Tag Archives: Told by the Wind

TOLD BY THE WIND – when performance is ‘quiet’

Jo Shapland and Phillip Zarrilli in The Llanarth Group's Told by the Wind

Jo Shapland and Phillip Zarrilli in The Llanarth Group’s Told by the Wind

Jo Shapland, Phillip Zarrilli and I first collaborated on ‘Told by the Wind’ in 2010. Fascinated by Japanese aesthetics such as Quietude, and intrigued by what we might co-create together, we embarked on a project which is now in its sixth year. An intimate two-hander, the production has been presented all over the world, from Chicago to Tokyo, Berlin to Wroclaw, and now returns to the UK for a short tour 9 – 17 October, at venues, below.

I am immensely fond of ‘Told’, but I have never lost my sense of curiosity about this unusual and ‘hypnotic’ piece. It seems to create a ‘time out of time’, and the reviews of the production over the years have been remarkable, and evocative, often referring to the poetic and meditative impact of the work.

It is also a fascinating process to return to an ‘old’ performance to re-stage it. The connections seem to be deeper and the work more mature. It is a privilege to observe Jo Shapland and Phillip Zarrilli reassemble the piece, and support them as ‘the outside eye’. At 52 minutes long, the performance only has 10 minutes of dialogue, the rest taken up with their delicate and precise movement work and Jo’s dance and choreography.

Phillip has recently written a feature for Wales Arts Review ‘Beneath the Surface of Told by the Wind’ and Joanna an ‘In My Own Words’ for Art Scene in Wales. Both are fascinating insights into process and influence, and well worth a look.

…at a threshold…two figures…two lives…multiple time spaces…

 TOLD BY THE WIND ‘dances’ an inner landscape. Interweaving movement, dance, lyrical text, and silence, Told invites the audience to enter this imaginative place of possibilities where two figures and two lives are always poised at a threshold…

UK PRESS:

“…hypotic…a haunting, painterly beauty…[with] the astringent purity of a haiku poem…intense meditation in movement…the performers have a remarkable presence…”  **** THE GUARDIAN

“…perfection in movement, text, staging…a beautifully contemplative sixty minutes…”    BRITISH THEATRE GUIDE

INTERNATIONAL PRESS:

“…minimal…mesmerizing…evokes both later T.S. Eliot and haiku…parallels…the work of Merce Cunningham…two memorable live performers…” SEE CHICAGO DANCE

“…Beckettian magnetic poetry…all dropped like shapeless stones into a moonlit lake of silence…Each dances the other’s absence. Both are beautiful movers…” CHICAGO TIME OUT

 Video Trailer: https://vimeo.com/170952365

The Llanarth Group

TOLD BY THE WIND

Co-created by: Kaite O’Reilly, Jo Shapland, Phillip Zarrilli
Lighting Design by: Ace McCarron
Performers: Jo Shapland, Phillip Zarrilli

Dramaturg: Kaite O’Reilly
Venues:

SMALL WORLD THEATRE (Cardigan)
Sunday 09 October, 3pm
Online: http://www.smallworld.org.uk/
Telephone: 01239 615952
Tickets: £6 (preview)

 

CHAPTER ARTS CENTRE (Cardiff)
Wed & Thurs 12th -13th October, 7:30pm
Online: http://www.chapter.org
Telephone: 0290 20304400

 

EXETER NORTHCOTT THEATRE
Monday 17 October, 7:30pm
Online: http://exeternorthcott.co.uk
Telephone: 01392 726363
Tickets: £8-£15
Age guidance: 15+

Finding the plot

“I guarantee you that no modern story scheme, even plotlessness, will give a reader genuine satisfaction unless one of those old-fashioned plots is smuggled in somewhere. I don’t praise plots as accurate representations of life, but as ways to keep readers reading.”
- Kurt Vonnegut

Narrative, character, motivation and action have been my lodestars of late. I’ve been developing a treatment for an independent television production company, and returning to the basics has been both a struggle and a joy. It feels like a very long time since I considered story arcs and chronological throughlines and even consequential action… The past few projects I’ve worked on in live performance have been using either non-western structures (Told by the Wind and Japanese Aesthetics of Quietude) or post-dramatic dramaturgies (Playing the Maids). It always takes time to shift between media and adjust to their different demands when you work, as I do, across genre, style, and form. I feel like I need to acclimatise, or pass through a decompression chamber, so varied are the atmospheres and their related demands.

So after spending months considering Yugen, the untranslatable Japanese aesthetic principle which means something akin to ‘the hint’, or ‘what lies beneath the surface’, I now have to make the components which create the drama visible, tangible, concrete. It goes against every fibre in my body. I’ve spent months invisibly structuring, and denying narrative closure to create what Ota Shogo described as ‘Passivity in art’ (no ‘meaning’ or narrative is foisted upon the audience – rather, they are invited to participate in the creation of it). As a warm-up I attend a Pitch Your Film workshop led by the very excellent Angela Graham. If anyone can shake me from my current aversion to formulaic structure and GOAL MOTIVATION CONFLICT, Angela can.

And she does, with great aplomb. I love her directness, her clear instructions and thorough understanding of shaping material for the particular medium of film. She cuts through my froth and resistance, giving me clear directions in what I need to do to mould this material for the specific medium and for the activity at hand: a Pitch.

I’ve always loathed ‘loglines’ (‘Jaws in space’ – Alien), and I resist the highly codified and formulaic structures required to give the essence of the drama, even whilst understanding the need of these for such an expensive and commercial enterprise. After much struggling the penny drops – a pitch is told in a three act structure – and with some satisfaction I find my own way to supply what’s required without ‘compromising’ on my writing style and storyline too much.

If that sounds snobbish, I certainly don’t mean it to be. It’s simply a description of this particular writer’s struggle across and between media and form and what each demands. After working as a dramaturg with collaborators on a co-created piece of live performance, it takes a while to activate and then strengthen certain creative muscles which haven’t been used for a while. My character-driven naturalistic action/reaction and then and then and then narrative skills had become flabby. It hurt to flex them, and it was immensely difficult to motivate myself into using my imagination in this way after such an absence – especially when I knew it was well-honed and strong from working in other ways. After Angela’s work-out and then some very serious activity alone, the muscle sprang back surprisingly quickly, and I again started to enjoy working this way. It’s all stuff I know and have encountered as a reader, as a student, as a writer, as a maker, it simply takes a while to re-remember it, to re-enter this particular atmosphere, and with all the equipment needed to breathe and prosper there.

 

 

 

Llareggub, Welsh Noh, and me.

I’m currently deep in Dylan Thomas territory – the hype, history, and cultural tourism created about the man. I’ve been invited to write an essay on Dylan Thomas by that literary mountain of a man, Jon Gower, who is editing a collection. There is much noise being made about legacy in this centenary of Thomas’s birth, and especially so when living where I do, close to where he spent the late war years, 1944-45.

Some weeks ago the nature poet Chris Kinsey and I took ourselves off for a wander around Newquay, Cei Bach, and St Ina’s Church at Llanina Point in Ceredigion. It’s my local walk, but we were doing it as a literary pilgrimage, following the blue plastic plaques and local hearsay about where Dylan Thomas walked, talked, wrote, and (most importantly for the commercial impact) drank.

I have to confess, I hate ‘The Dylan Thomas Trail.’  These strangely marbled plaques bearing the face of a young Dylan Thomas decorate the odd tree or wall, leaving me mystified as to the locality’s significance. There’s no nearby information and the ‘map’ which the literary curious are supposed to follow to decipher the import of each place wasn’t available and the tourist information office was closed.

The information boards around Newquay aren’t much better. They’re fine for the day trippers to glance at when licking an ice cream on a sunny August bank holiday, but they can’t hold their own against the posters advertising the wild porpoises and bottle nosed dolphins who visit these parts. I also find the ‘facts’ about Thomas so bland as to render any detail invisible. Sure, the local tourist board may not want to go into his drunken exploits and womanising (although that seems to be what everyone wants to discuss), but his literary legacy and strong connection between creativity and place could be drawn a little clearer. Newquay is reputed to be the inspiration for Llareggub (say it backwards), the marine town in ‘Under Milk Wood’, although the Thomases walked, bickered, and drank a longer trail, up to Tal Sarn and Llanon, further up the coast.

So we took ourselves out across the beach at low tide in a wind blowing itself up into a gale, shivering in the February drizzle. Poor Chris was incubating a stupendous cold and wading about in the fresh springs that flow across the beach and into Cardigan Bay mustn’t have helped. We walked up to St Ina’s Church, one of my favourite spots in Spring, when the graveyard and surrounding wood overlooking the sea is filled with bluebells, nodding my approval as always at the revision of one of Thomas’s most famous lines on a headstone by the gate: ‘Go gentle into that good night.’ Chris also shared my enthusiasm for the rewrite, saying on a personal level we wouldn’t want a loved one raging into death.

Writing the essay for Jon has refreshed my relationship to where I live, and reanimated my thoughts about language. characterisation, and playwriting. My focus has been on ‘Under Milk Wood’ and it has been a pleasure and education to revisit this text, especially when in the shelter of one of the nooks in Newquay harbour, ostensibly in the shadow of Captain Cat’s house.

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Today’s blog has a distinctly Welsh flavour, for my essay on The Llanarth Group’s  cultural exchange with Ami Theatre in Japan last November has been published in the most recent edition of New Welsh Review. An extract of the account of touring ‘Told by the Wind’ to Babylon Theatre in Tokyo, and an exploration of what NWR editor Gwen Davies has coined ‘Welsh Noh’ can be found at:

http://www.newwelshreview.com/article.php?id=706

I’m off to give a last polish to my essay on Dylan Thomas, then head out to Cei Bach to walk along the golden sand and look across to Llareggub/Newquay in this  sudden welcome Spring sunlight.

Told by the Wind – Tokyo tour and Huddersfield 28 – 29 October 2013.

Told by the Wind. Jo Shapland and Phillip Zarrilli of The llanarth Group.

Told by the Wind. Jo Shapland and Phillip Zarrilli of The llanarth Group.

Back in the rehearsal studio today for a two day initial re-rehearsal of Told by the Wind, a piece I co-created with Jo Shapland and Phillip Zarrilli with The Llanarth Group originally in 2010. Since then, the performance has toured to Portugal and the US, Germany and Poland. It’s always fascinating to return to a piece, especially one using aesthetics of Quietude, as this does. There is minimal voiced text, so there is so much inner work required to recapture the piece. Each time it seems to grow and deepen and I’m looking forward to putting it up in Huddersfield in late October, prior to our Japanese tour in November 2013.

The forthcoming tour to Tokyo is an exchange, interaction and collaboration between The Llanarth Group and Okamura Yojiro, Artistic Director of AMI Theatre Company, Tokyo, Japan, and members of their two companies. The exchange/interaction will include performances of The Llanarth Group’sTold by the Wind, performance of a new play by Okamura Yojiro, workshop exchanges, and planning toward a collaborative production in 2014 between the two companies. The year-long exchange/collaborative process is part of a celebration of the 400th anniversary of Japan-British relations.

Three performances of Told by the Wind will take place in Huddersfield 28 and 29 October 2013, prior to travelling to Tokyo.

http://www.digyorkshire.com/EventListing.aspx?event=73068&AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1#.UioigOBFu0s

This intimate and meditative performance is a requiem for the unseen; a poignant duet across time between two figures who never physically meet…

TBTW is an exceptional opportunity to experience the work of Philip Zarilli – internationally known for actor training through Asian martial and meditative arts.

The production is performed as part of Being Here: Psychophysical Performance as Mindfulness Practice – a four day event at the University of Huddersfield.

Mon 28 October 2013, Time: 20:00 

Tues 29 October 2013. Time: 18:00 and 20:00

Lawrence Batley Theatre

Queen’s Square Queen Street 
Huddersfield HD1 2SP 
01484 430528 
theatre@thelbt.orgwww.thelbt.org

Auditorium: University Of Huddersfield Milton Building

Prices: £12 / concessions £10 / students £6

In praise of multi-tasking collaboration

Jo Shapland and Phillip Zarrilli in rehearsals, Told by the Wind. The Llanarth Group, 2011.

Jo Shapland and Phillip Zarrilli in rehearsals, Told by the Wind. The Llanarth Group, 2010.

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Increasingly I believe we have to be producer, fund-raiser, tour manager, and publicist as well as whatever our prime role may be (writer, director, performer, etc), in order to have some form of career. I am a playwright and dramaturg, yet some of the more successful projects I’ve been involved with, with real longevity, have been as co-creator with The Llanarth Group, in West Wales. There, I am officially the resident dramaturg, but also maker of good, strong tea, writer of performance text alongside press releases, ‘outside eye’ when necessary, documenter, publicist, and doer of whatever may need doing, frankly. And I love it. I love the new skills it brings to me, and the reawakening of old ones. I love the lack of hierarchy, but rather, the sense of cooperation and collaboration.

Working in this way is demanding, but also puts the artist very much in control. I’m often out of my element when I work with more conventional companies, or building-based theatres, where everyone has their particular role and task. I probably drive everyone demented for the first few days until I adjust to the culture of the company, and realise certain things may be considered inappropriate for me to do – ie, shut up and sit down, O’Reilly, they have a director or marketing department or stage manager to do ‘that’…

I feel immensely fortunate to have worked in both self-generated cooperative dynamics, as well as with theatre organisations, and am increasingly aware of the different skills set and cultures needed for each. Also, with the ever-depressing news of cuts in the arts, I’m aware so much more activity in future really may be this DIY version – so the sooner we get skilled-up for being Renaissance women and men, the better.

This all came to my mind when I came across an extract of ‘Told By the Wind’, a piece I made with Phillip Zarrilli and Jo Shapland, on Vimeo. Filmed in the inner sanctum of the Grotowski Institute in Wroclaw, Poland – The Apocalypsis Room (‘more the altar than a theatre space,’ as one of the resident technicians said). We performed there in 2011, to a huge audience squeezed in around the floor stage lights (‘I’m so sorry, you’ll have to move. If you sit there, right in front of the lantern, we won’t see the performers,’ I had to say on more than one occasion. I added more skills on this tour; usher and bouncer).

This short performance, informed by Japanese aesthetics of Quietude, is still in the repertory and still touring internationally. I’m not sure how I missed it before now on the net, but hope you may enjoy Jo Shapland’s terrific solo of the devised section we called ‘verb dance’.

http://vimeo.com/20741448