The Echo Chamber: responses and an ending

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Stage entrance, Chapter arts centre

And then it’s all over.

After working against the clock, striving to be ‘ready’, it’s all done and dusted, struck and got-out. The set is dismantled and packed away, set ungraciously at the back door of the theatre like so much tat heading for the jumble.

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The Echo Chamber set

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It’s always unsettling to see in the unforgiving light of day (as opposed to Ace McCarron’s painterly theatrical light) how little it takes to create an illusion.  The Welsh slate, old Singer sewing machine table, the supermarket bags for life crammed with bits of broken twig… Part of the design was informed by the Japanese aesthetic principle of Wabi-sabi, and these remnants do have a kind of desolate beauty:

Wabi-sabi is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. It is beauty of things modest and humble. It is the beauty of things unconventional.”   Leonard Koren. Wabi-Sabit for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers.

So the set is dismantled, carted down the icy steps of Chapter, and packed away into cars. We all stand in the loading dock at the back of the arts centre, slightly startled at finding ourselves the other side of the project, and so soon. We hug, kiss, get into our separate cars with different destinations, and head off into the Sunday morning.

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What has been most fascinating about the project is the response to the work. The performance was challenging and non-linear, with content encompassing recent thinking in cosmology, notions of the infinite and ephemeral, and our place in a possible multiverse.

We have had groups of postgraduate and undergraduate students from South West England and throughout Wales; a charabanc of arts council officers; family members and curious strangers; academics and practitioners who have flown in from Italy and Japan; directors and producers of international arts festivals. It has been an extraordinary privilege to sit amongst this diverse audience night after night, experiencing the different reactions and energies.

On the penultimate night, I found myself sitting in the auditorium after the audience had departed, holding the hand of a quietly weeping stranger, who said the work had touched her ‘in the place beyond words’. When she had recovered enough to leave the theatre with me, I was met by a bemused friend who made a flying ‘over my head’ gesture and shrugged. ‘I have no idea what I just saw’ he said, with a strange mix of apology and frustration. Such polarised and strong responses to the same performance is fascinating…. It makes me wonder about this extraordinary and peculiar thing which we do….

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