Wednesday, 4 July 2007

This is an excerpt from a (successful) funding application to the Scottish Arts Council. It gives an idea about some of the aims of the project.

"The production will be created in three ways that reflect on a number of levels the process of Thoreau’s experiment."Firstly, it is conceived to be realised as economically as possible. Secondly, just as Thoreau built a life from ‘found’ objects, so will the performance: the first object being Thoreau’s text itself. Everything used - music, set, costumes, props - will be created from existing materials, nothing will be newly made, only re-made and re-imagined. This reflects the philosophical impulse at the heart of Thoreau’s project - a desire to be self-sufficient - and conceptually acknowledges the further, artistic, impulse which led him to publish his experiences in a book.

"Thirdly, at a time where technology is more and more a part of modern theatre - video projection, wireless microphones and computer-controlled moving lights are now a common feature of many productions - this production will explore what is possible with consciously limited resources and the limitless imagination of an audience. This is not a Luddite refusal to engage with technological advances, but an attempt to reflect the philosophy of the source material. All the mechanics of the production will be visible to the audience – the operation of sound and lighting, the structure of the set, the props table – just as Thoreau lays bare the mechanics of his 26 month experiment in the book, detailing meticulously everything he spent and how he earned the money.

"The production will be created through a series of development weekends which will be used to explore the source material and generate ideas. These will take place in different locations but will, in keeping with the book, be achieved as cheaply as possible – for instance by bartering, by offering services in exchange for accommodation or by camping. These will also be used to present fragments of work to people in order to get feedback on the development of the project. A four week rehearsal period will draw the material together and culminate in public performances.

"Walden will play with scale: Thoreau’s world in the woods will be re-imagined through a series of scale models created in front of the audience – Thoreau was a surveyor by training and relentlessly measured and plotted the world around him. He surveyed Walden Pond carefully, almost obsessively, measuring its shoreline dimensions when it froze over in winter, and sounding its depths in summer with lengths of chain. He also noted carefully everything he spent (down to the 1 cent’s worth of nails he needed to buy to put his hut up). The production's visual style will draw on the apparent contradiction between the junk aesthetic implied in Thoreau's recycling and the precision of this constant documentation of his surroundings and actions. By playing with scale, the production will reflect the way that Humankind can at one moment seem to dominate and subdue nature and in the next be dwarfed by its enormity and power.

"Perhaps the key quality will be of reflection – Thoreau’s search for self-sufficiency was as much spiritual as material – and we hope that this production will inspire people to reflect on themselves as well as on what they have seen.

"The style of the production will draw on such diverse influences as Spalding Gray, Cornelia Parker and Tom Waits, each of whom have found ways of transforming everyday objects and material into something completely unexpected. It will engage the audience directly – asking them to contribute their own found objects as props – and treat them to a performance that will entertain and charm as well as pose questions about themselves."

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