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In Performance

In Performance: The Sprint Festival @ Camden Peoples Theatre (London) Part II: One-on-One

The Sprint Festival’s popular One-on-One night presented seven works that focus on the intimate connection between performer and audience member. Though several of these were not one-on-one experiences in the traditional sense, they all demanded their audience or participants rethink the terms of their presence. (Note: Six shows are discussed below; a seventh show, Suitcase Civillians’ Re:Memory, I wasn’t able to see)

Robert Clark’s The Happiness Treatment

Robert Clark
’s The Happiness Treatment, part of a larger suite of works called The Happiness Project, begins with filling out a brief form detailing what makes you happy. Don’t worry; the answers are multiple choice. From there you’re whisked away to a calming and relaxing sensory experience provided by performer Kip Johnson and his assistant. The experience feels like a ritual, and if it’s an unfamiliar one, that doesn’t make it any less effective. Enveloped by sensations of pressure, movement, and touch, you enjoy a half hour of in-body experience, but that’s just a warm up. Once you open your eyes, your real chance to find out what makes you happy begins. Clark has created a thoughtful, hopeful, and ultimately happiness-inducing experience. The Happiness Project is touring throughout the U.K. this spring.

Weronika Cegielska Songs to My Intestines
Polish choreographer and performer Weronika Cegielska’s work often revolves around our relationship with and understanding of our bodies. In this version of her piece Songs to My Intestines, participants are asked to interrogate their relationship with their hair and examine the contrast between its role as a significant and identifying feature and a reviled nuisance. You enter a small space carpeted by what is, apparently, pieces and tangles of human hair. Cegielska beckons you to an empty chair across the table from her. As she begins to chat about her hair history and ask about yours, she continues making objects out of hair. A loop of dreadlock is affixed to a keychain. Short spikes of hair stick out of the end of a bookmark. A lock of hair is wrapped around a plastic spoon. You are given the opportunity to exchange a piece of your own hair for one of those items, but I had to decline, not having an occasion for which I could wear a human hair brooch.

The Art of Disappearing’s The Stand In
The Art of Disappearingcreates work that “alludes characterization,” and indeed, it’s hard to say if this piece is a game, a dance, a performance, or all of the above. You sign a waiver that says, among other things, that you’re willing to participate and that you take responsibility for anything you might do. Then you’re given a costume, a set of headphones, and a script, and left to your role opposite another identically outfitted performer. There’s a cameraman recording it all for posterity, and a director furiously scribbling notes on your performance. If you’ve ever dreamed of being in the pictures, this is your chance to make a decision about what kind of performer you would be. The passing audience, who of course can’t hear the instructions or the epic soundtrack, are left to form their own interpretation (and judgments) of your impromptu performance. Playing on Hollywood tropes, the inescapable effects of cinematic sound, and the willingness of strangers to follow instructions, this piece leaves you believing maybe you really could be a star.

Eve Parmiter’s Un/Bound
Performed in the tiny basement bathroom of CPT, this is probably the most traditionally theatrical one-on-one offering of this group. For anyone who has ever blasted “Eye of the Tiger” to psych yourself up before a big challenge, Un/Bound delivers a genuinely affecting one-two punch of inspiration. On the surface, the single audience member is a boxer getting a pre-fight pep talk from a coach (played by the intimidating-yet-somehow-encouraging Eve Parmiter). However, as the piece goes on, the scope expands from this particular fight to encompass other struggles.

Black Shoe’s Chapter One
A bit of an oddball in an evening of one-on-one shows, this durational exercise in stream-of-consciousness puts four performers onstage with notebooks and has them perform automatic writing for hours on end. Each time one writer finishes a page, he steps up to the mic to read what’s fallen out of his pen. This results in about what you’d expect hearing someone’s every thought read aloud. There are genuine nuggets of feeling and revelation mixed in with that mental chaff that so often occupies our brains. Charting the ripples of influence as the writers listen to each other recite provides a glimpse into how our thoughts can never truly be conveyed to another.

Eve Leigh’s Your Future
Take off your shoes and fold yourself into a child’s play tent with Eve Leigh for a glimpse into your future. Of course, Leigh tells you at the start, there is no way to really predict someone’s future. Instead, she draws attention to the assumptions you make about yourself and your potential. The palm of your non-dominant hand is closer to the palm you are born with, Leigh explains, and so it suggests all the potential in your life, whereas your dominant palm, a bit more worn from use, gives a picture of what you’ve done with that potential. The experience puts you nose-to-nose with Leigh in a tiny tent lit by a flashlight and a string of Christmas lights, which is a self-aware play on ritual that often surroundings palmistry. In the end, Leigh offers you a chance to connect to that potential self you remember from your childhood, when you might have turned out to be anyone.

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Margo Gray is a performance maker and curator based in Minneapolis. Her practice centers around interactive and participatory performance, Current research includes emerging techniques in interactive theatre and performance-adjacent disciplines such as alternate reality gaming (ARGs) and Nordic live-action role-playing. She is currently the Producing Artistic Director of Playable Artworks (a sponsored project of Springboard for the Arts), a Twin Cities-based performance engine. Margo is a former Fulbright Fellow at the Moscow Art Theatre School. She holds a BA in Russian from Grinnell College and an MFA from Carnegie Mellon University. For more information, visit margogray.com and playableartworks.org.

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