Sunday, 15 January 2012

Moving in Houses - Space Is The Place

How other people live is fascinating, and there are few better insights
into what makes them tick than getting a look inside their homes. Where
some might live in a four-walled fortress, others might prefer an
open-plan outlook on the big bad world outside. Such notions of
personal space formed one of the starting points for Moving in Houses,
a new cross-artform piece of work devised and created by the
experimentally inclined Theatre Arts Group, which plays for three
nights in Tramway this week alongside an installation. Using sound,
light, movement and above all else a sculptural form of architecture,
Moving in Houses aims to explore the very notion of how we both define
and interact with the immediate space around us.

“We're working with four structures,” Theatre Arts Group
writer/director Rachel Clive explains, “and the performers are relating
to each of these structures, which represent different types of
housing. One represents a terraced house, another a semi-detached,
another a detached villa, and so on. We're looking at how we interact
with each of them, and how they influence our behaviour in different
ways. We're also looking at how light controls our environments, at
changing structures within society, and how that society works.

“The piece is really about change, and how these different structures
influence change. It's about trying to find some kind of ideal way of
living together, and in many ways is very relevant to how we live now.
The group is made up of people both with and without learning
disabilities, and we're very aware of moves over the last few years
towards people living independently. But because of changes in
benefits, people are becoming increasingly more isolated. That's had a
huge influence on the piece.”

To bring all this to impressionistic life, Clive and her co-conspirator
in Theatre Arts Group, visual and sound artist Kirsty Stansfield, have
enlisted a team of dancer/choreographer Krista Vuori, sound artist Mark
Vernon, architect Ewan Imrie and lighting designer Alexander Ridgers.
All come with an impressive pedigree. Vuori has worked with the
physical-based Frantic Assembly, while Vernon is an internationally
renowned sound artist. Imrie's work with Collective Architecture has
pursued ideas of participation in spaces that are crucial to Moving in
Houses, while Ridgers is making his mark at the Royal Conservatoire.
Under Clive and Stansfield's guidance, all four have worked closely
with the company's core team of performers to create a set of
loose-knit narratives which have challenged everybody's working
practices, Clive included.

“As a writer it's really taken me out of my comfort zone,” she says.
“Because there's no story as such, it's been quite difficult at times
to deal with all the other influences in the piece, but it's also been
a joy to see everyone working together in this way. There are points of
conflict in the piece as well, which are to do with how spaces are
controlled, and what happens when people in the same space want
different things. Some structures aren't conducive to living
communally, and some are. There are arguments there too about the
differences between private housing and council housing.”

Moving in Space is Theatre Arts Group's fourth full show since coming
together in 2009 out of a Tramway Participation programme. With support
from Tramway, Creative Scotland and kindred spirits such as the
community-based Kinning Park Complex in Glasgow, previous works have
invited guest artists from various practices into the creative process.
These have included poets, digital-based practitioners, musicians and
sculptors. While the emphasis of the company's work is on the social
and on being inclusive in the nest possible sense of the word, Clive is
careful to stress that the work is in no way polemical. In the
company's attempt to work towards new ways of living, however, a very
human politics clearly fires all of the company's work.

“It's quite unique in terms of what we're doing,” Clive points out,
citing the likes of young people's theatre company Junction 25 and
dancer Claire Cunningham as fellow travellers in terms of spirit and
approach. “They're similar to us in some ways, in that they're trying
to find different ways of working, and are constantly exploring that.
Moving in Houses is very much about a journey, and I hope everyone
watching it gets something different from it.”

Theatre Arts Group, then are trying to break down walls in terms of
form, structure and content. As with Moving in Houses, though, the
structures set up by Clive, Stansfield and the company may themselves
be breaking their own self-imposed barriers.

“We've probably come to a point where we have to move on,” Clive
explains. “We've had a core group for three years now, and we now need
to find out where we want to go. Do we keep on exploring theatre as we
have been leaning more towards lately, or do we continue to work with
cross-artforms and explore things that way?”

Moving in Houses, Tramway, Glasgow, January 12th-14th
www.tramway.org
www.theatreartsgroup.org

The Herald, January 10th 2012

ends

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