Bringing together physical theatre performers and parkour athletes on a theatre production is an interesting and challenging project. A two-week process of research and development together will lead to a performance to test ideas and gauge the audience’s reaction.
At the start of rehearsals, the initial games and exercises help the performers and athletes to relax and engage with each other, then find a common (movement) language and both explore and share ideas.
“I find some of the methods of connecting people and causing them to work together fascinating!”(Daniel Ilabaca – parkour athlete)
Under the guidance of associate director Pawel Szkotak (Teatr Biuro Podrozy), Justice in Motion’s artistic director Anja Meinhardt, and an open and honest approach from everyone, very quickly they start to learn from each other – the performer becomes more adventurous in movement, the athlete develops a character. Various images are being tested, while play and physical exploration are always a big part of every rehearsal day as well.
“Full of play, overwhelmed with talent and excited for the process to fully begin. Great to see everyone play in the space and get lost with the movement for a couple of hours at the end of the day.”
(Luke Chadwick-Jones – performer)
They are working on a unique performance. This has never been done before. It’s not an experiment but an insightful and a visceral way of demonstrating to an audience an unhappy situation that has appeared all over the UK. Forced labour on our construction sites in towns and cities across the country.
“Today was a juxtaposition of joy and sorrow. Joy at the opportunity to create new movements in the space together, and the camaraderie of the group. Sorrow when reading case studies about victims of modern slavery and further understanding the true extent of the problem.”
(George Mayfield – parkour athlete)
There is a variety of aspects to the rehearsal process - exploration, play, but also research and discussions, watching video materials and documentaries, even seeing other theatrical work together for inspiration. They have also invited speakers from the GLAA and CIOB, to share more insights about the issues of modern slavery in construction.
The intense rehearsal process takes its toll on everyone. It is mentally and physically overwhelming and not every session is easy or goes particularly smoothly.
“…the focus goes and comes very easy and we take double the time and energy to create any of the images that Pawel suggest, the fact that we are given new props really does not help but I guess is part of the process.”
Yet the creative team gathers together at regular intervals, to reflect on the process, have open and honest conversations, find out where everyone is at, and how the rehearsal structure can be improved to enhance everyone’s experience.
“…In my opinion we got a lot out of this meeting. And this is reﬂected in the afternoon rehearsal, where everyone is more focused, and the work gets done way more easy. We started to scratch the surface of new images and somehow everyone is more connected.”
(Daniel Rejano - performer)
Another integral element to the project is the community aspect - sharing food, having the families around, watching football, enjoying time off, and generally doing life together, an element that enhances the entire project and gives it a generous and unusual dimension.
“Interactions, challenges, fun times, chill times… is all part of a connected life. I believe that good relationships keep us healthier and happier. Living in the midst of good warm relationships is protective.”
(Paula Cavegn – Inspire)
At the end of the two weeks a first ‘Work in Progress’ showing is presented to an invited audience at 101 Outdoor Arts Creation Space, when for the first time the work is shown in its entirety and receives constructive feedback.
“It felt so good going from scene to scene in one go! You really felt the character come more alive after each scene has passed. Of course, there were points that we could improve on, but I think we all felt a lot of first sparks of the magic.”
(Michel Kasper – parkour athlete)
Now the team is ready for a performance before a live and unexpecting audience outdoors. It’s off to Didcot Cornerstone where the bespoke scaffold set structure is erected in the square in front of the
theatre, for the community to come and play on and explore parkour for themselves. People young and old equally engage and there’s a lot of spark right away.
”I loved the 'playground' in the afternoon. What is particularly interesting with this project is the contrast between playfulness... and the piece. I understand you wanted to play with the 'playfulness' of a parkour and the tragedy of slavery > that works particularly well...
It is great to see kids and adults climb and adventure themselves into this massive playground.”
The first part of the project is complete. But that isn’t the end of the process. A successful outdoor show has been mounted and an audience made aware of a situation of which they were previously largely ignorant.
“I loved the character with the book... A book is such a strong 'picture' in this place of slavery... For me It symbolised a world to 'escape' to and funnily enough it seems quite unusual to picture a builder with a book in a place like that but for me it worked really well > especially towards the end, when the whole place 'transforms' into a dream world. That last part was for me another highlight in the piece. I loved the way it evolved gradually into this imaginary world.”
The next step is to develop the show, and the parkour park further - for a finished production to tour from May/June 2019.
It’s an exciting journey to have embarked on.