Corridors, alleyways, stairways. Not the usual arena for a performance. But it is these ‘places in between’ that were brought to life by East London Dance’s ‘Open House’ tour of Stratford Circus. Dance, sound and film were used together, around this new performing arts venue, to convey something of the soul of Stratford, East London.
At times the effect on the audience is intrusive and abrasive: we are led outside, past a group hitting out a harsh rhythm on a metal fence; seconds later, we are jostled aside by people making a swift exit down an alley way; at another moment, we are led on stage, the stage lights come on and the cast applaud us.
Then there is a silence and slowness- we hold our breadth as a couple lunge and lurch across the lighting rigging high above us; there is a precarious moment on the corner of a stairway, when a dancer is lifted from her wheelchair and around the stairway.
It feels like we are experiencing the forgotten people and overlooked histories of this rather disregarded part of east London. But there are grand plans for Stratford’s future and its lowly, industrial heritage might be almost erased. This piece of work tries to create a connection between Stratford past, present and future, before it is lost completely. And under Jo Parkes artistic direction, this is strongly conveyed.
The collaboration of real time and recorded art forms, which involved choreographers Jo Parkes and Kelly Davidson, film maker Anton Califano and musician Graham Jeffery, re-inforces this exploration of history, memory and place. In one part of the ‘tour’ we look down from the gallery of the auditorium on the cast as they tumble over rows of seating, while screens show archive footage of Newham, and we hear recent recorded narratives of people’s experiences of Stratford over the years.
I felt a sense of excitement and expectation as I was led through Stratford Circus. And the process involved in developing this work must have contributed to this. A cast of forty- responding to an open invitation- came together every evening and weekend over two weeks to make something completely new. All sound and film was either made or sourced in this time too. The work was performed several times over just one weekend on 21st and 22nd September.
For those fortunate enough to have experienced this work, moments will return to us- a film still, a line of narrative, a movement- and weave itself into our own personal history of Stratford and Stratford Circus.
<small>[ 10-16-2002, 05:54: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>