Headlands – The HAL Company

Artist report from Chris Campbell, Deputy Literary Manager The National Theatre

I saw Danusia’s work in progress in Cambridge last month and thought it full of promise. The piece is attempting to render aspects of consciousness through a theatrical medium rather than necessarily tell a story. You could say that this places the work in a more “European” tradition but that would tend to imply a certain humourlessness which is certainly not the case here.

Some of the strands of the work are already satisfyingly fleshed out while others are clearly at an earlier stage of conception. It was clear that the work which the company had been able to do together had been fruitful and suggestive; in fact, there was a palpable sense of frustration that the process couldn’t be immediately extended.

There’s a surprising emotional range to the work – the mind of the troubled former soldier provided sombre and upsetting material while the couple separately planning their first date gave rise to a sort of emotional slapstick. And of course, the fantastically concrete metaphor of the wall being constructed from sandwiches and sandwich boxes around the mother was received with rapturous recognition by a wonderfully engaged audience.

It’s clear to me that there’s great potential here and, what’s more, that great progress has already been made in a comparatively short time. I think further development support would be amply repaid.

Christopher Campbell
Deputy Literary Manager
National Theatre

Artist’s report by Ivan Cutting Director Eastern Angles Theatre

The flyer announced that the show was a work-in-progress and an attempt to explore the brain. It featured sound, video, lighting and seven performers. The presentation was highly accomplished with time clearly spent on performance, learning lines, dance, live music and direction to make a credible 50 minute performance piece. I have seen much worse performances presented as finished works.

It was deliberately impressionistic, intending to explore the way our brain works in holding alternative visions of the motivations, impressions, and interpretations of moments in our lives, particularly that of asking someone out for a date. This gave the piece a focus, around which it orchestrated a chronological sense of life developing and receding. The company was mixed race, gender and age which gave it a non-specific feel and could allow anyone into the show. It was well-received by its audience which included a significant number of young students.

I enjoyed the piece and the company. I like all that multi-media stuff which helps to thicken the gravy, so to speak, especially the live sax and live camera action. It was impeccably performed for that kind of thrown together experiment project.

My only suggestions for a next stage, which seems highly appropriate, would be: more focus on the way the brain itself is different from the senses, how the science of the brain contributes to our knowledge of this; and less emphasis on the chronology – even though this gave it some structure – the sense of knowing we were into the life pattern gave it a sense of inevitability, whereas all the do I, don’t I subconscious stuff gave a questioning and ultimately dramatic sense of where was the date going to go? I wanted more of the latter.

Ultimately it seemed a well-conceived project that kicked over the distinctions between performance piece and play and attempted something different. It would generate significant discussion around the subject it is depicting. It would have been interesting to hear a neuroscientist’s response!

Ivan Cutting
Artistic Director
Eastern Angles Theatre Company


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