Official website for Mark C. Hewitt / Blank Productions

Blank Productions

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

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


An 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,
scrublands is intended to be performed primarily in subterranean spaces, invoking - in its mythic sense - 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 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.

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 excellent 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 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')

Fringe Review
"... 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

Above: The Bergersen Quartet + 2

Audience feedback

"Unusual. Thought provoking.”
"What was your crime?"
“Brilliant. Completely mesmeric, dark but with humour and light.”
“The aesthetics were great and the music excellent.”
“Very atmospheric and completely demented. Loved the music.”
“Location adds nothing to performance. Very poor experience.”
“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.”
“Inspired. I’m moved by it.”
“Intense. The sanest sort of madness.”
“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.”
“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.”
“Amusing / different / interesting / challenging / confusing / entertaining / amazing / exhausting.”

Above: Kathryn McGarr as The Guide

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

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.