Stills

a production

Background

Stills was the final live → ↑ → project. Lasting 50 minutes, Stills featured 16mm anamorphic rear projection, in front of which 4 performers carried out minimal actions across 10 scenes. A loud stereo musique concrete score accompanies the performance; no acoustic stage sound is audible. With no dialogue and no choreographed dance, the minimalist drive of the project actualizes the idea of a 'movie still' upon a stage - with live performers placed within a proscenium arch setting outlined by theatre lighting. Not exactly 'anti-theatre' but definitely not 'modern theatre'. More like a disjointed sonic film with lumps of catatonic flesh.

Kim Beisel, Melanie Brelis, Maria Kozic - Shaffy Theatre, Amsterdam © 1986

Credits

Direction, script, lighting & soundtrack - Philip Brophy
Performers - Maria Kozic, David Chesworth, Kim Beisel & Melanie Brelis
Production management - Gail Pilgrim (Kinesis International, Amsterdam) & Marguerite Pepper (Anthony Steel & Associates, Sydney)
Funding support - Australia Council & Department of Foreign Affairs Cultural Section; Ministry of Welfare, Heath & Cultural Affairs, Netherlands
Thanks - Mike Morris (ICA, London)

1986

Groningen - Het Kruithuis
Amsterdam - Shaffy Theatre
Utrecht - 't Hoogt
Dusseldorf - Werkstatte
Brussels - Beurschouwburg
Eindhoven - de Effenaar
Ghent - Nieuwport Theater
Nottingham - Midlands Art Centre
London - ICA Theatre
Munich - Alabama Halle

Maria Kozic, Kim Beisel, David Chesworth - Shaffy Theatre, Amsterdam © 1986

Overview

Stills arose from Mike Morris of the ICA Theatre in London encountering the work of → ↑ → and inviting them to develop a new work for presentation in Europe and the UK. Philip wrote a script and developed the concept, and Mike agreed to take it on. The show was included in a programme of touring theatre works from Australia: One Extra Dance Company, Los Trios Ringbarkus, and → ↑ →.

Mounting Stills the production was the largest task undertaken by → ↑ →. For the European tour, a special arc-lamp 16mm projector was hired, and appended with an anamorphic lens to create a projected ultra wide-screen image. The rear-projection screen was specially built in Sydney with a new poly-fibre light-retaining porous plastic which was stretched over a large 12m wide steel frame, which had to be assembled for each performance. The group handled all technical bumping-in/out as well as performing.

The reception in Europe was divided: mid-80s theatre was in the throes of 'image theatre' being produced by dance choreographers. The hi-art concepts and expressionist aesthetics of this shift to art theatre had little to do with the minimalist cinematics and post-human staging of performers which had been central to most live projects of → ↑ →. Fortunately some audiences got the idea of 'no-movement/no-dialogue/no-theatre' as signalled by the title Stills.

From the original programme

Stills is a series of tableaux that recreate cinematic space and movement on stage. No spoken dialogue; no dramatic narrative; the effect is like watching a still from a movie come to life. Working from a background in performance and film/video production, → ↑ → has fused these two areas in an attempt to produce theatre without being 'theatrical'.

David Chesworth - publicity still © 1986

Technical

Scenography

Scene 1

A man is pulled across the stage as he fights an onslaught of projected gushing water.

Scene 2

Between sporadic black-outs, 3 performers appear separately in different huddled positions across the stage as the close-up image of a giant fist pounds the ground.

Scene 3

A couple dance a debilitating waltz, harshly lit in red or blue as the screen alternates between full-blue and full-red. The lights gradually dim their flicking between blue and red until the dancers appear as silhouettes.

Kim Beisel - publicity still © 1986

Scene 4

A near-naked man soaking wet is lowered from the ceiling. Behind him a close-up image of a sparkler flares. He eventually touches the ground as the sparkler dies. Another man and woman drag his body off stage.

Scene 5

An office chair suddenly shoots across the stage. A woman chases after it. It then shoots across from the other side. She reappears chasing it again. This recurs until she finally catches it and sits spotlit centre stage. A giant image of a micro-wave appears behind her. It starts turning; she starts spinning in the chair. Blood slowly oozes from her forehead and trickles down her face.

Scene 6

A close up of a bath drain fills the screen. Water is running into the plug-hole. Coloured paint swirls down - slowly, one colour at a time. Soon, more colours, faster; a whirling rainbow is created. 4 figures are silhouetted against the screen, like ornate Grecian statues. No bodies appear on the stage.

Melanie Brelis - publicity still © 1986

Scene 7

The large screen fills with TV static. A woman lies prone on a gurney centre-stage, covered in a sheet exposing only her head and long hair flowing down from the top of the gurney. Suddenly a microphone swings down like a pendulum from high above, missing her mouth by millimetres. Her eyes bulge as her mouth remains fixed in a gape. The microphone eventually comes to rest over her mouth.

Scene 8

Abstract flashes of passing traffic fills the screen. 2 men and 2 women dressed in business attire shoot across the stage in different directions, each on skateboards. Noise builds up to a crescendo, followed by a booming explosion. The screen goes white; the performers all collapse on the floor. A new sound fades up - the sound of skateboards on a wooden floor. The quartet rise and resume their skating; the lights dim as they become silhouettes against the white screen.

Scene 9

A woman enters carrying a tiny portable TV monitor. She squats centre stage, her face illuminated as she stares at the screen. Soon, a man enters and squats near her, similarly transfixed by the screen. Another woman enters and she too bends over to take in the unseen screen. Behind them, a close-up image of magnetized iron threads sprout outward, as if coming from the first woman's head. The tangled threads eventually obliterate the screen.

Scene 10

Against a cityscape at sunset, 4 people enter stage, unfold banana lounges. They don sunglasses and lie still while the sun sets and the buildings' lights sparkle in the night sky.

Maria Kozic - publicity still © 1986