“Conversation Piece was born from a three-week exploration with three dancers and three actors.
I had set a task for myself: I wanted the subject for the work to emerge from the meeting of language and movement and from the interaction between the people involved in making the work. I wanted it to grow from the situation itself.
I have devised most of my recent works in the rehearsal room, drawing inspiration and direction from this daily process with the performers, but Conversation Piece took it one step further as there was no predetermined script or theme to begin with this time.
This grew out of a desire to examine the unique modes of communication delivered by these very different performing art forms, but also to shift into a territory where they both transcend these boundaries to create a form of theatre that can bring language and physicality into closer proximity.
There was obviously a need for words, but where would they come from? Who’s words were they? Scripting them seemed to give them too much weight when the substance of the work was a meeting of people and forms. So, the eight-minute conversation evolved, which became the transient script for one day.
There is no brief or pre-determined content for this conversation. The dancers just walk on stage and say whatever occurs to them in that moment. It is completely different every night. This conversation at the beginning of the show then forms most of the material for the rest of the piece.
It is not so much the content of the conversation that is important, although I love the range of subjects that has emerged from these talks. We have been rehearsing this show for five weeks and the topics covered have been exhaustive: everything from pashminas to porn, from Masterchef to socialism.
We have come as close as we can to a raw unmediated chat that might spring up anywhere, in a foyer, a café or on the train. It is the repetition of these words and their shifting tone, rhythm, expression and location that uncovers the nuances, failings and complications of social intercourse.
The conversation is recorded and repeated verbatim with earphones and has all the tics, stutters and pauses of everyday speech. The throwaway nature of this flawed, rambling conversation is important as a starting point to examine the complexity of contemporary communication; its rhythms, speed, awkwardness and subtexts. And how it can distance us from each other as well as draw us together.
iPhones are a pivotal part of this work, both for its delivery and its content. They are the instruments of our mass produced interactions and provide a lo-tech, hand held, DIY technology for the running of the production.
No-one speaks directly after the initial conversation. The text is always mediated by these ubiquitous devices which are communication, comfort, information, music, light and so much more to many of us.
Life has changed and the focus on these small squares of plastic reduces and enlarges the world. They both connect us and isolate us.”
Lucy Guerin (2012)