Official website for Mark C. Hewitt & Blank Productions

Expiry tbc

Music by Peter Copley
Text by Mark C. Hewitt
Lighting design by Kristina Hjelm


Text and concept

Expiry tbc
is a collaborative performance work set in the immediate hereafter. The piece explores ideas of memory, mortality, the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves and the assumptions we make in shaping these narratives.

The work revolves around the architectural framework of four movements for looped cello, each interspersed with a passage of text. Some of the text is live, some recorded. Each section of performed text has an encounter with a ‘soliloquy’ for solo cello. Sometimes the voices and the cello are at odds or competing; at other times more tolerant of each other.

The work as it was originally produced - despite emanating from a musical start point - was strongly visual. Kristina Hjelm’s subtle lighting design used gauze to create a rich backdrop to the music sequences, at other times revealing a ‘chamber’ in which the narrator variously sits, speaks and moves.

In the first section the narrator, sat in a chair in a 'double-doored' room facing a carved head of Janus, tries to come to terms with the predicament of his separation from the life he has known, as well as trying to recall how he got there.

In the second section the protagonist recounts a series of images from memory. These in turn fuse with the other memories of other voices in other tongues, evoking a sense of complex, infinite multiplicity.

In the third section the protagonist realises there is no further use looking back, it is time to move on. This section also features a sequence of found voices articulating ideas and research about the ‘extended moment’ of death.

Composer’s note: "The work arose out of previous collaborations with Mark Hewitt. These usually included large numbers of performers and the text would always generate the music. For this collaboration we decided to write something that would require just two performers and also that the music would generate the text, rather than the other way round. The music was composed for solo cello and is divided into seven sections. The longer ones (1, 3, 5, 7) are called ‘loops’ and incorporate pre-recorded repeating patterns for three cellos. Above these, the live cellist plays a free line that develops material from the pre-recorded material. The overall effect is that of a quartet of cellists. The shorter movements (2, 4 and 6) are for solo cello and are called ‘soliloquies’. These are more improvisatory in character and are designed to be played at the same time as spoken or recorded text. My original idea was that the pre-recorded ‘loops’ should represent ‘hard wired’ personality traits from which the individual (the ‘live’ cellist) is unable to escape." (Peter Copley, 2013)

Loop 1 (pre-recorded sequence) »

Performances 2013
Work-in-progress performance: Weds 17 April, Birley Centre, Eastbourne, as part of Eastboune Festival
Previews: Mon 27 / Tues 28 May: Nightingale Theatre, Brighton, as part of Brighton Fringe Festival
Tues 17 September: All Saints Centre, Lewes, hosted by Lewes Live Literature

Audience feedback

‘The music and lighting perfectly captured the dread and uncertainty experienced by the protagonist. I was mesmerised by the power and intricacy of the cello music and having the cellist performing live really added to the whole experience. ... intimate and thoroughly memorable ...’

‘The soundscape of ‘Expiry tbc’ was cumulative and effective on my subconscious - the layered cello music, recordings of voices, Mark Hewitt's voice, all combined to surround and bathe the mind. I felt transported into a shared reservoir of powerful memory. The images were personal, subjective, but universal. It seemed to deal harshly with sentimentality whilst holding onto the accretions of nostalgic thought-forms for a lifeline.’

‘We really enjoyed ‘Expiry tbc'. It felt innovative and intriguing - loved the way the music, words and lighting combined to express the bewilderment of the speaker and the strangeness of the situation. The single cello with its multitrack looped backing seemed to represent a Greek chorus reflecting on the 'action' and there were real moments of poignancy for me, such as the photos/overhead projector sequence, that stayed in my mind long afterwards.’

Below: video stills from one of the performances at Nightingale Theatre, Brighton, May 2013.

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