10 reflections on TEN by Hetain Patel
1. At the beginning you were thinking about rhythm and why you were working with rhythmists after an early version of the show made with dancers. Now we see that you have not only chosen to work with them because of their ability to perform a rhythm, but also to give voice to their own stories about how they fell into rhythm, why they are there too. This is a really important addition and departure from the original.
2. After the final work-in-progress I asked you the question – What is the value of the autobiography? How are your own stories left open to an audience to access? The post-show discussion seemed to indicate that the work asks universal questions about cultural identity, be it our perceived notions of Indian-ness, Englishn-ess or British-ness. Even in the minds of the performers this area is left largely unresolved.
3. Your performance mode means the piece is becoming more informal. Allowed by a familiarity with the audience or the venue you were able to make a direct connection. Telling them it was ‘interactive’ at the start or asking a member of the audience ‘Do you feel like that too?’ When Dave said, ‘Do you remember Tarzan?’ someone in the audience said ‘Yes I do.’ I wonder if there are more moments where this is possible.
4. There is a moment after you have explained that Indian people can squat because of how they have evolved when Mark squats next to you without any problems. I wonder if you can acknowledge the fact he can do this with a look or a comment or even a pause. This would complement the way you cut him off when he is talking about the toilet and introduce the idea of ‘faking’ facts, asking if squatting is nature or nurture.
5. I am not sure about the shirts and the way they are removed. The turban joke gets a laugh but feels at odds with the mood of the piece. I think you could try taking them off after the Ganku has been set up without mentioning the fact that you are removing them. Maybe even a mention of skin, or getting under the skin of the rhythm, might be enough. Like Candoco saying they wanted to get under the skin of the choreography.
6. You could try thanking Dave and Mark for preparing the Ganku, as you did with walking in the circle and then say something like: ‘You know the reason I asked Dave and Mark to join me was to see if they could help me to get under the skin of Indian rhythm without having Indian skin.’ It might be interesting to try this when you are undressing. I still see the value in watching you slowly unbutton your shirts in silence.
7. This might be a starting point for another conversation about how we wear our cultural identity through clothes or mannerisms or movements. From Bury to Bolton to Barbados. I was struck by what Dave said about Jamaican boys being told they were being aggressive at school when actually it is an exuberance of movement. It might be worth recording your conversation and sampling text from it. It is something to try.
8. I am thinking of the final image of TEN. The red pigment is a very powerful material – we see it explode like fireworks in the light – it grows in the space and on the viewer. I saw red paint on the road the next day and had an instant flashback to the aesthetic. The white shirts, lines and functional objects in the space at the beginning is in stark contrast to the final image of the dot (left behind by the silver tray) on the red floor.
9. That spillage of powder, somewhere between an Andy Goldsworthy piece and action painting, seems to be a strong trace of your visual arts practice. Like your painting the whole page red as a child. It seems to be a visual reference to an artists’ studio as is the masking tape. It is maybe an echo of the process of arriving at the performance. I wondered if there was a way of us walking out of the theatre following your footprints.
10. This is a final reflection which you may want to consider from a contextual point of view or a theoretical perspective. It might crop up in post-show talks. There is a current trend for reading theatre in terms of the ethnographic turn. It is perhaps a sense of artists questioning where they come from and exploring their journeys and I wonder how TEN has in some ways, since you began the process, responded to this.