Armed with a bath tub, headphones and a sat-nav, Kate Knowles and Rosie Leach navigate their way through a sea of stories and identities, to discover what they can learn about themselves by reflecting on water, and bathtubs.
A performance devised for WATERWEEK 2015 at Hermonceaux Castle, West Sussex, this surreal, high-energy show explored the reinvigorating power of performance, wild-swimming and a storm that blew in through an open window…
Reflections on the performance process:
Thursday 7th May; Rosie writing, at home in Machynlleth
When Clare Whistler sent me an invitation to make a performance for Water Week in December my first thought was to draw on stories of flooding in the home, from interviews I collected in Somerset and Wales last year. Yet when new-year arrived and my bedroom window blew open in a storm, I was presented with a minor flooding story of my own and the idea, prompted by Clare, that this could be a focus for a performance.
Reflection on the storm in my bedroom prompted me to consider the privilege of having a room of my own and the idea of creating a public performance in my house, with a different theme in each room. The bathroom would explore dirt, identity-image, body-mind and water; and Water Week could provide was the opportunity to create a performance for this room.
Several creative emails later, in late February, Kate Knowles and I met for a creative week of devising in and around my home of Machynlleth, recording ourselves as we listened to water, telling each other watery stories and, in Kate’s case, swimming in the sea. We shared and developed our ideas with friends: Ariana Jordao, co-creator on the holdfast performance in 2014 and Charmian Saville, retired lecturer in theatre at Aberystwyth uni.
Over the following week we listened back to the recordings, picked out the most striking sections and began to improvise movement in response. Kate picked the bath up from where it had been living in her friend’s garden and I travelled down to Kate’s home in Cardiff for a final day of devising.
The structure of the show came together in the last twenty four hours. After improvising in a studio for the afternoon, we rehearsed our ideas with our friend Rabab Ghazoul, who gave us some valuable direction. On the morning of the show, once Kate had ventured out to pick up the van, and I’d re-jigged the performance structure, we swiftly rehearsed in Kate’s garden, loaded the van with bath and set off east, eased along by trusty sat-nav.
We drove for four hours, buoyed by sunshine and the shiny surreal-ness of our position. As we drove, creative ideas continued to fire and the shape of the performance shifted. We’d considered leaving out the story of the bath-tub, but with its bulky presence making itself felt behind us and new chapters of its story flowing from Kate with ease, this seemed impossible. We decided to substitute the words of the story of the sea-swim, and tell it through action. It felt exhilarating to be able to make changes at the last minute, for the performance to be so fresh, and honest about this feature.
On the drive home, the adrenalin continued to surge, so wired were we by joy of the experience. However, as the night wore on, our tiredness levels began to become apparent as we drove round in circles for some time, somewhere in the middle of the M4. Coffee and chocolate brownie fuelled, we arrived home around four, for a few hours sleep before a fresh day of work.
When I woke, the adrenalin was still flowing, and words of reflection flowed with ease. As the weeks now turn into months, I ponder on why it has taken me so long to gather together a few further reflections. How focus flowed on to the next thing and finding a quiet space to write became difficult.
During this time, suffice to say, we’ve considered why a bath-tub is such rich material and metaphor to work with. It has, as Charmian pointed out, a whole set of theatrical associations, including the death Marat in Marat/Sade. As a container, it can be seen as a symbol of female sexuality and wisdom. It is the archetypal private space, of relaxation and cleansing, yet can be placed so as to become a stage, object of and frame for, the public gaze.
We are excited about where the bath-tub could travel next, with our stories inside and as mobile performance space welcoming others to step outside their comfort zone and share stories with an audience. A huge thanks to Kate for the journey so far, to Clare and Charlotte for the invitation to be part of Water-week, and to the audience for being so receptive and supportive.
Thursday 9th April; Kate writing, at home in Cardiff.
When Rosie suggested making a performance for Waterweek, my first response was cringing at the idea of us both flailing our arms around in the air in an attempt to capture the essence of water in movement. I’d never made a performance piece before and my experience and imagination at that point felt limited. How was this going to work? How could we convey something as intangible as our connection to water? What struck me was what happened in the process of making the performance. We observed water, we immersed in water, we recorded sounds and images of water… our process evolved as we made connections, un-earthed memories, told stories and continually responded to each other’s and our own reflections. In the end the performance conveyed just a tiny fraction of what bubbled up in the process, from which one of many valuable lessons was to trust in the process and (without cringing too much) “go with the flow”! I hope that the ripples from the bathtub find their way into other streams of imaginations. It was an absolute pleasure to be part of Waterweek 2, and I’m grateful to everyone who contributed and shared their thoughts and performances on the night, to Rosie for her confidence in navigating, and to Clare for the invitation to join you.
the space becomes at one with us
we set it up and accept the gaze of our audience as they
descend the stairs, to find out what’s going on.
we are poised to share what we’ve made,
what we’ve shared with each other, distilled into a
microcosm of our lives and the places we’ve been
together and apart.
Kate asks me, in rehearsal, improvising,
what do you do to reset ? and I pause,
a slight rise of panic at the unexpectedness of the
question. I don’t have an answer. I look at my
laptop screen, not wanting to give an inauthentic
answer. As the time flows on I wonder whether
it is performing that provides me with those
reset experiences. One of the things. I go with
that hypothesis as I step into the bath.
Into my comfort zone that is not
about relaxation or switching off.
Into the unknown, the electric space of
knowing that what I say matters
what I do , makes meaning.
The space of vulnerability, where
anything could happen, but running away.