Official website for Mark C. Hewitt & Blank Productions

Blank Productions

Text by Mark C. Hewitt
Music by Peter Copley
Images by Tom Walker
Video sequence by Abigail Norris

A subterranean site-specific live literature performance with live music for string sextet.

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

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.

The production - Brighton Fringe Festival 2012
Scrublands was presented over three evenings at the Old Police Cells Museum beneath Brighton Town Hall as part of Brighton Fringe Festival 2012. We wanted to invoke the Greek notion of 'katabasis', or ritual descent into an underworld. Audiences were led down into the performance area by an otherworldly figure - The Guide - played by Kathryn McGarr. The work featured live music for string sextet by composer Peter Copley performed by the Bergersen Quartet (+ 2). The text was performed by Mark C. Hewitt with directorial support from Jeremy Stockwell. The production included slide projections (white pastel on black paper) by Tom Walker and video sequences by Abigail Norris and Tim Britton (of Forkbeard Fantasy). Projections and technical design were by Simon Sandys. Additional elements included a fiercely wrought flipchart and the use of dictaphones, megaphones and other retro devices.

SCRUB Protagonist & Guide
The Protagonist & The Guide. Photo © Simon Sandys 2012

Photo © François Norris, 2012

SCRUB The Guide


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

SCRUB musicians
Violins Jonathan Truscott, Craig Stratton; Violas: Elisa Bergersen, Ellie Blackmore; Cellos: Nick Allen, Rachael Firmager

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.”

Below: the flipchart

SCRUB flipchart 1SCRUB flipchart 2
SCRUB flipchart 3
Above: one of artist Tom Walker's images for Scrublands (white pastel on black paper)