THE CLEANSING OF CONSTANCE BROWN presented by STAN'S CAFE
@ A E Harris, 1st - 19th March, 18.30 & 20.30 (running time 70min)
(no perfs. Sundays or Mondays)
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A man has been sent on a mission across Europe by a mysterious organisation.
Something very bad has happened, but a crumbling memory refuses to let him recall things clearly.
The mysterious Mr. Nowicki, a sister he misses, a woman - the chemist - his lover, a hotel he's sure he's already checked into, a plane he's destined never to catch, a briefing room where he's made to rehearse small talk, a doctor who sells a dangerous kind of health insurance, a necklace glinting in the moonlight. Scenes and characters dissolve into each other back and forth through time.
Be Proud Of Me is a dark thriller experienced through the warped and shifting perspective of a flailing mind.
Be Proud Of Me was commissioned by Kunstlerhaus MOUSONTURM as part of the plateaux scheme - a platform for young international directors.
As part of the commissioning process we gave plateaux a series of possible starting points for the show. These were very early thoughts, ideas to give them a flavour of what the show could be ...
Two performers arrive, each with a carousel of 80 slides to tell their story. These slides show physical locations, psychological states, thoughts, dreams, atmospheres, frozen moments of action and narrative details. The stories run in parallel, sometimes they entwine, often they contrast each other.
There's a human bomb adrift in continental Europe. Anti-everything, impotent and furious, he's radicalised for destruction. A special agent psychologist is sent chasing across Europe to catch and defuse him before he finds a cause to cling to and a focus for his rage. He is out to destroy the world, she is set to save him and it.
Most action takes place within a rectangular metal framework 3660 mm x 2300 mm x 2300 mm with mini spotlights bolted to it. The back wall is a projection screen behind which are placed two 35mm slide projectors linked so images fade between them.
The characters attempt to articulate all their complicated emotions and negotiations using the stunted vocabulary of tourist phrase books: German, French, Portuguese, Dutch, Lithuanian, Estonian, Italian, Czech, Croatian and Serbian.
Time and Space
Throughout, the show clicks back and forth through time utilising spaces inside and outside the cell to unfold a non-linear, non-rational poetic tale.
When we began devising the show these became our starting points in the rehearsal room, but they didn't all stay the course of the process. Be Proud Of Me proved to be quite a difficult and slippery show to make - there were some directions that it wouldn't allow us to go in and others that it offered that we had not thought of before. When we began devising we had to try to make the ideas that had got us the commission work. We had to find ways as performers of interacting with the slides and to learn what the vocabulary of the slides was (when the images worked and when they didn't). At some points it felt like making an animation - every decision we made had ramifications for the slide order and so each time we made a change all the slides had to change. We had to find ways of using the language of the phrase books (it was easy to find a comic use but this didn't seem to fit the rest of the show). As the process went on we found that they were a useful way of showing the character's sense of confusion and isolation and provided an interesting contrast to other more intimate and natural scenes. And we had this possible story, set sometime in the not too distant future, of a potential terrorist on the loose in Europe trailed by a special agent psychologist. We wrestled with this a lot - leaving it, coming back to it; liking it, hating it.
We were lucky to have the opportunity to be able to try out a version of the show at mac in the September before the show opened in Frankfurt at the end of October. We had a short version of a possible show - we had found different ways of using the slides, we had a set (the metal framework which had been described in the commission pitch) and we had a possible story, in which the futuristic psychologist was able to plant herself into the memory of the dying terrorist figure, in an attempt to discover what had happened to him. This work in progress showing was well received and we learnt a lot from it. We learnt that we didn't like the set and so that went; we learnt that the slides worked well when they weren't just backdrops to action but rather suggested slippages of time or memory and we learnt that we didn't really like the story.
So when we began devising again the story kept changing as we moved on. It has now settled on something like the one outlined on the previous page, but if you see the show you might not agree with that interpretation. In some ways we think that the story in Be Proud Of Me is perhaps less important than its telling.
In all the show took around six weeks to make. We started using two slide projectors, a few slides and a pile of phrasebooks. The slides wanted the show to be about broken memory, time slips and false perspective and the phrase books gave us a language and settings.
Devised by: Amanda Hadingue, Craig Stephens, James Yarker
Slides by: Ed Dimsdale (and Stan's Cafe)
Music by: Nina West
Lights by: Paul Arvidson
Performed by: Amanda Hadingue or Heather Burton
Advisory Producer: Nick Sweeting
An early version of this show was performed at mac in September 2003.
Be Proud Of Me was commissioned by Mousonturm, Frankfurt.
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DVDs and scripts of Be Proud Of Me are available to purchase.
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