more about sensory labyrinth theatre, and find possible new places to create work in the area.
Last Friday, I gave a short presentation and workshop to the second year students on the Applied Drama module on sensory labyrinth theatre (s.l.t). Like many of the reactions to applied work, it can be a bit like Marmite: a distinct love or hate. It always feels like quite a revealing moment whatever the context, in sharing about a body of work I am passionate about, enjoy being part of and creating with others. It perhaps tells someone a little about what enthuses or interests me, and what kind of person I might be.
The idea of “falling awake” is one used by Iwan Brioc to describe what happens when people experience the labyrinth, either as a gatekeeper creating the performance, or as an audience participant. Inevitably, as a sensory practice, it is difficult to describe something you experience individually, on and through the body, let alone to record, document and share, to enhance people’s understanding of what it is like to experience.
Nevertheless, snippets can be glimpsed through short films of performances, photographs, audience comments and critical reflections (like those offered as suggestions below).
I often return to a video of Food for the Gods (2009) by Theatr Cynefin, as a way of trying to explain the experience, as it takes an outsider view, sharing the journey of one audience member, which we can begin to imagine as our selves:
It is also the evocative descriptions, like that of Holger Teschke, referring to a performance by Teatro de los Sentidos (who inspired Iwan Brioc to develop s.l.t), that can be helpful in trying to recreate the performance for another:
“The labyrinth of Oraculos is richer than its memory and I realize after taking the sixty- to seventy minute journey that I went too fast […] when I step out into the light at the end of the journey, I want to go back in […] many linger near the shore of the spree after the journey, as if they don’t want to return to the loud, noisy city, which suddenly seems like another planet” (Holger Teschke, 2000: 155).
Where there is no footage, images can also be a way of trying to elicit a little more about the performance, here one of my favourite images from Eco Panto (2011) – and also one of my favourite moments of experience when I went to the performance – is the blind mouse approaching ready to lead an audience member blindfold through the forest:
The intention of introducing the students to a variety of performances acts as a way of broaching the topic, before a more ‘hands on’ experience through the workshop. We began with several games sometimes used in the labyrinth as a way of bringing the audience into the performance gently and playfully, in often familiar and well known games like ‘tag’, ‘hopscotch’, and so on. The creative exploration allows for a way of freeing up one’s body and mind ready for the sensory interaction which follows, and as a cue that this will be no ordinary performance.
We then moved on to a twenty minute guided relaxation, focusing on each of the senses in turn. Some commented afterwards that it had felt much longer or shorter, others that is was difficult to stay focused or that they had been able to hold their attention … keeping with this mood, we moved onto guiding one another in pairs on blindfolded journey’s around the drama building, taking it in turns to be led and blindfolded. This acts as a way of beginning to understand the vulnerability of the audience in participatory theatre work, but also as a way into rekindling awareness of the senses and paying attention to sensory stimuli within our environment, in this case a space that was familiar and well-known to the group.
One group took on this way of working during the afternoon session, and it is possible that a sensory journey may develop for the applied work the student’s are doing, which will be performed in April. The students have been tasked with a brief from a local community interest group and are developing work for a weekend of events in a part of the city. If the labyrinth continues to develop and grow it will be the first time (that I am aware of), that s.l.t will have come to Liverpool, but certainly (I hope!), not the last…
Teschke, Holger. 2000. The Oracle of the Snese: Enrique Vargas and Teatro de los Senstidos in Berlin. Translated by K. Remmler. Theater [online], 30(20), pp.150-155. Available at: http://theater.dukejournals.org/content/30/2/150.full.pdf+html
Theatr Cynefin. 2009. Food for the Gods. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EprQKk_8Ocs
Theatr Cynefin. 2011. Eco Panto. https://hiveminder.com/Tags/cynefin,liam/Interesting