Inside the Platform Young Company: TEXT ACTION MOVE

23 May 2020

Isabel Dickens is an artist currently working with the Platform Young Company, our performance group for anyone aged 16 - 25 years. As part of her work with the group Issy will be posting regular updates of what goes on during meetings, rehearsals and workshops:

In today’s session, we checked in and then got on with a few improvisations. For the first ‘warm-up’ the members went and found 15 objects in their house in 2 minutes that they thought other people would be likely to have. These objects were kept readily available but off-screen. Once the performance started Gudrun played some very sedate and relaxing elevator type music and one at a time, in order, a member would lift an object of their choice and perform a pedestrian action with it for the camera. For example, they could lift a mobile phone and put it to their ear. Everyone else had to then lift an object they had which was either the same or similar and perform an action with it. After trying this out a few times Gudrun asked the members to perform actions which were intimate with the objects, non-sexual actions which denoted closeness or emotional connection with the objects. One of my favourite images from this was seeing Jennifer embrace a tiny drum. There is something really entertaining in exploring what people are doing when they are trying to be the same as one another and to create one attitude and posture on the screen, even in the face of its impossibility. It reminds me of social situations in real life.

After this, we had planned an exercise where Gudrun took the prompt TEXT, Eoin the prompt ACTION and I had taken the prompt MOVE and we used the chat box function to send instructions to the members of the group, either as a private message or as an instruction for everyone to perform and to build a kind of constant improvisation via this. The result as you would expect was chaotic but fun.

The kinds of instructions that got sent varied massively from choosing a character in the nativity and portraying them on screen, to reading text about trying to start a meeting, asking who is there, pretending to be a cowboy, trying to show distance within the zoom chat, taking us on a tour of a well-trodden path in their house. People could also switch their cameras on and off so there were different people on the screen at a time. The number of instructions was probably a lot and there was zero coordination between Eoin, Gudrun and I so it was hard to follow exactly what happened, although certain moments stood out, I was watching at one point when suddenly it felt a religious theme had emerged and John was wearing a halo, Ezinne was holding a cuddly toy as if it was a baby and this moment just appeared and just as quickly disappeared leaving me questioning had everyone known to be religious figures or had they responded to each other? There was also some great cowboy talk from John and Sean a lot of incredibly committed performances from the members in spite of the confusion you would have expected.

Afterwards, we had a chat about the improvisation. People seemed exhilarated by it and said that they’d been able to feel some of the excitement of a performance because of the unrehearsed nature of receiving instructions like that. It felt like it would be really nice to explore this technique again as a form of live performance making online if it could be framed or choreographed slightly more to allow all the elements their own space. Sometimes people were given instructions to interact with each other or copy each other and the feedback from this was that they didn’t know what the other person’s instructions were which made all the performers seem to be stuck in their own window or world rather than performing a collective action or feeling they were doing the same thing.

I also enjoyed having the chance to give out some random instructions although it’s very weird having that experience of thinking of one and then seeing how people interpret it and use it in the context of the on-going improvisation.

If you would like to know more about Platform Young Company please contact info@platform-online.co.uk

Platform Young Company


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