VOLCANO THEATRE launched a program of new and ongoing works for this period of closure due to the coronavirus. The company called the programme ENCOUNTERS UNKNOWN.
“All of this work is geared to the continuity of the creative spirit, to a sense of communality and to the idea that when we do return to the rehearsal room, perhaps we will do so with a greater understanding of our lives and the places that we live and the people that we choose to love.” Artistic Director, Paul Davies
The main project of the program was NOTES FROM THE INTERIOR, a series of performative tasks set by Paul Davies, to which anyone was welcome to respond. Each week, the company released a new public task based on text, image or some other stimulus.
“I thought” said Davies, “as the crisis unfolded, that it was vital we immediately offer a number of performers that we were intending to work with the chance to continue working, so I invited them to present a digital response to a number of tasks that I set, and I started to see the possibilities reaching outwards…”
The actors working on the project received the task and each of them filmed a creative response to it. The company then published their videos as examples to inspire or intrigue. People can have a go at the task privately, just to challenge or entertain themselves, or they can send their responses to the company.
NOTES FROM THE INTERIOR is partly the company’s lockdown answer to what would be a period working in the studio with actors on the development of a new piece of work.
This process, usually invisible to audiences, is now on view. In lockdown, we suddenly had a process that was simultaneously much more private (created alone in the participants’ own homes or localities) and much more public (in that each response or idea was shared as we went along, and everyone was invited to join in).
“Whilst theatre is a singularly public gathering,” says Davies, “I wanted this new strand of work to celebrate the private possibilities of performance. After all, we all know that performance takes place within the private sphere every day.”
The actors involved were all Wales-based or trained in Wales, all with strong skills in improvisation and devising and, importantly, all of them brought humour and playfulness to the tasks as well as expertise and individuality. Whilst everyone was understandably anxious about the seriousness of the situation, there was little to be gained from an endlessly earnest dramatization of our predicament, and meanwhile new absurdities present themselves everywhere we look.
The actors working on NOTES FROM THE INTERIOR were Christopher Elson, Neal McWilliams, Mairi Phillips, Rebecca Smith-Williams and Manon Wilkinson.