Tunis Day 2 (04/01/2018)
Morning: meeting with the directorial board of L'Art Rue to discuss the projects, our artistic vision, our aims for the residency etc. They seem excited about the project (so are we!) and we need to remind ourselves that we are only here for 10 days and should stay realistic with our aims.
We confirm that our desire for this working period is to create a sort of site-specific, ambulatory piece within the side-streets of the Medina itself. Audience participation and interaction will be essential for this performance, and we hope to continue in a similar vein to the first residency sharing we had at the Rosa Luxemburg centre.
Once the board of directors head off, Senza concentrate on going through all past blog posts and notes from the previous two residencies to isolate key quotes, descriptions, characters etc. These fragments of text are then compiled into a master document of material to work from.
Lili arrives in the afternoon and we create mind-maps to link our main themes (terrorism, cleaning, survival, clandestine voyage, myths etc.) to specific people's stories, plus images, sounds etc. This is a big task and we haven't yet completed it. It should help us in the long run to get a handle on our material and find links between the two environments we have researched.
Evening: Exploration of the Medina to find a suitable performance space for our end of residency showing. W*** acts as the tour-guide. He seems to know the Medina like the back of his hand and can always be counted on to furnish his chat with sociopolitical and historical embellishments, giving specific reasons for the naming of streets, the colour of doorways etc.
We head out at 17.30, and it is amazing to see the Medina "closing down" as night falls. The sky above turns dark blue, with pink clouds lit by the final rays of a dying sun. The streets below appear even darker than the sky above. We pass shopkeepers lowering their corrugated shutters, and old men feeding scraps to stray cats.
Our focus has been on the alleyways around and between the Hammam d'Or and the Sabat (tunnel) where - according to local folkelore - a young woman disappeared on her wedding day. Although the story of the Hammam itself is very rich, there is too much thoroughfare in the streets surrounding it, and a more intimate staging space is not available. The Sabat and surrounding area is much more promising. Immediately several ideas for staging come to mind!
A few big questions raise their heads:
- How many people can we realistically have as an audience for this kind of performance? Considering it won't be in a controlled environment, plus the fact that we want to prioritise visibility and intimacy, we come to the conclusion that a smaller group of spectators would be best. Perhaps we could send people through in waves?
- How can we ensure that the in-between time of moving from one location to another is also performative? How can we avoid the stop-start nature of much promenade theatre?
- What spaces work best? Ideally somewhere quiet, with a mix of larger, open space and winding, darkened alleys and tunnels. What kind of architecture and lighting is evocative and could be used best to our ends? We also need to have the local residents in mind. We need to give them forewarning of the piece, ask permission to use certain spaces, should we welcome them to the final performance and potentially into the process itself? It seems like the right thing to do, although the last point is difficult with so little time to be developing our approach.
- How conventionally "theatrical" will the final performance be? Our focus seems to be moving towards something that is more about sharing an experience with the audience and leaving room for individual members of the public to bring their own stories to these places. How best to do this?