Thursday, 22 June 2017

Salted Dramaturgy: Selina Thompson @ Edfringe 2017

Selina Thompson Ltd presents
Tech Cube, 5 - 26 August 2017, 14:30 (15:45) 

Two artists boarded a cargo ship to retrace one of the routes of the Transatlantic Slave Triangle - from the UK to Ghana to Jamaica and back in February 2016. Their memories, their questions and their grief took them along the bottom of the Atlantic and through the figurative realm of an imaginary past over a three month period. It was a long journey backwards in order to go forwards. saltis what they brought back. 

What was the inspiration for this performance?
Inspiration feels like a very strange way to speak about Salt - it makes it sound like there was a flash of light and then it came to me, whereas Salt felt very much like a creeping despair that needed an outlet - hah! 

Cheery - so you want to put The Black Lives Matter Movement in there, the Exhibit B Debate, Online Discourse around Afropessimism and the afterlife of Slavery, the 2014 Stuart Hall Conference, Saidiyah Hartman's Lose Your Mother, Audre Lorde, Ria Hartley, and the music video for Never Catch Me by Flying Lotus in there. All of those things are connected by the same thread - of race, of diaspora, of the door of no return. And the work is looking at this door in more detail, I guess, looking at my relationship to it. 

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 

Depends, doesn't it. On the idea, on who holds the space, and who comes to the space, on where the space is held. Performance enables you to bring people in a room and attempt to force them to feel things together. Sometimes the aftermath of this feeling, or during this feeling can help us find truth, other times, I think it obscures it. I think all art is only as good as the integrity of the person that is making it.

How did you become interested in making performance?

I've always liked showing off! I did a play in Primary school, was good at it and enjoyed it. Kept doing this at Senior School, and during uni. Realised it was the only thing I really cared about when it came time to graduate, so just kept doing it. I find it very difficult to imagine my life without it. This is not necessarily a good thing.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?

I think there was a very particular approach to this one, in that I made the show my retracing a route of the transatlantic slave triangle via cargo ship for 2 months, spending time in Jamaica and Ghana, and of course, a huge amount of time at sea. I tend to work by getting everyone - director, visual designer, sound designer, choreographer and film maker (if there is one) dramturgs into the room at the very beginning, even when there is nowhere for them to work from. 

This is a lot to ask of collaborators, I have found, because so many of those jobs are responsive to script, but I am wanting the script to also grow out of their knowledges and practices. I usually make a first version of a show, ignore it for a year, and then return to it, with distance. So the first version is always quite raw, and messy. The second version more contemplative. 

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

I think it's a bit more grown up and a bit less DIY than the others. It's less funny. It's more academic. But I think it's less of a deviation, and more of a development - so there are definite traces of other shows running through it. 

But it would be a problem, I think, if the work I was making at 27 looked too similar to the work I was making at 22. I've learnt lots in the past five years, and I hope that's apparent in this work.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

I hope that they will feel that they have gone on a journey with me. I hope that it is an experience which allows contemplation and thought, and opens up space for people to grieve, or to sit with elements of our lives which we are often encouraged to gloss over. 

But I don't necessarily want it to be a show that enables emotional release. I am much more interested in it as a show that compels us to action, with no promises or guarantees of resolution.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

So we worked with dramaturgs this time around - so it is scripted very tightly, every word of it is considered and pointed. Tanuja put together a really strong, resonant sound design enabling us to bring things in with subtlety - and Kat made a design that is simple, clean. 

All of it is about opening space for contemplation. We've also made a show with a great deal of ritual, trying to figure out how an audience can be opened to this subject matter on a range of levels. So in short, we considered as many as were available to us. 

saltuses film, performance and sound to evoke the journey focusing on grief, home, afropessimism, what it means to be Black, the Black Atlantic, the forgetting of the UK’s colonial history and the impact that has on the daily life of Caribbean communities in the UK today. 

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