performance project based on a text by
Mark C. Hewitt.
with music for string sextet by
Above: image from the
video sequence by Abigail Norris, filmed at Roche Rock,
unnamed protagonist is incarcerated in a dark confined
space conjures a metamorphic escape plan. Projecting
himself into a barren landscape, he searches 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, pep talks addressed to self.
As a work for performance,
is intended to be performed primarily in subterranean
spaces, invoking - in its mythic sense - the Greek notion
or descent into an underworld. Audiences are led down
into the performance area by an otherworldly figure -
The Guide - who also plays a ritualistic role in the
unfolding performance as a sort of mistress of
ceremonies. The live string sextet is as an integral
element in the performance.
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.
Copley's music for string sextet was performed live by the
(Violins: Jonathan Truscott, Craig Stratton / Violas: Elisa
Bergersen, Ellie Blackmore / Cellos: Nick Allen, Rachael
Visual material contributing to this version of the
slide projections of images (originally white pastel on
black paper) by artist
a video sequence by artist
(projected onto a wall during the musical Epilogue, prior
to the final section of text);
a video sequence performed by
of Forkbeard Fantasy, shown on a TV monitor wheeled in by
digital projections of abstracted landcapes (originally in
Projections and technical design were managed by
Additional elements included a ferociously wrought
flipchart, made by the author, which became central to the
action, and the use of dictaphones, megaphones etc.
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')
Yes, ’Scrublands’ was an experience, but, just how welcomed
was it? I was still unsure. 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 of 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 the gentle murmurs of
anticipation and 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.
'They achieved what I believe to be their intentions of the
piece 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
The Bergersen Quartet + 2
"Unusual. Thought provoking.”
“I liked the inventiveness of it. The video projection on
the wall was surprisingly mesmerizing. I found the dialogue
amusing as well as melancholic, and I could relate to a lot
“Liked that the audience were involved a bit. Beautiful
“Excellent! Awakening. Making you think, stop for a moment.
“Dark, dark piece.”
was your crime?"
“Good words: exquisite patina, snout for truffle etc.”
Completely mesmeric, dark but with humour and light.”
“The aesthetics were great and the music excellent.”
atmospheric and completely demented. Loved the music.”
“Location adds nothing to performance. Very poor
“A uniqiue and brilliant experience.”
“Really eerie and dramatic space, wonderful music, images
and text, a new experience for me, but most interesting.”
“Bewildering. Music really captivating. Strong images.”
I’m moved by it.”
“Unusual. Thought provoking.”
“Intense. The sanest sort of madness.”
couldn’t see his eyes and that made him not reach
like the subconscious got a chance at performance – felt
more rewarded than in the West End!”
“Part of me feels it was a vanity project – what
contribution has this made to my understanding / awareness
of incarceration / isolation. Does it matter? Perhaps it’s
purpose was to create uncertainty / feeling of abandonment.
I will ponder this for the rest of the evening.”
“Was I the only person who laughed?”
“A lot of the dialogue drifted through my brain more like
music, had to concentrate to take in the words at first,
but I like this.”
" ... awesome ... funny, moving, totally inspiring."
“Amusing / different / interesting / challenging /
confusing / entertaining / amazing / exhausting.”
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."
Above: Kathryn McGarr as The Guide / Below: the flipchart
Above: three of Tom Walker's
images for scrublands:
ziz / all who come here come here alone / thick industrial
Below: a landscape image by Marco Crivello: 'Morning Mist'.
Available from the artist as a high quality limited edition
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