Six Degrees Below the Horizon takes as it starting point the melting pot of Mediterranean port communities, where notions of national borders and identities are challenged by the ever-changing mix of ethnicities and nationalities, the activity of commerce, the blurring of the lines between legal and criminal behaviour and by the suspensions of the norms that attempt to govern sexuality and political orthodoxy. The French philosopher Michel Foucault describes the space of ports and the ships that dock there as heterotopias: places of imagination, illusion and adventure; sites where the whole concept of what constitutes borders and limits might be re-thought and re-lived in radically new ways. According to Foucault, heterotopic spaces are crucial to the formation of any culture and play a vital part in any understanding of the histories and discourses that construct us.
This practice-as-research project attempts, through a radical and original use of digital projection technologies, to explore and stage the heterotopic (the “otherness” of space) landscape of the port. Set in mythical bar in a mythical European seaport in the early 20th century, this new theatre piece is a magical realist exploration of the importance of the Mediterranean to the psyche of the New Europe. The work’s dramaturgy is constructed through a dying man’s recollection of an act of betrayal as he attempts to tell the story of why he left his wife to his daughter. This new work draws on the mythologies of the sea, the writing of Pound, Brecht, Genet and Wedekind and the cinema of Jean Cocteau.
This project has been developed out of a Creative Collaborations Project funded by The British Council (£25K). The first version of the project was formed out of collaboration with The National Theatre of Greece and the Cyprus Theatre Organisation (THOK) and involved 15 performances in Athens, Nicosia and Bristol, Exeter, Leeds, Queer up North Festival in Manchester, Pulse Festival in Ipswich and the Dukes Theatre in Lancaster. The piece has received further funding from Arts Council England (£30K) and has been retitled Six Degrees Below the Horizon, which premiered at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in June 2011 as part of the Transform Festival. It will tour nationally and internationally in 2012.
The following summarise the key research questions at the core of this project:
1. In what ways can digital projection technologies incorporate pictorial framing aesthetics within theatrical contexts and how do these aesthetic possibilities develop new story-telling techniques for contemporary performance.
2. How do new media technologies enable the creation/depiction of heterotopic spaces in performance?
3. How does the photographic/ stilled pictorial image operate as a memory act, one that is imbued with the dynamic of forgetting as much as the activity of remembering? What are the new narrative techniques that would enable a theatrical staging of the complex workings of memory?
4. What new scenographic and dramaturgical strategies are opened up through a rethinking of Genet and Brecht’s writing on the port culture?