Friday, 3 April 2009

35. ACE-Funded Residency at the Nuffield Theatre, Lancaster (Week 1)

Me and My Old Man are on a residency at the Nuffield Theatre, Lancaster, 30th March - 9th April. It is funded by the Arts Council England. We would have announced this on the Monday but there are Wonky internet connections a the University AND at my digs in town.
It has been a slow week and not without its problems. Dad has been by turns patient, enthusiastic, diligent (he has led me to expect nothing else). But prior to the residency our longest rehearsal had been about an hour. Now we have full days to fill, and we are averaging about six cups of tea per day. We have our own kettle and a generous supply of Yorkshire Tea ("Like Tea Used To Be").

I had the intention of working Mum into the show a lot more to expand on the talk I gave in Carlisle about my Granddad (her Dad) (see Post 28), but, for now, we need to focus on the paternal link between William (Dad's Dad), Dad, and myself.
We have been taking a lot of pictures on the little digital I bought with Hauserwages just before Christmas, but also some nice 35mm stuff. I got myself an old Olympus OM10 from Real Camera in Manchester (the shop is amazing, but they are substantially pricier than London Camera exchange). Using Colour ISA800 film and a tripod, I've manaaged to get some pretty decent pictures of Dad under theatre lights. The ones below are from digital:

Mum 'Being Mum', Monday.
Detail from Text "To The Pines" (Bascom Lamar Lunsford) Thursday.
Speech Bubble Texts "Two Lovers on a Park Bench" (Samuel L. Johnson, "Einstein on the Beach, Knee Play 5). Thursday.
Simon in Bespoke Handmade Felt Crown. Thursday.
Peter in Bespoke Hansmade Felt Crown. Thursday.
Dad drinking a pint of Wainright in the Sun Hotel, Thursday.
One of the greatest things so far has been working on a recent rediscovery I made of William (Dad's Dad)'s paintings. It would be a stretch to call him a painter, but between 1966 and 1978 he made several paintings (we have 19, and a drawing he made). He took it up after having a heart attack, the Doctor told him to relax, and that's how he tried to do it. The paintings document a kind of reprieve, a second chance (and the show is all about reprieves and recoveries). But also, it points towards a different way of looking, or a letting in of light.

Before 1966 he worked below ground as a coal face worker, a shot firer, then a deputy (a kind of shift foreman). But after his heart attack he had to take a clerking job. And I like to think of him working on sunny days, with the light streaming in through the windows. I wonder whether he looked at the world any different after the heart attack, and after taking up painting. A lot of our work so far has been about instants, partricularly in how photographs inform how we think about the instant, and how resonant photographs are when we look at them (like Roland Bathes saying that he doesn't believe in lifelike photographs, that the photo is in no way animated, but that it animates him). But William's paintings slow down how we look, if we appreciate the physicality of how he might have painted, brushstrokes, of course, but also moving around it, leaning in towards and away from it. I was watching a documentary recently "The Genius of Photography" (BBC2?) I only watched the fourth one, but one of the interviewees was talking about photographers as "not Gods, but Angels", recording rather than conceiving. But I look at William's paintings, amateurish, and often very bright. But I think that after 46 years working underground, that the brightness is fitting. Dad says he started off copying the pictures that you used to get on Chocolate boxes, but he thinks that he graduated to making his own. So I wonder why he painted what he did when he stopped copying.

From that world - the one in the nineteen pictures - I want to try to create a space in performance that we, my Dad and I, could now inhabit. So, for example, the picture we have on the stream by the river becomes the bank my father crossed as he came out of the Wilderness, in 1970. But it also gives me a space to image how his thoughts might have formed themselves, to insinuate an aesthetic sensibility into our history. But obviously this has can only be at the limit of my own likes and abilities. So it's a self-consciously futile gesture, but it creates a sort of dialogue between then and now, and might be one way of trying to meet William (he died two years before I was born).
For now, I submit the following:

Number 5. William Bowes "The Light I Walked Towards and Walked Back From (It Was Not Bright Enough)".

Because I say it is, this is now the archetypal reprieve painting in the Archives*.

*"What is an Archive? Its shaped like a box, it used to have shoes in it, and it's where you put all the things you can't bear to look at anymore" - SB to AB, 30.3.09.

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