Tag Archives: notation

Diary of a collaboration. Day 4.

Old Chinese character - 'she'

Old Chinese character – ‘she’

As one of her possible starting points for generating material, Jing Okorn-Kuo suggested old Chinese characters – as imagery to dance/work from; as a starting  point for dynamics spatially or between characters. Yesterday evening she and I explored some of the old characters for ‘wealth’, including the one above ‘she’ for extravagance, excess. 

Our project, (Playing) the Maids is not a production of Genet’s text. We are using that as a diving off point, identifying themes and issues for possible content. Wealth and the opportunities it brings is one of the differences between Genet’s Maids and the Madame, and something Jing (playing this privileged Madame figure) was keen to explore.

This starting point led overnight to some text I wrote, informed by the meanings and imagery of the old Chinese characters, and several movement sequences that Jing developed. We started playing with these this morning, alongside a bilingual script Phillip Zarrilli, Jeungsook Yoo and Sunhee Kim transcribed, edited, and translated into English from the original improvisation in Korean they had made earlier that day.

Phillip, Sunhee and Jeungsook working from the video of their improvisation

Phillip, Sunhee and Jeungsook working from the video of their improvisation

We are documenting everything as we proceed in this intense period. I film, photograph and notate each structure, and my colleagues all have their own way of noting their work. This will be essential now in this next part of our process, as we begin reviewing, revising, editing, and rehearsing the many sequences, scenes, and structures we have explored so far.

The Echo Chamber: rehearsal week one. Monday. Revision and remembering.






Ian Morgan. The Echo Chamber r&d day, Berlin. April 2011. Photo KOR.

It’s January 2nd 2012. It’s a Bank Holiday. Most people are still celebrating or recovering from the new year. We are in a former milking parlour in West Wales, trying to remember what we did to start developing The Echo Chamber in 2011.

Appropriate for the time of year, it is a time of reflection.

I have two large A4 files of texts and research material, have started my second notebook and am breaking in my fifth pen. I have so much notation and raw material, I’ve taken to carrying it around in a waxed cotton shopping bag I got free with a magazine.

In the days leading up to the start of rehearsals I spent hours looking at video footage of our peripatetic r&d sessions, editing down our two days in Berlin in April, four days in Wales in August, and two days in London in November, into notated lists of potential structures, motifs, and physical sequences we may decide to develop further. This pre-preparation saves us time, so we – Phillip Zarrilli, Ian Morgan, Peader Kirk and I –  can simply plug the video camera into the television and fast forward to the highlights, then scrutinise, deconstruct, and debate whether this is material to hold onto or put aside.

For years I hated working with a video camera. I spent too much time trying to decipher intention or meaning. I always knew video could never capture the essence of live performance, but I discovered how, combined with careful, copious notes, this documentation could be an aide memoir, particularly important when collaborating with dancers or physical theatre performers.

It is also an essential skill when juggling many projects, and developing a performance over a lengthy period of time.

My advice to all practitioners is to hone your notation skills and develop your own means of recording thoughts, ideas, associations, physical scores, traffic of the stage, improvisations, and anything else pertinent to the process of making. You may feel self-conscious at first, or over-eager, but resist the urge to censor or reduce your note-taking. ‘I’ll remember that’ we always think. But we don’t. Write it down. Commit it to words. You may be surprised when and how this turns out to be useful.

As writer/dramaturg of The Echo Chamber, I feel it is part of my job to keep a sense of where we are in the often long, non-linear narrative of co-creation – to be able to open my book – as I did this evening – and tell a colleague what the instruction was for an improvisation he made nine months ago in Germany.

The Echo Chamber by The Llanarth Group premieres:  CHAPTER ARTS CENTRE (Cardiff) 27-28 January, 2-3-4 February, 2012, 8p.m. [Market Road, Cardiff CF5 1QE: 02920 304400 http://www.chapter.org

copyright Kaite O’Reilly 2/1/12