Reflection: 'In Light of Those You Love' pt.1
Sitting in bed, the night after we premiered 'In Light of Those You Love' and I can't sleep. Months and months of hard work, planning, blood, sweat and tears and it's over in what feels like 20 seconds. I think back to our first rehearsal, a time when we didn't even know what we have now achieved could be possible, no idea that we were going to perform in some amazing locations, create our own company and perform our own full length production in the most amazing setting. This is something I only ever dreamed of. In that first rehearsal, Hannah and I were really just messing around; trying wacky ideas to Lana Del Rey's 'Once Upon A Dream'. The music that started it all. It enabled us to abandon ourselves and become these creatures that behaved in a certain unpleasant way, beings that crippled at any sign of affection. We made about 3 minutes of material that Saturday, which we filmed. I remember looking back on the footage with Hannah and saying 'maybe we are on to something here.' At the time we didn't know it, but this was the beginning of Retrospect Dance Theatre.
This material was used in the final version but to different music. In a choreographic process it's important to understand that the music you love and inspires you the most is not necessarily the right music for the final piece; especially when you're dealing with specific issues like era. 'In Light of Those You Love' is set in 1950's and this track simply doesn't fit the era or narrative; from the first creation rehearsal the idea developed drastically. Our original idea was playing with Greek mythology: ideas of The Fates (the three sisters who control the individual fate of a human being by cutting their life line with gigantic scissors) also Medusa came to mind (and her specific characteristics) ... anyway we eventually came to the conclusion that something about these characters were not exactly human and we found - how many ways can you cause someone pain? - an interesting concept. Here themes of hell came into play with ideas of intense suffering and the thought process of - if someone is already dead/at their lowest is there a way to make that person feel even worse? This thought definitely remained prominent in the following creation process.
From the very first rehearsal and considering all of the above influences, we decided that we wanted to show a relationship that was originally built on love but as time goes on, that love deteriorates leaving the individuals with hate, which develops into madness. We also decided that it was important to show that neither one was worse than the other; classic stories of abusive relationships are where one sex is more dominate in the couple, stereotypically men, but their are also cases of women. I am not saying that this stereotype should not be addressed, as there are still cases where people are stuck in horrendously abusive situations and don't have the opportunity or outlet to say anything because they are worried about what they will lose. We just wanted to explore a situation where neither person was inferior, and therefore both are comforted by the others hate. Originally Hannah's character was more mentally abusive than my character which was classed as the physical abuser of the relationship (again a stereotypical view on the difference of men and women by how the sex's are portrayed in society). We decided this was wrong, women can be as physical as men and men can be just as manipulative as women. Especially now in the twenty-first century when the inequality levels are much lower, myself and Hannah believe that everyone, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, should be treated equally.
On reflection, here we encountered a problem by deciding to set the piece in the 50's, because historically women were seen as inferior to men, so we had to create a story where we could still be true to the era but add a twist where inequality between the sexes was minimal. Our story focuses on the time after Katherine (Hannah's character) commits suicide after 'being done' with the disgusting acts of violence from her husband Tom (Christopher's character). Her decision to take her own life is to cause Tom the same amount of mental pain he caused her physically,
as Katherine knows he would have to live with the guilt of killing his own wife for the rest of his life (he was the reason she made that decision). This inevitably drives him insane. Katherine causes more damage than just blowing his brains out or driving a knife into his throat, because he has to live with her blood on his hands. This narrative enabled us to play with dominance in the relationship, due to setting the piece a number of years after the suicide and making Katherine a construct in Tom's mind (this is not made evident to the audience until the last cinematic film in the piece). This constructed version of her is all the things he hated about her, how he felt when he was around her, and all the things she did which angered him - this paints a pretty horrible picture for the audience. Both characters are simply vile.
The text came about in one of the very first rehearsals, both Hannah and I are very interested in film and literature. The first text we started with was inspired by the fight between Frank and April Wheeler, the two main characters, from the novel and film, Revolutionary Road (Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio) written by Richard Yates and directed by Sam Mendes. Firstly these are two very talented actors who captivate you with every line, so watching them deliver text alone was a lesson for us - but also the way the dialogue was written. This particular writing had come directly from the book, Yates is a master and in my eyes one of the greatest stars of twentieth century American literature. We started by dissecting the original text and watching this particular scene over and over again, at this very early stage in the process this informed our characters greatly. At this point Hannah and I were only creating a 10 minute version for the Rambert School choreographic show (despite our endeavour to keep to the time constraint of 10 minutes, the piece naturally finished at 13 minutes and 14 seconds). The spoken word section became half of the piece, which started with us just delivering lines and slowly movement was integrated. Different from how the piece started (the first rehearsal), we decided to show a story of two very human beings with extreme personalities and amplified emotions - abandoning the ideas of mythology.
The original 12 minute version is spilt into three sections:
1. The spoken word
2. The couples fantasies played out in private
3. Conforming to society
In this final section, the idea here was to show that everyone has secrets and personal lives kept away from the public eye are personal to the individual/s. By just standing at a tube station you have no idea who or what the person standing next to you, who appears normal (whatever that is...) is really like, they could have a criminal record or a massive foot fetish, or both of those things for all you know. We just wanted to show a relationship, like many others, where the people involved don't feel that they can act how they do in private in public, as it would be seen as wrong or different. The couple play on the fact that they have been broken by society. Below is the second section of text - originally written by Hannah and I .
H: The truth is we just needed something different.
C: We're not getting any younger and we don't want life to just pass us by.
H: We're living lives of un-realistic people, people who don't dare to dream of give in.
C: It's like our whole existence here is built on the great premise that we're special and somewhat superior to the trouble...
H:...but we're not, we're just like everyone else. Look at us, we've bought into the same ridiculous delusion that we should all reside from life and be the same.
C: I mean, it looks like we hate each other, that we punish each other all the time, but we don't hate each other, we're just fed up of this superficial way we're living,
H: I wouldn't really call it living.
C: No, it's more like hiding...