Fellswoop, graduates of Warwick University, began their new project with the IATL Student Ensemble in Spring Term 2014. We worked with a group of students, recruited from a variety of departments and faculties, interested in collaborative work and interdisciplinary art forms.
To Know How You Stand facilitates a unique hub of exchange with the audience around the subject of utopia: questioning long accepted social constructs, habits and deeply embedded expectations about the way we conduct our lives and the positive and negative implications of an alternative.
Seen through the lens of performance, the possibility for utopia doesn’t only happen when the lights go down and the “play” begins. For instance, utopia can present itself in rehearsals—director Anne Bogart, in fact, says, “I often see my rehearsal situation as utopian. Rehearsal is a possibility for the values I believe in, the politics I believe in, to exist in a set universe which is within the room.” She suggests that rehearsals are the moment of utopic expression in theatre, when a group of people repeat and revise incremental moments, trying to get them right, to get them to “work.”
Performance, Utopia, and the “Utopian Performative”, Dolan, Jill, 1957- Theatre Journal.
TOM MCGIVERN / Contestant nº2
Apathy is hugely prevalent today and is the modern developed society’s biggest shortcoming. People dismiss ideological conflict as something of the last century with a certain cynical superiority – and maybe when considering much of what has occurred in the name of ideology they are right to do so. However, there now exists a void where politicisation once resided and consequentially society lacks direction, with materialism and self-image having become the primary driving forces of individuals, to the detriment of all.
ALI PIDSLEY / Contestant nº10
The sky is often used as a metaphor, and I think that it’s because we don’t quite get it. We don’t quite understand it. So we can’t restrict it. We can’t put a wall or directions or routes or a fucking white picket fence in the sky. It’s beyond our control, and that’s brilliant. That’s really fucking brilliant.
WILL MCKEOWN / Contestant nº8
I had never really been one for assuming that I always had more to do. But recently it feels more like a case of knowing that I will never have enough time to do it. Relaxation is an idea that is becoming more and more alien to me as the days go by. We started off with good intentions; the day of the Sabbath – An excuse to lie around all day long! But now rest is inconvenient; there are too many things to do and not enough days of the week to do them in. Who says there should be only seven days in a week? Well obviously God said that in his book but did he not consider what an inconvenience it could become? I work to a weekly schedule, a very distinct window of time… and well it’s just a little bit too distinct and just a little bit too small for it to be truly classed as a window, perhaps maybe a peephole? Isn’t it all so restrictive? Do we doom ourselves to an early grave based the manner in which we divide our lives? Could I live to be three hundred if we quartered our minutes?
How old am I?
Isn’t it a matter of opinion? Culture? Religion?
So when I ask for more time, I could, theoretically get it. But the whole world would have to change with me on my terms. Cos I have that sort of power (sarcasm).
ELLEN DRISCOLL / Contestant nº3
In my utopia everybody wants to be completely honest, so we say what we mean and be who we are. It’s not easy, initially living this way feels uncomfortable and wrong. But individuals would begin living honestly and then this would spread through cities and eventually whole countries: everyone’s cards are equally on the table and so there is no need for embarrassment. Truth telling would become contagious because it’s liberating and people would realise that lying is exhausting and doesn’t actually help anyone. Even if fibs are told to protect somebody’s feelings, they often find out in the end anyway and are left feeling cheated. So in my utopia disagreements are spoken about, dealt with and we move past them: propriety doesn’t get in the way of reconciliation. Political parties don’t make promises they know they can’t keep so there is no apathetic electorate. The government becomes utterly transparent, so society is able to be aware of and object to unjust treatment that at present goes on behind closed doors in the name of ‘national security’. Maybe this is a painful way to live but it would be worth it: through speaking frankly we have all the facts to try and make a genuine step forward in society.
MATT KENT / Contestant nº6
Utopia for me would be the simple acknowledgment that life needs to have a mix of good and bad to be fulfilling. Life needs opposition because without contrast, the things you cherish would essentially cease to exist. Now, I’m not trying to claim for one second that I’m completely content and all the pain and suffering surrounding us should continue for the sake of opposition. What I’m describing here is more of a personal Utopia, an aspiration for an ideal mental state. If I can get to a point where even when struggling through the most grueling hardship or the loneliest moment I can see its benefits, see that I can build as a person from it and be able to appreciate all the positives around me, I’ll have reached my own Utopia. Once we overcome the bitter, we can know that we’ve earned the right to enjoy the sweet.
SUSIE SILLETT / Contestant nº1
Andrew enters and sits on Millburn sofa opposite Susie.
Susie: Hello Andrew, would you like to try one of my spearmint pips?
Andrew: Yeah, alright, go on then.
He takes one.
LAURA DEFFENSE / Contestant nº10
In my utopia everyone would know everything. Schools across the world would be exactly the same and they would teach all students from all different backgrounds everything there is to know about our world. We’d all know absolutely everything about everything. This way everyone’s opinions are completely their own. Not influenced by manipulative external factors, not influenced by what bits of information the media has cut and edited. My utopia is one based completely on learning, listening and love. Here, we all have equal opportunities, equal rights, and most importantly equal love for everyone.
JACK MORNING-NEWTON / Contestant nº4
Oooohhg aahhhg! bwoow bwooow. e! e! e!. Accompanied by my renowned zoological colleague Susie Jane-Tarzan, I walk into a room of monkeys. They hide behind the curtains, under tables. As we enter the space they emerge, curious. A slender adolescent male snatches my bag of shopping, no doubt wishing to impress a potential mate with the trove of oatcakes, cream cheese and a half banana. As he lopes off with it, and investigates the contents under the white board, I am sniffed by a great bull Gorilla, his partner lingering behind with a shy round eyed infant. A baboon flips a chair, and lurches gracefully onto a broken plastic table.
CAT POWERS FREELING / Contestant nº7
Perhaps this is what the project of utopia brings, a small utopia within a room. Just a few weeks of this project and I want to write again, I want to stand up on tables and scream my heart out about everything that I’ve ever thought was unfair and now I have that table. How can you forget someone who feels something so strongly that it seems to fill every part of their body. It’s that passion in everyone that’s so bloody amazing.
Even if not a single audience member is touched by the show, I think it’s safe to say that this project had done what it’s named after. To know how you stand, it’s making me get to know how I stand and for me that makes all this worth it.
LUKE LAMPARD / Contestant nº0
Away from the ideas of Utopia, I feel it important to realise the value of what I have.
Hopefully, I have a future. And above everything, it’s the freedom to choose aspects of that future that I’m most happy for.
Freedom. Freedom to travel. Religious freedom. Sexual freedom. Political freedom. Freedom of speech. Freedom of expression. Freedom to wake up in the morning and choose what to wear. Freedom to chose how I want to make a living. Freedom to make mistakes. Freedom to help others as well as myself.
It’s for this freedom that I’m thankful. But there’s a bitter edge to this freedom, because how many people do I share it with? In my immediate social group, it’s all of us, 100%. In the world? Aren’t we the 1%?
JESS HARGREAVES / Contestant nº5
In my utopia, the world is almost the same. There is still violence, inequality, poverty. The only thing I would change is a subtle shift in mindset. In my utopia, people would think as a global community. A sense of ‘us’ would come before the sense of ‘me’. Nationalism and racism wouldn’t feature in my utopia. Instead, there would be a recognition that we’re all human and need to be treated fairly. Nations wouldn’t try to get ahead of each other and trick each other. This could happen; we just to be educated differently and brought up differently. If this happened, I think other problems could begin to resolve themselves.
TO KNOW HOW YOU STAND, a collaboration between FellSwoop Theatre and IATL at the University of Warwick.
With special thanks to: Cath Lambert, Eileen John, Nicolas Whybrow, Amy Clarke, Jonny Heron, Olly Ashforth-Smith, Paul Raffield, Sam Brassington, Jo Duncombe, Ian Roberts, Ian O’Donoghue, Peter Marsh, Tegid Cartwright, Ed Davis, Susan Haedicke, Miranda Cromwell, Simon Day and Philippe LeGoff.
To Know How You Stand photography by Peter Marsh, Ashmore Visuals.