Thursday saw the culmination of one of my last projects at NSCD, the 'collaborative arts' project. It is a group piece intended to allow opportunities for collaboration with artists from other art forms and create less of a dance piece and more installation and performance based work.
I worked with Hayley Barker, Rosie Carrick and Hollie Miller to produce 'Once Upon a Time', a night time 'walk' based on fairy tales, taking inspiration from Angela Carter's book of fairy tales which takes traditional stories from around the world before they were made 'child friendly'. We collaborated with the very talented singer and spoken word artist Mila Dores, as well the equally talented musicians Tom Lumley and Craig Scott. The location for our performance was a beautiful garden in the Hyde Park are of Leeds, complete with huge blossom trees, geo dome structure, woody areas, a family of foxes and a vocal owl.
The first performance started at 10pm (the last one was 12.20pm) and the audience entered the garden through some wrought iron gates to be met by their guide, Hayley, a silent cloaked figure, lantern in hand to lead the way. Past the candle lit apple basket, spilling its wears under a tree, the audience arrive upon Craig, leaning against an old stone wall, top hatted and pipe smoking, he entranced them with his harp. Next they walked to me, under the blossom tree, sitting amidst the bluebells I was surrounded by six child's dresses, lit from inside to glow eerily as they swung from the tree's branches. Fairy lights entwined the tree as I played a saw with a bow, my focus looking to the branches, lost in a world of my own.
A crashing sound startled the audience to turn, and the guide led them in the direction of the sound, where they found an old trunk under a tree, lit from inside. As they approached Tom began to play the clarinet. The guide picked up a big torch, spotlighting him, to reveal him, with bowler hat and cheeky neck-a-chief, sitting high in a tree.
Next the audience went across the dark garden to the geo frame, a giant metal structure of interlocking triangles, and were given a torch, which they used to reveal what was in the center of the geo dome - a wooden chair suspended by a web of white string and rope. Underneath broken mirror coming horizontally out of the ground reflected the torch light back at them.
They kept their torches as the guide signaled them in to the wooden area, where she left them. Here they had to negotiate through some flour baby cocoons suspended from the trees, the air pungent with the smell of the compost heap which was in close proximity, to be confronted by Hollie. Painted white, with white attire, she was frantically digging around a grave and beating a larger flour baby cocoon, chanting manically. Eventually she chased the audience out of her den and back to the guide, who led them onwards to a big tent.
Inside the tent Mila, with pale face and long long hair, was elevated by ladders, hidden by her huge white skirt that filled half of the tent, and was lit from underneath. Mirrors and picture frames lined the walls and over lapped her skirt, and candles and lanterns provided glowing light. She used a traditional fairy tale, The Juniper Tree, taken from Angela Carter's book, to create a mixture of spoken word and singing, as well as manic laughing and cackling. Apples spilled on to her dress which she used as ammunition to throw at the audience and they left the tent to her resounding laugh. The guide hurried them back to the gate, past a snoring Tom, a statue still me and sleeping Craig, and there magical tour was over.
The project wasn't with out its difficulties, and the first performance was actually our first proper run through, but we worked well as a team (Thankyou Tom, Craig and Mila for your contribution and efforts) and it paid off as the night was a huge success. People enjoyed it immensely and in their feedback they picked out exactly what we had planned to convey.
On about the third walk after Mila's cackle and filled the air a neighbour opened the window and shouted 'can you shut up with your stupid bloody laugh. Some of us have exams tomorrow!!' I suppressed an urge (didn't feel it would fit my fairy tale image) to shout back 'This is actually our exam!' And then I thought wait a minute, the fact that this our exam is really really cool. I love what I do.