a peepshow (1996)
The three lovers are in the big f*** scene. They tried to escape its gravity but the bed centre stage has pulled them in. Like everybody else, that’s the leap their imagination made. Only trouble is it’s only big enough for two. So one must look on, like you and me. And anyway who believes intimacy was only ever two. It’s always been crowded out by that third person, the one with all the dreams. The light burns the bed, scours the skin of the boy and the girl; and the man sees that we see all there is to see in an instant. Then he begins the real exposure. Of what we like to call love, of the motives behind our intimacies, of the overwhelming desire in our tiniest of exchanges, the littlest of our making a move. Of what hides in love itself. And what shows itself through love.
Our eighth show marked a major shift in our practice, as we set out to explore a specific research question for the first time: we pulled apart the fundamental relation between what we see and what we hear on stage in order to investigate the different ways in which our senses work, the different meanings and affects that each sense conveys. Inspired by Andy Warhol’s voyeuristic movie Beauty#2, which improvises a scene of a couple questioned about their relationships and sexuality by an unseen interlocutor off camera, we set up a similar situation in which a couple lie on a bed as an unseen narrator sitting behind a curtain imagines the potential worlds of their relationship to the strains of a live string trio, mocking the classical lovers’ tryst. The work deconstructed the theatrical and asked uncomfortable questions of its audience’s erotic and libidinal investment in the show, whilst at the same time demonstrating the sheer power of performance to affect, disturb and engage them. Whilst cinema may be all about the erotic gaze, theatre is the only art where fleshes and senses actually mix; and it was this mixing we wanted to unpack and interrogate.
CHRIS AUSTIN composer, JON CARNALL performer, JANE DEVOY performer, DAN ELLOWAY performer, SARA GIDDENS choreographer, SIMON JONES director/writer, BRIDGET MAZZEY designer
With: BEN ROGERSON cello, SARAH SMALE viola, LIZ WHITTAM violin
Performed at: Arnolfini (Bristol) & Now Festival/ Bonington Gallery (Nottingham)