The Echo Chamber – responses.

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Phillip Zarrilli and Ian Morgan in The Echo Chamber. All photos by Ace McCarron.

We asked the audience for responses to The Echo Chamber – from the bare boned run-through in The Llanarth Group’s Studio without light or sound, to the fully realised production at Chapter Arts Centre. This invitation to engage and reflect was prompted partly by a desire to document the entire project, but also to satisfy the curiosity of those following this blog outside the UK who wanted more. Thank you for those emails.  Predominantly, however, we asked for reactions in response to the unfortunate lack of critical and cultural commentary, which is a very real issue, particularly when making work in Wales. 

What follows are excerpts from academics, theatre and dance practitioners, actor-trainers, a poet, and a young performer in his mid teens..

I thought that the Echo Chamber was a beautifully atmospheric and subtle piece of work about man’s search for meaning. I enjoyed its bleak, cold and minimal atmosphere and the way it layered sound, text and movement seamlessly as well as its weighty performances by two accomplished performers who worked off each other beautifully.

I really enjoyed the many layers within the text – from philosophical thought, to poetical inner dialogue, to much more mundane thoughts about breakfast and buying the newspaper…

The piece engaged me most from the middle onwards, when the fragments of the work started to melt into each other, with no clear transitions or black outs from one ‘scene’ to the next. When all the aspects of the work began to intertwine with each other, I felt like i could intertwine with the work too.

I also particularly enjoyed the way that you layered sound into the work, the incredibly rich and delicate soundscape managed to convey the themes of the work in very subtle manner…..

I enjoyed the precision of the lightning work too,  small squares of lights lightning up fragments of bodies and creating landscapes out of hands and fingers, or emphasizing the iciness of the general atmosphere, or providing a more homely and mundane touch (the lights on stage).

Laura Dannequin.  Dance artist.

 Fascinating. Enthralling. Spare, honed and gently reverberating like the struck tuning fork sound… Loved the text!

Chris Kinsey.  Poet.

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How to enter?

There are shows that when you enter in the theatre should put your shoes off and just sit in silence, watching the stage and waiting for the entrance of the actors (when they are not already on stage). This is because it is immediately clear that more than attend a show we feel we are entering a dimension different from the ordinary. This is the feeling I had every time I attended a performance of The Llanarth Group. On entering the theatre, the placement of objects on the stage and a few lights already suggest the size of a premonition. That’s why I think The Echo Chamber deserves, and can at the same time demand, this kind of attitude on the part of the viewer.

… I saw the show 3 times, twice in a row and the third time a week later. The third time I have noticed a greater fluidity between the actors on this level of feeling. Then I consider this as a sign of a clear process of adjustments and refinements of the performers. When the actors were finally so well attuned, their hearing/feeling resulted in the plot of the characters. Therefore the two dimensions (if indeed there were two) appeared as one; split. This slight but important difference in terms of feeling of the actors has resulted in a clear difference in my perception as a spectator, as it allowed me to change my point of view: not to look at the more remote two dimensions, but to feel as participant in one.

Text and Content

The text is an editing of fragments put together according to an intuitive logic. The approach is clearly poetical. This style also determines the editing of scenes and the rhythm of the show, which is organized by jumps. The jumps sometimes seem coherent, sometimes not. Looking with rational eyes only, this style can disorient the spectator. For this reason I find The Echo Chamber to be a courageous work since it is a work that takes some risks. Anyway, looking intuitively and giving confidence to this style, what can’t be caught by rationality becomes immediately accessible via the intuitive. And it is here that the show must be perceived (I think it is here that the show is conceived and staged). This requires an extra effort from the viewer. That means the show asks to take some risk even from the viewer.  Indeed, in this sense, it seems to me the spectator has the task of reconstructing the story according to his/her own logic, according to his/her own feelings. Then as spectator I must do my part. In this sense I find that the show is also generous since it “forced” me to be active.

Marco Adda.  Director. Performer. Trainer. (Italy)

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In the Q & A….I was struck by the mix responses in the room and the limited scope of the way in which people spoke about the work immediately after… Later, I found I could appreciate more fully my personal response and enjoy the unfolding of these as the days past.

…Personally I liked the work a lot. That said, when considering it for an audience I have a different kind of response; I think I have used the words “a philosophical essay, a performed philosophical essay” and even found myself thinking aloud… about what kinds of audiences might ‘enjoy’ it’ or ‘like it’ and thought of German and French audiences, academic audiences; people keen to engage in philosophy. That said, I feel that this kind of statement minimizes the ludic dimension of the piece that remained, very resonantly with me as the days passed.

Rea Dennis.  Artistic Director, Lembrança

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.I saw early days – the day of the first complete run through.

 It was clear even at this young stage how powerful and poetic this work would be. Already, the work felt stark, pared back and very moving.  Two exceptionally accomplished physical performers contemplating universal themes. How do humans strive to makes sense of their being in a sometimes mundane world? What does their existence mean, what relevance might it have in relation to the space surrounding them? The work seemed to me to provoke many questions.

At this stage, the relationship between the two performers seemed as yet unformed if indeed there was one, perhaps they only exist in parallel times? This relationship if any would no doubt be resolved in the days to come.

 I really enjoyed seeing the work your stone barn, to me it lent the possibility of being a space anywhere in Europe in almost any period which lent to the idea that  this human vulnerability is ever present. Its hard for me to imagine  the work in the sophistication of a black theatre space but then again I am very at home with the texture and absorbed history contained within stone walls!

 Jane Lloyd Francis

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I’d best describe “The Echo Chamber” as a brooding, fragmented meditation around a restless search for meaning, the fallibility of memory, dealing with trauma and quantum physics among other things.  

The work was very accomplished with very strong performances from two powerful performers. Particular moments that stand out include the sophisticated use of sound on the small table as Ian played with the coin, Phillip’s “wrecking ball” speech DSL, the overlapping and palindromic speeches from both performers towards the end and in general, I found the more overtly physical work particularly strong. 

Dan Canham.

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When The Echo Chamber finished I remember the feeling of being rooted to my seat. The audience were quiet and reluctant to leave the theatre. Outside my group of friends and I took a while to shake away that mood and discuss what we had seen.

I think this effect the piece had on us was down to the quality of performance of the two actors. They were able to communicate with the audience through both movement and voice on very direct terms. At times I felt they addressed me quite specifically and this drew me into the work at a level of unusual depth.

This space for communication was greatly assisted by the music score. The soundtrack was highly evocative and moved in and out of the playing space unnoticed. Towards the end of the piece the lighting design had similar effect, as the light nimbly laced the work of the two actors together…

Will Dickie.   Performer/Actor.

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The Echo Chamber was like a puzzle: a collection of beautiful fragments that you pieced together as you were watching.

I felt that the most remarkable element of the production was the acting. The performances were extremely absorbing and incredibly detailed both internally and externally. Each performer had a very distinct style but at the same time there was a very powerful feeling of unity; and so although they never overtly engaged with each other through conversation or physical contact, each performance felt inextricably attached to – and dependent on – the other. This lent the relationship a powerful but slightly intangible quality…..

So a poetic puzzle. Like poetry it gave you a form that was a platform to consider the intangible. And like a puzzle it took some putting together. From a very personal perspective I did find that although I was absorbed by the puzzle I was also at times frustrated when I could not put the pieces together. At times I really wanted to ‘know something’… The performance hinted at a really profound relationship or idea but I couldn’t quite grasp what it was. Perhaps there was nothing to ‘know’ that could have clarified it, maybe it something beyond ‘knowing’ in a literal or logical manner (thus demanding meditation!). But as someone who is much more used to being told a story I sometimes found myself frustrated to feel on the cusp of knowing something but not getting the payoff! …

However, – I loved it. It was a very detailed, intelligent, and profound performance executed with exquisite performance skills!

Claire Lindsay.

A fantastic production that teases the mind and makes you think about one of the most asked questions in recent years, ‘what is the meaning of life?’. The drama is very well performed and staged, brilliant work.

Macsen McKay.    Young performer.

4 responses to “The Echo Chamber – responses.

  1. When I stepped into the theatre the evening I saw the show, I felt as If I had entered a spirtual place. I thought the music was beautiful and having dashed across town it was a welcome pause from all the chaos and constant noise of daily life. For a moment I closed my eyes and allowed myself to listen, to enjoy the quiet and was in fact more than happy to have been alone .I do not pretend to have understood it, I found the piece very beautiful and enjoyed watching Ian and Philip move through the space and explore their surroundings, In fact I think if I had tried to fathom it all I would not have been able to ‘feel’ the piece.
    I found the story of one woman’s experience, deeply moving. What moves one to tears and another to miss that beat and find it totally bewildering?
    I may not know how one performance will affect me but I wonder how I should enter the space? I think I was surprised how very quickly I felt able to open my heart to the experience.
    Unfortunately I had to dash off at the end of the perfomance it was a rude awakening after what felt like a moment to draw breath.

    • Jain – thank you so much for your response! It’s wonderful to be able to engage – so often putting work out into the public domain is a one-way street. I so appreciate you taking the time and effort to respond.
      I’ve really enjoyed tracking process, and now responses to the work. I hope to continue doing so for the next two productions in 2012…
      So many thanks, Jain.

  2. Hello Kaite, Just wanted to apologise for taking so long to getting around to it!
    I am working back at Gwent Theatre again and am greatly challenged by a) doing the work and b) logging the process and c) social networking. Loving the process and its fantastic being back in the schools – I have missed this so much, and also was really inspired by the way you all logged differently on ‘Echo C’hamber’ . I have set up a facebook page for our ‘Shakedown’ project and realising how much time everything takes and that my IT skills are greatly stretched when doing anything other than posting a comment. Also realising that by doing this people can be inspired to work differently.
    So thank you for your time also.
    Jain

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