Every year since 2002 – apart from the lockdown years – In Situ has offered a residential workshop in site-specific theatre.
The format is that the group – facilitated by artistic director Bella Stewart – spends a whole week in an inspiring location, devising pieces of experimental ‘Theatre’ inspired by the surrounding ‘Landscape’. These are some of the participants’ thoughts and feelings about the work.
What is Theatre and Landscape?
We go to fascinating places where we enjoy good food, good company, and doing what we love. We explore the environment in a way that centres around a theme, with visits to sites that are linked by this theme. We use the landscape as a backdrop but also as an inspiration, devising, improvising and presenting stimulating art, text, installations, movement and theatre.
We learn a huge amount yet it never feels like learning; we create, collaborate, make friends, have fun. That said, it’s hard work, intense. Intensely rewarding.
Where does Theatre and Landscape happen?
We’ve based our work around visits to a bird sanctuary, an Iron Age fort, a priory, a religious shrine, the seaside, woods, beaches, a huge Elizabethan manor, an abandoned village, a Stone Age tomb and a 15th-century house single-handedly dis-assembled then reassembled in a new location.
We’ve stayed in beautiful locations in Llandudno. Devon. Cornwall. Dorset. Northumbria. Dartmoor, North Yorkshire. the Isle of Purbeck, Whitby, Galloway, Norfolk, Tintagel and Brittany. This year it’s Dorset!
What do you actually do?
We visit the various locations… sometimes hear a talk from a museum keeper or a warden about the place we are visiting… sometimes explore alone to write and draw as we gain inspiration… devise solos and group work… create artwork and installations… develop movement and voice pieces… make decisions about location, structure, tone… then show our work to each other. (We don’t have any outside audience – the workshops are time for exploration and experimentation without the demands of performance.)
What are the challenges?
Every day is a new challenge of creating from what we have collected, often in answer to questions given by Bella, such as “What is hidden?What is missing? What textures do you feel? What rhythms do you see?” Then there’s the added challenge of working together, devising and improvising, collaborating to produce something new from everyone’s individual ideas.
What are your best memories?
Performing in a ruined chapel on a windy headland… exploring an abandoned village… playing ‘call and respond’ in the woods… wearing cow masks while performing on a beach in the rain… mimicking strobe lights by getting everyone ’to blink in unison…. sitting on the edge of a bathtub looking out, as if we were ghosts. Very spooky! Very spooky!
Why should people attend a Theatre and Landscape course?
To: spend a week with funny, eager, creative people in lovely houses with good food… discover new places immersed in their past and present… try something new… have fun… tap into practical creativity… look at the world as an artist does… work and bond with like-minded people… learn the skills of performing… come away feeling renewed and refreshed. The evening parties aren’t bad, either!
Theatre and Landscape brings a new perspective to your life. The world starts to look different. And you start to look differently at the world.
These were the (lightly edited) words of: Katrina Nuttall, Maxine Fay, Mike Fay, Rachel Thilwind, Radar, Silvano Squizzato, Steve Adams
The 2024 Theatre and Landscape course is in Dorset from Friday August 30 to Friday 6 September, and the cost of £700 covers all accommodation, food, drink, tuition and materials. The price does not include travel but it’s often possible to share transport.
The workshop is open to everyone, and you don’t need to have previously studied art or theatre. Simply bring your enthusiasm and energy!