MCH | BLANK

Official website for Mark C. Hewitt & Blank Productions

scrublands
Blank Productions
2012

Interdisciplinary performance project developed from a text by Mark C. Hewitt.
with music for string sextet by
Peter Copley

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Above: image from the video sequence by Abigail Norris, filmed at Roche Rock, Cornwall

Scenario

An unnamed protagonist incarcerated in a dark confined space conjures a metamorphic escape plan. Projecting himself into a barren landscape, he becomes a creature of his own imagination searching for a way out. Moving from the claustrophobic to the fantastical, the 26 movements that make up the narrative represent critical moments in this journey: small epiphanies, meditations, visions, panic attacks and pep talks addressed to self.

scrublands is intended to be performed site-specifically in subterranean spaces, invoking the Greek notion of katabasis, or descent into an underworld. Audiences are led down into the performance area by an otherworldly figure - The Guide - who plays a ritualistic role in the unfolding performance, a sort of mistress of ceremonies. The work is accompanied by live music for string sextet.

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The production

scrublands was previewed over three evenings at the Old Police Cells Museum beneath Brighton Town Hall as part of Brighton Fringe Festival 2012.

The role of The Protagonist was played by Mark C. Hewitt. The Guide was Kathryn McGarr.
The performance consultant was Jeremy Stockwell.

Peter Copley's music for string sextet was performed live by the Bergersen Quartet (+2).
(Violins: Jonathan Truscott, Craig Stratton / Violas: Elisa Bergersen, Ellie Blackmore / Cellos: Nick Allen, Rachael Firmager)

Visual material contributing to this version of the production included:
• slide projections of images (originally white pastel on black paper) by artist
Tom Walker;
• a video sequence by artist
Abigail Norris (projected onto a wall during the musical Epilogue, prior to the final section of text);
• a video sequence performed by
Tim Britton of Forkbeard Fantasy, shown on a TV monitor wheeled in by The Guide;
• digital projections of abstracted landcapes (originally in oil) by
Marco Crivello.

Projections and technical design were managed by
Simon Sandys.

Additional elements included a fiercely wrought flipchart, which became central to the action, and the use of dictaphones, megaphones and other retro devices.

Photo gallery »

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Reviews

Guide2Brighton
"I
enjoyed the mysterious and bizarre nature of Scrublands (but I do like weird stuff). I think it may have been about alienation or possibly the tale of a soul trapped in Limbo. Another audience member thought it was about madness.
... You cannot say that you have fully experienced the Brighton Fringe until you have seen at least one peculiar performance in a cellar and been vaguely intimidated by the actors ... It’s all part of the fun to stagger out of such events, blinking in the light, asking yourself; “What was all that about?!”
... That may be flippant and a little unfair on Scrublands. As I say, I enjoyed it and the work has stayed with me and grown on me. It was raw, evocative and poignant. It may even have been profound.
"
-
Elizabeth Hughes ('Descent into the underworld')

Fringe Review
"Scrublands was an experience, but just how welcomed was it? ... It would take me a few hours of thinking it over once home before I could really put my thoughts down.
I was starting to feel increasingly unsure about the idea of descending the stairways to an uncertain (but of course, dark) space. As we waited to be lead down stairs by our guide, I opened the small envelope given to me at the door to take my mind off the impending anxiety and claustrophobic feelings heading my way. We were led down the winding steps to a dark performance space by our female guide, Kathryn Mcgarr. Audience members shuffled in and (like me) anxiously looked around as the female guide closed the door behind. Amongst gentle murmurs of anticipation, as our eyes adjusted to the darkness, a short figure was revealed (to those who could see) loitering in the shadows. A beautiful yet surprising string section began to play the very filmic soundscore which was now resonating around the whole space. Now trapped the audience (uncomfortably) settled in to what was to be the beginning of a long and (sometimes) enjoyable ninety minute monologue.
What was welcomed about it then? The fact as part of the audience you were aware that you were, whether you liked it or not, part of this performance. At the same time you were invited in as an individual to immerse yourself in the intentions of the piece. The themes buried in the words' entrapment, growing frustrations, a longing to get out ... resonated throughout the piece. ... They achieved what I believe to be their intentions ... with a strong coherent use of aesthetics, the risk taken by the use of such heavy language and the beautifully composed soundscore by the Bergersen Quartet and a very talented Peter Copley."
-
Richard Staplehurst, Brighton Fringe Review

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Above: The Bergersen Quartet + 2

Audience feedback

• “I liked the inventiveness of it. What a perfect location, so appropriate, with those fireplaces, and the ability of the audience to move about. … I found the dialogue amusing as well as melancholic, and I could relate to a lot of it.”
• “Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed 'scrublands'. Its interesting how much I've thought about it since - a really thought provoking and creative piece of work ...”
• “Very evocative world created … an atmospheric, intimate setting for words and music.”
• “Liked that the audience were involved a bit. Beautiful music.”
• “Excellent! Awakening. Making you think, stop for a moment. Beautiful music.”
• “Very atmospheric and completely demented. Loved the music.”
• “Location adds nothing to performance. Very poor experience.”
• “A uniqiue and brilliant experience.”
• “Wonderful experience.”
• “Unusual. Thought provoking.”
• “Brilliant. Completely mesmeric, dark but with humour and light. … A great achievement.”
• "Really eerie and dramatic space, wonderful music, images and text, a new experience for me, but most interesting.”
• “Bewildering. Music really captivating. Strong images.”
• “Inspired. I’m moved by it.”
• “Intense. The sanest sort of madness.”
• “Amusing / different / interesting / challenging / confusing / entertaining / amazing / exhausting.”
• “... shook up all expectations of theatre/poetry/performance in a very Dadaist way, which was truly refreshing and just what theatre should be about and too often is not.”
• " ... awesome ... funny, moving, totally inspiring."
• "Wonderful stream of consciousness. Surreal. Hyper-real, multi-sensory experience. I liked the sense of letting go sense to relinquish the need to ‘understand’ and ‘analyse’. It was so totally different.”

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Above: Kathryn McGarr as The Guide
Below: the flipchart

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Above: two of Tom Walker's images for scrublands: 'thick industrial gloves' / 'ziz'
Below: a landscape image by Marco Crivello: 'Morning Mist'. Available from the artist as a high quality limited edition print.

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Discarded text revision, 2009

scrublands was drafted in pencil and rubber in a large artist's sketchbook. Some of the discards from these intensively worked pages, bearing the marks of multiple drafts and erasures, were exhibited as part of a group exhibition during Eastbourne Festval 2009, curated by Cat Ingrams.