‘Star Trek has been subject to a lot of scrutiny by literary and cultural critics … The bad conscience that many have about serious discussion of popular culture means that Star Trek can still be read simplistically, as a stalking-horse for denouncing the modernity of the American century. The Barretts are more subtle. A television series is a product of a variety of creators and so, inevitably, a rich complex of signs, hints and idealisms. There is no final reading of Star Trek, just an endless journey.’
– Book of the Day, The Independent
Karl Marx: Greatness and Illusion by Professor Gareth Stedman Jones
Tuesday 4 October from 6.30pm – ArtsTwo Lecture Theatre, QMUL Mile End Campus
Our friends in the School of History are hosting a book launch with their tutor Professor Stedman Jones’ (author of this new Marx biography) joining Dr Tristram Hunt MP (author of a recent biography of Friedrich Engels) to debate around the issues raised in the book.
Urban Music and Entrepreneurship: Beats, Rhymes and Young People’s Enterprise by Joy White
We caught up with George Oliver Readshaw to talk about creating the show and the build up to the festival thus far…
If you’re not up at the fringe be sure to reserve a ticket for the preview happening on Friday 5 August at 7pm.
Tell us about Monkhousethe show you’re taking up to the Edinburgh Fringe for 2016? What will an audience experience?
Monkhouse is a one-room-whodunnit-thriller-black-comedy-1960s-period-piece-theatrical-slap-in-the-face. It follows six horrible cockney kids hiding from an unknown gunman in their school gym.
While writing the script and compiling ideas it was incredibly important to me that this was a one hour show squeezed into 45 minutes. Our slot at the Edinburgh Fringe is exactly one hour, and they are very strict, so that includes getting the audience (hopefully in their thousands) seated, getting all the props and set ready after the previous show, and then vice versa. So really we have 45 minutes tops to get a show done. That’s not very long. So it’s vital that the audience can laugh, cry and generally live every moment as much as they can and as quickly as they can. So an audience can expect a super-charged, high tempo assault on their senses. That said, I’m a big fan of the theatrical ‘pause’, so we’ve made time for a few of those too.
What’s been the biggest thing you’ve learned so far in preparing for the Edinburgh fringe?
Research. DO YOUR RESEARCH. Be it promotional material, costume design, voice, lexicon, where one wears one’s trousers, the past is a different country and details are vital. We’ve played fast and loose with a couple of things, but we are really trying to create an authentic 1960s London aesthetic. The world of the play has to be compelling and true as well as sexy and cool, and the research side, as tedious as it can be, is so so important to any piece.
How do you think being in the QMTC helps your future career?
Immeasurably. I’m lucky enough to be continuing my studies at drama school this September and I know I would never be anywhere near that were it not for the opportunities offered by QMTC. Our university has a deservedly well renowned reputation for its drama department, and the plethora of performance styles that you are exposed to here is just phenomenal. I’ve seen my friends doing all sorts on stage, and the talent that lies here at QM is pretty inspiring. I’ve been involved in plays by Terrence Rattigan, Edward Albee, Sondheim, Shakespeare and most importantly some supremely talented writers and directors who are students just like me. This is kind of what it’s about really. Making plays with your mates. I would say that QMTC has put me exactly where I want to be.
Tell us about your time at Queen Mary and how you came to study with us. What have been your highlights so far studying drama at Queen Mary?
Well I am actually an English student but in honesty have spent the vast majority of my university life in the Pinter Studio. Basically all of it. I should pay rent there. But my highlights have been my experiences at the Edinburgh Fringe. I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in two really interesting and funny fringe shows, both with fantastic people, all of whom are big friends of mine still. It’s such a great thing that QM offers, you get to take something that you have made and show it to the wider world at the biggest arts festival on the planet. Plus it’s the biggest party on the planet.
On the eve of the Olympics, Shakespeare’s mix of sex, politics and intrigue plays out in Rio. 400 years after Shakespeare’s death, his plays have come to Brazil and are being played to packed houses in front of enthralled audiences who respond instinctively to their passionate mix of political corruption, violence, sex, death and the supernatural.
This summer, a unique collaboration between international directors, academics and Brazilian actors has brought one of Shakespeare’s greatest plays, The Tempest – in which he writes about the ‘brave new world’ of the Americas – to Rio de Janeiro.
This programme hears from Suellen Carvalho, who will play Miranda in The Tempest. High in the hills overlooking Copacabana she explains how she turned her back on the drug gangs to take up Shakespearean acting. Her brother was killed in gang warfare and so her family has suffered from the violence that plagues the city of Rio. It was Shakespeare that helped her escape. “I thought the language of Shakespeare was very difficult at first”, she says, “But when I heard Shakespeare being spoken by black actors from the favelas (shanty towns) of Rio then it’s another language. I thought, I can do that too.”
For Suellen it has been an extraordinary journey. As a black actress she had no hope of playing the part that she saw as exclusively for white performers. “When I was told I would play Miranda I was amazed! Black actors in Brazil are normally given the roles of the house servant, prostitute or drug dealer.”
From 10th-15th July 2016 over 500 medievalists descended upon Queen Mary for the 20th biennial New Chaucer Society Congress – you can read more about the society and the congress here. This lively and engaging conference provided medievalists with the opportunity to hear hot-off-the-press research and working papers in a range of diverse fields – from manuscript studies to ecocriticism.
However, it was also a great forum for discussing pedagogy. Many researchers are dedicated to improving their teaching style and practice – and medievalists have the extra tricky task of convincing students unfamiliar with the time period that Chaucer and Marie de France are just as exciting as Shakespeare and Joyce.
Opportunities for forging international dialogues about pedagogy – and for discussing honestly and openly the successes and the unforeseen hiccups along the way – are relatively limited. With that in mind, I wanted to share some thoughts inspired by a roundtable I attended: ‘Medieval and Modern in the Classroom’, organised and chaired by Katharine Breen from Northwestern University in the States.
The panel was interested in considering how modern literature and media can be productively brought into dialogue with medieval literature and a number of scholars were invited to share their teaching models and practices. At her university, Stephanie Batkie tackles the inevitable ‘narrative of progression towards the modern’ which a survey paper can produce by inverting it – rather than beginning with Beowulf and ending with Paradise Lost she now begins with the Renaissance and works backwards. Kara Crawford regularly pairs Frankenstein with Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, to help students engage with questions about multiplicity of voice and unreliable narrators.
Sarah Townsend urges her students to identify the parallels between medieval mystery plays (which focus on events from the Bible, particularly from the life and death of Christ) and modern retellings of the Passion of Christ, such as the musical Jesus Christ Superstar. Her students only start to perceive the energy and comedy of the mystery plays when she encourages them to verbalise the language and perform the plays with gesture and props. This year, her students performed ‘Joseph’s Troubles About Mary’ with some modern updates to help communicate the play’s message across time – Mary, it was decided, should be reading a bodice ripper when Joseph confronts her about her pregnancy.
Whilst all these ideas had me scribbling furiously, there is one common worry amongst teachers of medieval literature, particularly at undergraduate level: will the modern supersede the medieval in such models? If you teach Frankenstein alongside The Canterbury Tales then will students leave the seminar room believing that the medieval can only be interesting if read through the lens of the modern? Modern books, films and TV series are a tried-and-tested hook for getting students more interested in medieval modules but will it create the impression that the modern, in some sense, does the medieval better? A number of potential solutions became clear during the roundtable presentations and subsequent discussion.
First of all, transparency is key if the modern is going to be successfully brought into the medieval classroom. It is worth checking in regularly with students – to find out why they think you are asking them to look at the modern alongside the medieval and to get a litmus test of their attitude towards the older literature. This can help pinpoint any potential problems early on, so that the necessary tweaks can be made.
Secondly, the medieval should always be given room to breathe, even when the modern is an integral component of the course. This model is demonstrated effectively at Queen Mary by Alfred Hiatt and Jaclyn Rajsic with the module Arthurian Literature from Geoffrey of Monmouth to Game of Thrones. Whilst a number of post-medieval manifestations of Arthurian literature are considered on this module, the first chunk is dedicated to the medieval. This gives students a chance to fall in love with the original Arthurian legends – and maybe even to miss them when the course moves forward in time.
Finally, ‘relevance’ needn’t be overstressed. Whilst it is always worthwhile to consider the parallels between past societies and literatures and those of the present day, the weird and wonderful aspects of the Middle Ages can be just as engaging. Millions of viewers tune into Game of Thrones for the dragons and white walkers as much as for the human relationships and politics. Similarly, the werewolves, demons and superhuman saints in the Middle Ages are sure to make for exciting seminars.
And we’re back with more fascinating insights into the themes and nature of performance made right here at Queen Mary during Festival 41 from 17-20 May 2016.
Below you can read the written responses by from our finalists; Hattie Long, Georgia Bate and Franciska Ery to the final batch of performances.
Reminiscence by Keita Ikeda (pictured above)
Ikeda’s digital installation, an expression though light, sound and smoke, makes for a mesmerising and enveloping experience. From the clamour of the Hackney Showroom bar, stepping into ‘Reminiscence’ is like stepping into a mind that is in a trace. The studio space is transformed by and filled with shifting light and sound. Transfixed audience members sit, stand and lie silhouetted against the constantly changing and sculptural light. Moving through a spectrum of colours, beams fall down through the space onto bodies, then evolve into semi-translucent walls in which smoke marbles – triggering a need to reach out and attempt to touch what I know is intangible. This is technology that prompts interaction, evokes mental processes and produces a calming and almost magical environment. The artist is behind the tech desk and present in the calibration of the technology, illustrating how the digital can be used to tap into and effect human experience. – Georgia
Welcome to AA by Daniela Hirshova
What if you could attend a support group to treat your addiction to art? Daniela Hirshova’s satirical piece invites a circle of participants (including two lecturers from Queen Mary) to discuss their toxic artistic passions. Due to the audience participation, the piece requires some degree of improvisation, but that does not seem to be a problem to Hirshova, who successfully follows the structure of her performance while keeping it highly entertaining. The audience laughs without hardly any interruption, but underneath the comedy Welcome to AA might be hitting close to home: pursuing the arts has many risks and does not offer financial stability, and Hirshova successfully presents this issue in a comedic manner. – Franciska
When Death Us Do Part by Peter Walker
Peter Walker waits for his audience on top of a balcony in the Hackney Showroom’s main space, looking down on them with knotted eyebrows. This opening image perfectly sums up When Death Us Do Part, in which Walker portrays Peter A. Goodman, a man who believes he is the best man in the room, which is why he is so baffled that he is still single. On his quest to happiness, his plan is to conform and get married right there and then to an audience member. Walker’s aggressive tone and rush to get married are used to explore the concept of marriage and the desire to reach ultimate happiness. Using a harness, melodramatic music and unexpected audience participation, Walker’s piece is highly intense and uniquely engaging. – Franciska
Story of a refugee by Milica Opacic
Upon entrance the audience is separated – half of the spectators can sit with Milica Opacic in a candlelit tent, while the rest of us are left to observe from the outside. Opacic rocks tiny figures of refugees with a hypnotic energy, occasionally spraying them with water and abruptly cutting them off, letting them fall unceremoniously to the floor. The selected few can look at photographs and read letters to gain some context, but all the outsiders can do is watch, unable to prevent the cruel cutting of the tiny figures’ strings. – Franciska
Soul Spacing by Cain McCallam
Cain McCallam presents a durational piece featuring projection, music, and wall art that is continuously growing throughout the performance. The established aesthetic is constantly changing, resulting in a colourful chaos in which McCallam dances in a trance-like state. – Franciska
Bamboo Senses by Sojourner Hazelwood-Connell
A ritual is made palpable, incense burns, a bell rings, piles of bamboo canes encircle open space into which the performer steps. The audience sit around the edges, on the outside of the circle, in the centre Sojourner Hazelwood-Connel undertakes her own sensory ritual. Water, smoke, sound, sand, matches and movement are all used to enliven the space and open it out to the audience. Sojourner spins around with bamboo canes in hand which swish through the air extending and accentuating her movement. She pours water over herself which christens the audience as it is flicks out from the spinning canes. Sojourner makes and breaks the space in dynamic movements, thrown down, the canes clatter on the concrete floor. ‘Bamboo Senses’ is a vigorous and exciting piece, the use of objects and the commitment to movement by the performer serving to intensify how motion is witnessed in performance. – Georgia
Reality Check by Dominika Visy
On entering the studio space at Hackney Showroom, we are given a flyer for ‘an evening of poetry’ typed in ornate affected characters. A woman recites a poem onstage, then looks up at us in surprise. Framed as if we have stumbled upon her preparation for a poetry recital, Dominika Visy goes on to lampoon the conceited and sentimental love poetry of some ‘Dominika Visy’. She reads it in farce, drawing attention to the limitations and evasions of words and providing us with an antidote – experiences of love are performed through the domestic. Here are relationships realised in tissues, in blowing up balloons and trying to iron a fitted sheet. The realm of princes and images of abundant and gushing nature are confronted with metaphors which are created through the interaction with everyday objects. The ingenious simplicity and honesty with which Visy pits her experiences of love against the kind of love that represented in poetry results in a funny and refreshing performance, as well as a wry and self-deprecating interrogation of the reality of aesthetics expressed in art. – Georgia
I Did It Because I Wanted To by Martha Pailing
Gutsy, voluble and grotesque, Martha Pailing’s piece is a wonderfully unseemly and weird outpouring of speech. ‘I did It because I Wanted To’ sees the performer in white towel, hair dripping wet as if she has just stepped out of the bath that is projected behind her. Reading from a towelled diary, Pailing traverses a terrain of people in all their messy and vulgar brilliance. Different voices and faces move in and out of focus throughout the performance and it’s hard to know where the personal stops and other people begin. The language of the piece has a strange distinctive poetry with an insatiable and greedy cadence. The pedestrian nature of the performance slides into the surreal, however in its strangeness it taps into some truth. It is a piece which takes delight in shirking the pleasant and the polite. A look behind the façade of decency which unearths a kind of invigorating confessional brutality, an embrace of the uncouth truth, of what we might want to say but don’t. – Georgia
Exposed by Clarissa Blake
Over the course of an hour Clarissa Blake pushes herself as she undertakes an exercise routine. Accompanied by three screens which show her performing archetypes of women which can also be read as versions of herself. In the dark, neon shapes painted onto her skin stand out and highlight muscles. This luminous circuit training brings to mind exercise fads, a workout sold as rave – the new ways which the possibility and need for a flawless body are sold to women. But there is no music and no instructor, instead there are tablet computers on the floor, the technology dictating Blake’s movements and how long she does them. The audience are dotted around the edges of the space but the performer is isolated in her effort. Her face obscured in the dark, it is in her body, in the amplified sound of her efforts which emanate out from speakers and in the slap of feet against concrete floor that we witness the transition from energetic to exhausted. The performer’s increasingly drained body placed alongside the three versions of the performer on the screens, draws attention to dissonance between the real and ideal. The actual effort of exercise on the one hand, and the unassuming, poised and performed exercise on the other. The action of wearing out the body feels like a way to release it from the pressures of the specific kinds of representation that are shown on the screens. In this disquieting piece of endurance, the drive to ‘perfection’ or ‘success’ is realised in the action of movement and its effect on the performer. – Georgia
Artpocalypse: Zut Alors! by Becky Rourke
Becky Rourke cannot do magic, and she knows it. Her performance is concerned with the failure to entertain, featuring anticlimactic reveals and magic tricks that don’t work. Her eagerness to create something magical builds up to a sweet ending with confetti, ABBA, and a celebration of finding an audience member’s card. It is truly an optimistic and playful performance. – Franciska
THE RISEFALLRISEFALLRISE OF AJAX MCFURY [or HOW I LEARNT TO STOP WORRYING AND BECOME A LEGEND] by Reece Connolly
Ajax McFury enacts a resurrection right in front of us, only to be finished off again. He is a man who courts death and driven by a desire for immortality. With his performance Reece Connolly investigates the figure of the living legend. However, there is never any real danger displayed, and Connolly intentionally mocks iconic stunts to place the emphasis on the presentation of bravery, rather than bravery itself. His cardboard, DIY aesthetic seems to imply that all of this is a facade, and the quest to become forever remembered is, in reality, futile. – Franciska
They Speak by Mira Yonder
An intriguing umbrella creature blinks bright lights, peering out at the audience arranged on the tiered seating in Hackney Showroom. In the light, the creature is revealed crouched, with limbs covered in tights extending out from the black umbrella – making hands and feet into something more like paws. Strange noises emanate from it, as if it is playing, encountering, and working something out. It flirts with, but doesn’t relegate itself to a recognised language, but its noise is not nonsense either. The audience find something and respond to the modulating sounds which seem to be approaching language from afar. The creature is vulnerable but cheeky, discovering the world and putting its feelers out. There is something, not only of being foreign, but being an outsider which comes through in the piece. ‘They Speak’ was a peculiar, eccentric and absorbing piece which made me consider how we approach what is alien and how the alien might approach us. – Georgia
Photo credit: Sojourner Hazelwood-Connell
hours of hair by Vimbai Gavure
Vimbai Gavure stands unmoving, her eyes obscured and body draped in black cloth she is elevated like a monument in the centre of the studio space at Hackney Showroom. She is lit by the flicker of television screens stacked upon one another and on stands which make a semi-circle around her. Braids of hair stretch out from her head to the screens, mapping and connecting up the space, like a web or the roof of a tent. The looming and impassive version of the artist is surrounded by yet more versions of herself, each involved in the labour of pulling twisting brushing, braiding, doing and undoing hair. An amplified straining and creaking sound of hair-work, repeats unabated throughout the piece. The sound creates a tense atmosphere, infecting and shaping the artists movement whilst conjuring up the pain and effort involved in achieving hairstyles. As the audience tentatively make their way around the space, ducking under braids, the figure begins to slowly move her head from side to side, like an automaton. As she picks up speed the movement ripples out along the braids and coins drop from her hair, then cascade onto the floor. ‘hours of hair’ highlights the supreme effort and cost which goes into haircare by women of colour serves as an interesting frame to examine the effect of the white-washed ideals of beauty perpetuated in western society. – Georgia
The Quest To Find: The Richard Curtis Quality by Laura Pegler
Laura Pegler is determined to find the ‘Richard Curtis Quality, and worryingly determined to find the man himself. With the help of audience members and the ‘celluloid-time-Curtis-inium’ machine our buoyant host stages chaotic realisations of moments from Curtis films before our very eyes. But when everything doesn’t go to plan, our host realises we need to look for magic elsewhere. ‘The Quest To Find : The Richard Curtis Quality’ is a fun and affirming performance which ponders what it is that we are searching for and suggests that it’s okay to ‘not feel okay’ all the time. – Georgia
Re-Tale by Monique Geraghty
Heels are clicking in Hackney Showroom’s main space. Monique Geraghty enters and steps into a spotlight. Her performance is about obedience and endurance using three workers in retail to frame her context. Geraghty’s piece almost operates as a short one-person show, allowing her to embody different characters but ultimately point to the same message. – Franciska
Something I Want You to Know by Joshua Young
Joshua Young’s intentionally explicit piece features a white, glowing closet. Young’s shadow playfully moves around as he invites an audience member to join him in the closet; repeats the word ‘gay’ over and over again; and tucks a gay flag into his pants. His whimsical piece is paired with elaborate technical elements such as live feed, projection, and several sound effects that successfully aid the humorous, light tone of his performance. – Franciska
Ya Mam’s Ya Dad by Maria Hunter
Maria Hunter enters the stage and starts tapping, singing along. From the very first moment to the last, her performance is absurdly entertaining, featuring two performers poorly lip-syncing to Hunter’s words, a short sequence about nervous breakdowns, and even an interview with a blue papier-mâché toe. And while you might find yourself asking from time to time, ‘what am I watching?’, the performance is unquestioningly unique and grotesquely funny. – Franciska
Women and War by Dinara Chenuka Punchihewa
Dinara Punchihewa does not speak, instead we hear her telling a story through voice over. She stands firmly on the almost bare stage, using a sequence of movements to illustrate the horrific nature of sexual assault. The haunting lighting illuminates her face stern with commitment and stamina, almost expressionless, even when she opens her mouth to release a silent scream. Her piece is difficult to watch, and yet you cannot look away. – Franciska
The Shqipdon Osmani Show by Shqipdon Osmani
It is really what it says on the tin – Shqipdon Osmani presents The Shqipdon Osmani Show, a game show including questions about performance, art, and, of course, Shqipdon Osmani. Using three contesters who are audience members, Osmani is an intentionally insulting and narcissistic host, successfully triggering laughter with self-referential parody questions that never let the contesters win. And while many of this self-aware comedy might be considered a commentary on performance and art, the highlight is really a twist ending that concludes this game show with a final punch line. – Franciska
Summer is a great time to discover London’s beating cultural heart, make connections and get involved with an international ocean of culture, so why not dive in.
Brave the unpredictable summer weather for an unforgettable night under the stars at Shakespeare’s Globe at their Midnight Matinee (next up Macbeth on 22 July). If you’re looking for an alternative take on the old Bard why not try Shakespeare Burlesqued (14 July) at Senate House Library.
As we enter the world of Brexit, the radical movement of PUNK seems very relevant indeed. This year London celebrates 40 years of punk with institutions like Roundhouse, Museum of London and Design Museum all offering free events to get under the skin of the radical subculture. Our favourite activities include Jon Savage and Viv Albertine on Punk (14 July) and Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer at the BFI (7 August) .
LITERARY HAVENS & ENTHRALLING EXHIBITIONS
The mighty British Library is thriving this summer with events including the rather excellent Shakespeare in Ten Acts exhibition.
Discover the amazing stories of East End Women (until 9 July) who have shaped the area for future generations or go on some interesting walks with Walking Women (11-17 July).
Head to the Southbank Centre for an array of literary talent including politics meets poetry with Jeremy Corbyn and Ben Okri (15 July), comedy/gameshow Literary Death Match (25 July) and discover powerful stories from Britain’s Homeless at The Homeless Library (until 18 September).
4 days, 41 shows and 2 locations. From 17-20 May third year drama students performed their final Practice Based Research Project performances in ArtsOne on Queen Mary’s Mile End campus and Hackney Showroom.
Below you can read the written responses to the performances from our finalists; Hattie Long, Georgia Bate and Franciska Ery. There’s more to come in a second blog post too so be sure to keep an eye on @qmulsed for when it’s published.
Atlas: A Finale by Atlas
You, a member of the public, of the unwashed have the privilege of attending a retrospective of one of the greatest artistcelebritydivas of the 21st century. Poised staff, all in black with eye make-up running down their cheeks curtly tell me where to go, and promote an atmosphere that asks that you conduct yourself with due reverence. On display in the space is material from the artists career including videos, outfits and wigs. I am directed through to the gift shop where minimalist t-shirts stamped with the artist’s emblem are on offer alongside vials of hair and perfume. But this isn’t the Tate Modern, and I haven’t spent 4 hours queuing to be here or bought a ticket as soon as they came out at £20.00 a pop. This is QM on a Tuesday evening and the Artist in question is Atlas. The realisation of this exhibition makes for a great exploration of the myth-making that takes place around the ‘artist’. We are made into fans without even giving our consent, perhaps without even having encountered Atlas before. I am told, that for a donation I may enter the ‘tomb’. Of course, not wanting to miss out, I dutifully deposit a donation and enter. – Georgia
Grandpapi’s Pleasure Palace by Lily Davis-Broome
Unsure what to expect, we followed the malevolent doorman through into the film studio. UV light bounced off our skin, our tickets were checked and we were ushered into the extravagant confines of Grandpapi’s Pleasure Palace where the scantily clad Lilita was stood in the corner waiting. She danced for us, her long plaits flying as she twisted and turned between titillation and inner torment. She moved to the private room. She took off her clothes for us, she forced herself to drink special concoctions and then she put her clothes back on, taping her body into place, and danced once more. All for our pleasure of course. – Hattie
Mind the Gap between the artist and the platform by Roya Eslami
Appropriately staged in the Hitchcock Cinema, Eslami wittily explored whiteness in film. Recreated versions of film scenes from classics like Pulp Fiction, Pretty Woman and Breakfast at Tiffany’s were shown side by side with the originals and the white actresses that starred in them, creating a humorous tension between media whiteness and the artist’s non-whiteness. It was stark, it was funny, but the livestream footage of the audience never allowed us to forget that this was a spectacle. – Hattie
Abled/Disabled by Elise Lamsdale
‘Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this son of York’. So begins Richard III and Elise Lamsdale’s exploration of perceptions of disability, Abled/Disabled. Inspired by her own experience with cystic fibrosis, Lamsdale uses one of Shakespeare’s most infamous villains to emphasise her point about the associations surrounding the words abled and disabled. Words are at the forefront of the piece, lying crumpled around her on the floor as she picks her way through definitions. Yet the projected image of a pair of healthy lungs next to those of a person with cystic fibrosis reminds us of the emptiness of these words in the face of the hidden physical disease. – Hattie
Words at 51 by Shafiq Nsubuga
Listening in on the conversation of the two on stage, it’s clear that this is a familiar set up. Two friends together making music, their chat encompassing popcorn and pop hooks, it would be easy to forget that this is staged. It felt remarkably natural and intimate, an insight into a private space. It was a shock when the lights flashed up on the audience at the end, breaking us out of the illusion that this was something hidden. The lights fade and so do the voices, our insight dwindles once more. – Hattie
A Theatrical Nudity Structure by Laura Graham Anderson
Laura Graham Anderson adopted and adapted staging and performance constructs of naturalistic performance, creating something hypnotic and compelling to watch. Typical box set items reminiscent of Ibsen, an armchair, a standing lamp, a tea trolley, were marked out on the floor by tape, emphasising the artificiality of their presence. They made the space feel intimate, as Graham Anderson’s repetitions and set track around the space provided a sense of containment within the structure. Layers of cardigans were removed and gestures added, repeated or dropped as the audience watched mesmerised. The theatrical structure was left bare. – Hattie
Laura Graham Anderson’s A Theatrical Nudity Structure is an exploration of repetition and the gradual exposure of the female body. Using theatrical texts heavy with tradition, Graham Anderson successfully presents a study of the female body in a theatrical context, resulting in a pleasurable collision between theatre and live art. Although her setup and actions might seem elegantly simple, she is in full control of her structure and nothing in her space is arbitrary. – Franciska
Photo Credit: Moa Johansson
Trial 32: G.R.A.C.E. by Sydney Goldsworthy
Take your seat. In front of you are two buttons, a red and a green. The options are on the screen. Press the corresponding button to make a choice. It’s a concept many of us are familiar with through video games and choose-your-own-adventure books, but here the choices were in front of us as we dived through and tried to destroy the malevolent force of M.O.T.H.E.R. We didn’t last long. I’m itching for another go. Perhaps that’s the point. – Hattie
I I I I will dI I I by Franciska Ery
The one certainty in life is that one day it will end. You will die, I will die, we will all die. Franciska Ery’s performance explored our inevitable demise, raising issues of mortality and finality. Ery, transforming into a death figure, moved along a red line in a middle of the space as she changed into a sensual black clad being. She pulled on strings, causing pairs of sunglasses to rise and fall around the room before cutting the threads, leaving the glasses to crash to the ground. Owning the black space around her, she danced moving back and forth along the glowing red thread of life. Gradually derobing and changing back into her original self, she returned slowly along the line, leaving us alone in the darkness. – Hattie
Photo Credit: Liv Johnson
Happily Never After by Paulina Musayev
We lay down on blankets and pillows ready for our bedtime story. It is the tale of a girl, the jewel of her small fishing village, who travels to find the dollmaker. Journeying alone, the little girl encounters great danger to buy a new doll. What she does not realise is that the dollmaker’s price is her life. We awaken to find the girl, transformed into a doll, seated before us ready to be dressed up. We leave her dressed, decorated and completely still. Not all fairy tales have a happy ending. – Hattie
Edible Beginnings & Messy Endings by Catherine Palmer
Catherine Palmer presents Edible Beginnings & Messy Endings, a bittersweet mixture of whimsical celebration and direct commentary on the relation between consumerism, pleasure and the body. We are invited to her party filled with sweets, pastry and sugary liquids. The overabundance of food and the pink and glittery aesthetic potently represent the overwhelming feeling of unquenched desire. Palmer’s humorous and satirical piece is filled to the brim, but all is stripped away when she stops the music, destroys her towers of food and undresses to wash herself clean. – Franciska
Over Her Dead Body by Fia Hacklin
Low rumbles and the distorted screams of a female voice permeate the experience of looking at the photographs in ‘Over Her Dead Body’. In the sparse space it is as if there is a ghostly presence hovering over my shoulder. Fia Hacklin is the subject of the three sets of photos, her body positioned as if deposited unceremoniously, limbs at angles, with flowers strewn over her. Beauty and death, life and lifelessness sit alongside one another, drawing attention to the aestheticisation the dead female body. Fia’s work destabilises the relation between subject and observer. The subject gazes out from the photographs, her stare like a challenge, reproaching the viewer from underneath a Marie Antoinette wig. – Georgia
(MmM)ilk me by Beth Christlow
a) Against the metal and stone of the Hackney Showroom warehouse, with strip lighting and medical paraphernalia, there is no room for a pastoral ideal of milking. Sucking, slurping, gargling, spitting, ‘mmmm’, Beth Christlow is a vessel, consumer and producer of fluids. Moving through a sequence of stations, and interacting with the milk she encounters there, the performer seems at once insatiable and overflowing, she is greedy and trapped in a repeated process. (MmM)ilk me examines our needs and wants. Moving between woman, baby and animal, sloshing and dripping through the space, the performer crosses borders to examine the human intervention into, collision with and consumption of animal lives. – Georgia
b) (MmM)ilk me shows a peculiar creature’s experiments with milk. She is animalistic, yet grotesquely human, as the milk simultaneously revolts and attracts her. In Christlow’s clinical, white space the texture, taste and sound of milk is explored in a durational piece. She is the consumer and the producer of it, the baby and the mother at the same time. Her fascination prompts her to repeat her actions over and over again, re-visiting three different stations where her sucking, slurping and spitting give a unique rhythm to her actions. With full control and mindful endurance, Christlow is a captivating performer to watch. – Franciska
The Cuming Out Party by Aimee Hall
Cuming Out Party entrepreneur and social specialist Jessie took us through her services, dealing with relatives at family parties convinced that it’s a phase and how best to cope with knobs in bars who demand proof that you’re a lesbian (NB there’s only so much she can do about the latter). Taking a volunteer from the audience, she embarked on the festivities of a true Cuming Out Party, concluding with a singalong to a certain Diana Ross classic. Satirical yet celebratory, we came out and wanted the world to know, you’ve got to let it show. – Hattie
Art Itch by Georgia Bate
She entered the space collecting objects painted a strange turquoise. She pulled a sheet of foil from the rucksack on her back, stuck it to the wall and stood behind it to change, like a caterpillar in a cocoon. She emerged triumphantly as a turquoise clad artiste, silently handing out wacky glasses and pulling more and more fantastical turquoise objects from her enormous rucksack. She continued to inhabit the halls of Festival 41 for the rest of the evening, playing ping pong, crawling blue snails up people’s knees and hiding inside her foil fortress. She wouldn’t let me inside, the arty so and so. – Hattie
Old Wives Tales – Karina Lucy Brown
The inspiration behind Old Wives Tales, as the name suggests, came from the stories we’re told as children, although in this case the prince does not appear to be the hero. Four dancers conveyed the story, choreographed by Karina Brown, as the music expanded and built to the piece’s climax. Bodies twirling and falling in unison, the performers danced for their lives. Don’t go down to the woods alone. A male ballet dancer might come for you. – Hattie
Performing the Performance by Elsa Grace Collingwood
Upon entering Princess Elsa’s kingdom of West Ham we were sent to different group challenges, hoping to find the mystical, ephemeral notion of the meaning of performance. Observing woodland creatures frolicking in the wild, to interviews between the Princess herself and her loving subjects in recorded in a public park, performance is clearly not as straightforward as perhaps the citizens of West Ham might have thought. After stopping for juice, biscuits and a chat with Princess Elsa, we then entered the kingdom’s dark underbelly, greeted by the most narcissistic and social media obsessed of the Princess’ subjects. Playing Truth or Dare and enacting private rituals to put on Instagram, we performed versions of ourselves for the camera. By the time we left it was clear that, as one of the Princess’ interviewees suggested, ‘everything is a performance’. – Hattie
Aum by Anu Prakash
The smell of incense weighed heavy in the air. Bowls and containers filled with liquids and objects littered the stage, milk, tampons, figurines and icons ritualistically moved and placed. An Indian song soared and looped, its repetitive melody almost hypnotic. Prakash’s slow movements and the heady yet relaxing atmosphere created an aura of comforting ritual. As she left the stage, the incense spiralled and the atmosphere slowly faded. – Hattie
my forest without echoes – Moa Johansson
a) my forest without echoes is an hour-long durational piece in which Moa Johansson has full agency. Her face covered in hair, she blindly reaches for metal bars and dry twigs to create an artificial forest. And while durational pieces tend to follow one consistent rhythm, Johansson’s movements cannot be expected: one minute she is spending three minutes to break a twig, the next she suddenly unravels many yards of brown paper with erupting energy, showing a wide range of different dynamics. Her movements and stillness are marked with her occasional “woo” sounds as she yells out into her imaginary forest. Marking her body with her materials, she ends up in an entangled nest, uncomfortable and uninviting. She lays there, creating a final image that stays with you long after her piece is over. – Franciska
b) I originally only intended to stay in Moa Johansson’s hour long durational performance for ten minutes. I emerged from the main space an hour later. Covered in sheets of paper with architectural diagrams on, Johansson scraped herself along the wall causing them to steadily fall, unveiling her naked body underneath. She manoeuvred metal poles, dropping them into place with a sharp, echoing bang, and marking herself with charcoal where the ends of the metal cylinders had pressed into her flesh. Breaking the sticks of her forest with her body, she encased herself in them, creating a nest-like structure as she and the forest became inseparable. The echoes faded and silence fell. – Hattie
Photo Credit: Sojourner Hazelwood-Connell
one of the greatest elegies in the english language – Michael Green
With no wall-text to read, the spectator is invited to Michael Green’s exhibition with openness to interpretation, prompting them to walk around and discover connections on their own. The exhibition, loosely connected to Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse, is both domestic and sterile. The pieces are scattered around the room with precision, creating images that allude to the sea, the sky, and the familiarity of home. With merely a small booklet that you can collect from a shelf, Green presents a unique relationship between the written and the visual. – Franciska
On Friday, 19 June, delegates from the UK, from Switzerland, and from Portugal arrived at Queen Mary to explore different forms and concepts of grace from the early modern period to contemporary literatures. The idea for a conference on Grace in Literatures in English was sparked during the planning stages of the 2014/15 Postgraduate Research Seminar Series. The intellectually highly stimulating discussion was ample reward for many months of preparation, endless e-mail threads, and some last minute panic.
Panels included papers on theoretical conceptions of grace, amongst them Kleist’s and Schiller’s, as well as on grace in Shakespeare, Beckett, Joyce, Frank O’Hara, Edwin Denby, J. M. Coetzee, and Geoffrey Hill. Our two keynote speakers, Ita Mac Carthy from the University of Birmingham and Susan Jones from the University of Oxford, offered perspectives on the notion of grace in Italian renaissance culture and on how grace was rewritten, or rechoreographed, in the twentieth century.
The range of papers showed that grace is a term, notion, or concept that means diversely different things in different periods and genres as well as for different writers and critics. This made for a fruitful exchange, during which explorations of forms of monarchical address in the Early Modern period entered into conversation with eighties dance videos. It became apparent throughout the day that the discussion of grace cannot be contained within one art form but that grace needs exploration as much in the symmetry of prose, as in geometrical shapes, the dance of people, puppets, and even machines.
At the end of the day we had perhaps not found grace but are confident that there is much room and enthusiasm for further exploration of this multivalent term.
Tweets from the day can be found under #GraceinLits. A programme for the day can be found here.
New Year’s articles about getting fit, developing ‘mindfulness’, and making positive changes seem to be everywhere this month. However, the Careers & Enterprise Centre has another resolution to add to your list: get some work experience. Not to be the bearer of stress-inducing tidings, but although it may only be the first week of Spring Term, summer will be here before you know it. Will your CV be ready to compete for the onslaught of summer internships, work experience placements, and (dare I say it) graduate jobs that will be popping up over the coming months? If your CV isn’t quite up to scratch, why not use these next few months of Spring Term to gain some relevant experience and improve your application and interview skills through taking on a QProject?
What is QProjects?
QProjects is Queen Mary’s very own Guardian University Award winning work experience scheme that places Queen Mary students into CV-enhancing projects at local charitable organisations. You will get the chance to gain some impressive experience on your CV whilst helping the local community. QProjects last for 3 months, take up only 1 day a week of your time and are flexible around your schedule, meaning you still have time for societies, studying, and (of course) essay writing. Although unpaid, travel expenses are covered and all applicants receive application and interview feedback, access to an online pre-training module and a one-on-one skills debrief with a Careers Consultant at the end of their project to help them update their CV and get any careers advice they may need.
How can QProjects help?
Over the past 3 years almost 100 English & Drama students have taken on a QProject. According to 2014 English graduate Anum Ahmed, the 2 QProjects she did during her degree helped her to land her graduate job in the Civil Service:
I certainly wouldn’t have been able to secure my job without the amazing experiences I had at my QProject placements. Throughout my interview I was referring to all the skills I had acquired and demonstrated whilst at my QProject placements and I really hope every student at Queen Mary seizes the opportunities available.
2013 English graduate Alex Huxtable fed back that his QProject led him to his current career in marketing:
The project really cemented my future career choice as I was encouraged to try out different things. It gave me the confidence to provide real examples of skills I felt that I already had, but just couldn’t prove on my CV or job applications.
Apply for a QProject today
So kick off 2015 by applying for a QProject. You can find a full list of current projects here: www.bit.ly/qprojectswork.
The English Postgraduate Research Seminar is a series of research seminars run by PhD students in the Department of English, Queen Mary University London. The English PGRS welcomes speakers from a number of academic institutions, who come to discuss their current research-in-progress with staff and postgraduate students in the English Department. The papers are followed by a question and answer session, a drinks reception in the Lock-keeper’s Common Room, and dinner in a local restaurant.
Seminars typically take place on Thursdays at 5:15pm in the Lock-Keeper’s Cottage on Queen Mary’s Mile End campus.
The schedule for Semester 2 below is correct at time of publishing, but check the English PGRS website and their Twitter feed for updates.
Week 1 – 15. January 2015: Alexandra da Costa (Cambridge), ‘Marketing Forbidden Books and Training Illicit Readers: Evangelical Printing in the 1530s’
Week 2 – 22. January 2015: Bonnie Greer
Week 3 – 29. January 2015: David Attwell (York)
Week 4 – 05. February 2015: Chris Holmes (Ithaca College)
Week 5 – 12. February 2015: Rosanna Cox (University of Kent)
Week 6– 19. February 2015: Garrett Stewart (University of Iowa)
Week 7 – 26. February 2015: READING WEEK
Week 8– 05. March 2015: Mary Talbot
Week 9– 12. March 2015: David Herman (Durham), ‘Storytelling beyond the Human: Modelling Animal Experiences in Narrative Worlds’
Week 10– 19. March 2015: Susan Wolfson (Princeton)
Special EventWeek 11 – 25. March 2015: D.A. Miller (UC Berkeley), time & venue tbc
Week 11 – 26. March 2015: Graduate Panel tbc
Week 12– 02. April 2015: Stefan Collini (Cambridge)
QUORUM is a series of research seminars run by PhD students in the Department of Drama, Queen Mary University London. QUORUM welcomes academics, artists, professionals, and practitioners working in performance and related fields to share and discuss their recent and on-going research.
Seminars take place on Wednesdays in the ArtsOne Building, Mile End Campus, Queen Mary University of London. All are welcome, and wine and snacks are provided.
The schedule for Semester 2 below is correct at time of publishing, but check the QUORUM website and their Twitter feed for updates and for venue information.
14 January Dr. Matthew Shlomowitz
University of Southampton ‘The Theatre of Music Making’ with performances of Matthew Shlomowitz’s work by dancer Nefili Skarmea & percussionist Serge Vuille
28 January Clark Baim
Birmingham Institute for Psychodrama Applied Theatre and Personal Narrative: Ethical and aesthetic considerations when people’s personal stories are used in performance
11 February Dr. Katie Beswick
Queen Mary, University of London The Council Estate as Hood: Grass-roots arts practice as cultural politics
4 March Dr. Jaquline Bolton, Dr. James Hudson & Dr. Agnes Woolley
University of Lincoln / Royal Holloway, University of London Joint Research Project Presentation, title tbc
11 March Dr. Michael Shane Boyle
Queen Mary, University of London Container Aesthetics, Blockade Logistics: The Logics of Innovation in Shunt’s The Boy Who Climbed Out of His Face
25 March Professor Peter Boenisch
University of Kent Title tbc
The School of English and Drama is delighted by our success in the REF, which recognizes us as one of the leading research institutions in the country. The Department of Drama is ranked 1st in the UK for the quality of its research, while the Department of English is ranked 5th (and 1st in London).
The results testify to international quality of the dynamic interdisciplinary research done by our research staff. The REF measures quality in research outputs, in our research environment, and in the impact our research has on the wider world. In each measure we have performed exceptionally well. This is a testament to the hard work and collegiality with which colleagues across the School have approached the REF.
The REF results are vital in determining future research funding, and this result will ensure the School continues to prosper in the coming years. The research that REF measures also has an important influence on our teaching. The School has long adopted a philosophy of research-led teaching; this means that the modules we run at undergraduate and postgraduate level are taught by international experts in the field, and students are thus exposed to the latest and most exciting ideas. The impact result also reveals that academics in the School are committed to speaking to audiences beyond the university.
In the following two videos, I reflect on the importance of the REF, and some of the implications it was for us and for other institutions.