[theatre of command and response]

"When we see performers making live decisions we get to see them revealed, we get to see them 'truthfully' in some way that is at the very edges and the very heart of theatre." - Tim Etchells

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If there has been any kind of constant in the fifteen or so performance works by rotozaza since 1998, it has been to play with the business of giving and taking orders. In retrospect, there have been many different ways this playfulness has occured; the TOCAR project is exploring them through different strategies and works.

This page gives some examples of where the ideas are coming from, and where they're going next.

It all really began with
[BLOKE] , (1999 - 2001), a collaboration with the musician and composer SAM BRITTON (from ICARUS),

The piece was born from a wish to see someone perform who had never been on stage - a friend and artist from Paris called Henri Taïb (below Theatre de l'Echangeur, Paris, Nov 1999).

We wanted to create a situation for him where the responsibilty to perform was lifted from his shoulders **, where we could say to him "it will work perfectly if you simply do what we say". So we wrote a text of imperitives, a list of orders which would lead Henri and whoever watching him along and through something resembling a story.

** but what does that mean to take away the responsibility to "perform"? When we say "responsibility", we're implying that in the theatre it's someone's JOB to entertain an audience. So if we say to an audience that tonight it's not the job of the person on stage, because he hasn't got a clue as to what he'll be doing, then that responsibility is shifted elsewhere. We look around wondering who's in charge. This kind of tension in the room fuels whatever happens.

<< left, Phillippe Delaunay in the latest [BLOKE] back at the Echangeur exactly 2 years later. For this production Chris Singer installed a wall of 80 fluorescent tubes which flickered in perfect synchronicity with the voice giving orders.

The voice giving the orders, which is prerecorded and comes over the speakers, is heard by the audience and the performer at the same time. So, as an audience, for every instruction we're aware that mentally we're doing the same job as the BLOKE: thinking of how to respond and carry it out. As well as this there's the attempt to project the implications of a command further into the future and past; we "wonder" about what might happen, and form a standpoint from what's happened already.

To do either is difficult in [BLOKE] because the motivation of the voice giving orders is kept deliberately ambiguous. Instructions keep us on edge, and range from the banal - "blow your nose" - to practical - "tell us what you have in your inside left jacket pocket" - ,personal - "point to the most beautiful thing you can see in this room, now. It's not necessarily a person. Take your time" - to the incomprehensible "tell us what's in your suitcase. Don't look", where often the command implies a guess is the only way forward. Sometimes they're a mixture, eg personal / practical, "Cry. [long pause] Use the bottle of eyedrops if you like." Occasionally we forget it's an order at all, eg - "Don't worry".

The idea was always to have the orders he was to follow PRE-RECORDED . In this way, the structure - utterly rigid and "closed" - would clearly foreground the very human, "open" process of negotiating and carrying out these instructions. Sam Britton's exquisite sound work, however, gives a clarity and presence to Gad Sabba's soft, ambivalent voice and it's only when a command is repeated, with exactly the same intonation, that one realises it's a recording.

In a later version he's asked at a certain point to put on a pair of RADIO HEADPHONES. From this point on [about halfway in] we don't hear what he's being told to do, we only see the result. However, the orders being given to him are projected in text form above him. This sets up a very illustrative process; it seems further away and easier to watch than before, and the atmosphere gradually becomes more removed and dream-like [above, scroll right>>]... until we realise the projected text is starting to LIE about what he's being told to do. We're faced with having to reject the offer of being "taken away" as we wonder even more about what he's really being told to do.

The first TOCAR project, ROMCOM, is a collaboration with writer GLEN NEATH, and explores the possiblities of using headphones in this way.

> ROMCOM, page 2

After [BLOKE] came three "rehearsed" theatre pieces, [NEXT], [GRACE] and [HARPOON], all in some way playing with this dynamic of someone telling another what to do. [click to go to individual sites].

For more pictures of [BLOKE] click here

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