As we were about to take part in the process we had a shock in our group, namely that our co-founder Leslie had informed us that he was moving to London. This loss to the group is a huge event for us, and one which we are still learning to be with. We have to work out how to be with each other without his embodied presence in the room. After working together for seven years, for some of us, that is a very significant shift in our ensemble. Leslie, for me, shared the holding of the group, through an intricate root system that supported me and the group as we encountered ourselves and each other in the space every week. We seldom needed to discuss the rehearsal with each other as facilitators in words. We met each week in the space, always new, and yet always carrying our shared history of meeting, an intimacy of relationship that only exists in the rehearsal room. In improvisation Leslie offered a unique energy; a playful and sometimes ascerbic quality that we fed off and bantered with. His musicality erupted into song and rhythm in the space, making offers and supporting the offers others make, supporting shifts and changes to occur, always playing. We miss his wisdom and experience of eldership, his silliness, his voice, his being. In the videos he appears, along with another member who left for the sunnier climes of Bali and Australia this year, our friend Angela, in The Long Dark. This has been a year of shifts and changes for us as a company, and the movements have been coming in waves.
So, in the films we have I notice a difference in our being-ness, our embodied presence as an ensemble from The Long Dark, which we filmed in December 2018 and the other films which we filmed in November 2019. The earthy, settled rhythms and movements of The Long Dark are replaced by a lighter, bouncier selection, as I see them. These impressions may not be shared by the other members, so this is a very personal response to what I am witnessing. And I am very aware that the moment we placed the mobile phones into the space we behaved very differently. It was as if we were separated by the phones, as if they physically had a much bigger presence than their actual size. The room became a different place. Less comforting. For me it is as if they become representations of an outer world that is observing with a critical eye. Interestingly there was a lot of laughter, perhaps some of this was fuelled by the anxieties of being observed. And at other times it is exactly some of the surreal, silly, ridiculous improvisational material that naturally emerges in our rehearsal space week in, week out. It is this ridiculous stuff that is somehow an essential element of our working process. We need to be in that form of play in order to meet each other without needing to control what is happening. We have to let go of notions of what may or may not be theatre in order to find a place where we just are...together. We sometimes call this place, the zone, or discuss it in terms of 'magic'. It is both identifiable, and unknowable. And what happens when we touch it is remarkable and everyday, and we are communicating through our roots. I don't know as yet how to put that embodied communication into descriptive language. It remains mysterious, poetry. Perhaps we can find a way to capture something of it on film, or grapple with what gets lost when we try...