Performance Archive

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A La Carte

“Every action has an equal and opposite reaction” – Sir Isaac Newton.

The future is a list of choices, a menu, from which you must constantly choose. À La Carte is an intimate performance that explores themes of power, service and authority. Will you seal the fate of another or choose the burden of responsibility?

Collective Unconscious produce intimate, challenging and empowering work, creating dark pockets of fictionalised reality. Our work explores themes of sexuality, power and identity; challenges social and behavioural hegemonies; and questions modes and systems of authority. (Play at home Android app in development)


Bobby is a seduction, a striptease and an exploration of sexual identity, longing and fanaticism. Performed at [S T A T E] of … (Birmingham), [ S T A T E ] of Disrepair (Birmingham), Hored and Borny (London)  and Untouchable (Curated by Franko B) (London)

Fools Ball

Held at The Grove Malvern, a Victorian Gothic Mansion  on the 31st March 2012, this event showcased three new pieces of work created in collaboration with Alex Brockie, Charlotte Lara Hall, and Michelle Pogmore. We were also proud to welcome Louise Orwin who presented her work I’ll be your Barbie if… Music was provided by the bands Robinson and Trap Floors and DJ Ed Steelefox who spun a selection of Swing, Jazz, Balkan and Gypsy.

Photos by Charlotte Lara Hall

Photos by Louise Orwin, retouched by Mark Ellis

Provocation 1: Incision.

A descent through the surface into the darkness of the human psyche. Medicine has ways to heal bleeding sores. Amputation can remove gangrenous limbs. Only death can halt the endless chatter of the voices. Performed 23.02.212 at Worcester University City Campus as part of 5x5x5=Creativity project, supported by Worcestershire County Council

The Oyster and The Adorer

There was a woman who so desired a natural pearl that she asked her husband to keep a huge tank of oysters for her in the hope that one would produce a pearl. Each day she would select a single shell from the tank and open it, throwing away the shell and the creature in disgust. Her husband was sent to war, leaving the woman on her own. She spent her days sitting and watching the tank, carefully choosing her shell for that day. Year, after year, after year. One day, the inevitable letter arrived. Her husband had been gassed in the trenches, buried in the Ypres mud. Mad with grief, the woman climbed into the tank and held herself underwater until there was no life left inside her. It took them months to find her: Half-rotted and with oyster shells clinging to her. They pulled her out and plucked the shells from her body. Each one contained a single pearl, naturally formed from the minerals of her body. You see, pearls form as part of the oyster’s defence mechanism against potentially life threatening damage to its inner flesh. Parasitic animals or physical attack. These are the conditions which are needed to create the jewel.

Tonight we will create pearls.

A Thousand Leaves

I used to have nightmares about wolves when I was a child. This work was created in response to those memories. We wanted  to share those memories with people and ask them to share with us. Then it was their turn to crawl into the darkness, to see what was waiting on the other side.


Menagerie was a piece created over a timeframe of around five days in response to a request to contribute to the Wake Up! festival (a day of art and performance) at the Worcester Arts Workshop on Saturday 29th January 2011. The top floor contains three rooms (two office spaces and a junk room), a hall and a staircase leading up to the floor. The performance made use of the staircase and the junk room and was created in response to an hour spent exploring the room and its contents. The room contained a huge amount of different artefacts, paper, art work, electrical equipment, furniture, mannequins and had been filled to bursting over a number of years. For me it felt like the ‘memory’ of the building, placed on the top floor with no windows. It had a disorganised beauty to it that I associated with the clutter of life experiences and searching through the space, one tried to make sense of much of the objects that were in there. I wanted to know where different objects had come from, why people had abandoned their art work in this space rather than taking it home. This was reminiscent of Jerome Bruner’s assertion that we use narratives to try to understand our lives and for me, for a piece to respond appropriately to this space, it had to be about memory and loss. The limitations of the available space also suggested that, without clearing out the rubbish completely and therefore losing the aesthetic, that we could only accommodate a small number of audience members per ‘show’. For me, the best way to make the performance about memory was to involve the act of remembering and, for this reason, I decided that I wanted the piece to be a shared act of remembering – a conversation between two people, structured within a loose narrative arc. The other aspect of the space was the element of darkness, the lights were some way into the room and so during the initial exploration, one had to trip and climb over boxes, umbrellas and chairs in the pitch black to get to the light switch. This created a sense of uncertainty, of trepidation that I wanted to keep in the piece, obviously whilst making sure it was safe and negotiable by members of the audience. This heightening of the senses through the injection of fear and unknowing is used by companies such as Punchdrunk to put audiences of their guard. There is also evidence to say that perceived threat is understood by individuals in such a way that makes the experience feel more ‘real’ . Hence, once a pathway was cleared through the space, it was lit with the minimum of light possible. To add to this feeling of fear I attached unsettling pictures of creepy looking dolls to various objects, in many ways this wasn’t really in keeping with the piece or the themes in the script however, I felt like it needed that extra obvious prompt to really say – ‘this is a scary place’.

The script made use of a number of techniques. Firstly, it was retro-scripted – the ideas that I felt that I wanted to cover were reduced to a few key questions to prompt the conversation between performer and audience member. The performer set the question and the audience member responded and then the performer responded in kind so hopefully, the initial prompt instigated the sharing of two stories. It would have been easy to simply write the lines for the performer to speak, however, alongside the pressures of the short development period, I also felt like this was cheating the situation – why should the audience member has to respond spontaneously when the performer had a learned reaction? – it seemed to undermine the notion of sharing memories. In the same way I felt that getting the performer to adopt a character undermined the concept of the piece. The set up was always going to feel fictional but I wanted the performance to feel as real as possible again to give the audience member back as much as they were putting in. For this reason I used augmented characterisation to add a few minor details to the performer’s own personalities. In many ways this was simply a matter of context. The questions raised were not the kind that would normally be discussed in every-day life. Also, there was a loose bit of narrative centred around a card trick that predicted the day the audience member was going to die that gave the piece a bit of structure and a climactic point. Again, the performer wouldn’t normally behave in this kind of way so this was attached to the genuine responses from the conversation to heighten the experience.


1 Response to Performance Archive

  1. Pingback: Collective Unconscious – Dark Skies | Neverending Stories

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