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Starting Blocks: Philippa Hambly

IMG_0883I kept coming back to the same images – over and over again – I saw them on a walk – funny, the things you compute when you’re walking, the number of things the eye sees and then the images the mind is drawn to ponder. A huge oak tree growing on top of an old brick wall, and a lorry stuck under a railway bridge, the driver, a young guy alone in the cab with his head in his hands. I think there comes a point in every creative process, when one feels a bit like that lorry driver, especially near the beginning, especially if that beginning is in the mid-winter months and things are bleak and cold and daylight is short. And no matter how hard one tries to concentrate on the oak tree rather than the brick wall, there’s no denying the solidity of those orange bricks.
So over the past few weeks I’ve been out and about. I researched some ideas with theatre maker Tom Bailey, and together with psychiatrist Hugh Grant-Peterkin and performer Cristina Guglielmini, I workshopped some ideas about perception, layers of consciousness and ways of placing meaning in the body as a physical device to lead movement.
I went into Brecknock Primary school and spoke to a group of wonderful 8 year olds about what stories have to offer us when it comes to talking about things we don’t understand. I told them the myth of Gilgamesh – who went on a long journey in search of immortality, found the mysterious underwater plant of eternal youth, and promptly fell asleep, whereupon it was stolen by a snake – which explains the skin shedding. Unlike Gilgamesh, who went home empty handed, I returned with a stack of eternal youth in the form of drawings the kids did of things they’d take with them if they were going on a journey forever, to a place where there were no other human beings. I asked them to draw the most important things they would want to share about life on earth. There were a lot of very practical things – ropes and traps and food, a trained tiger, a lot of swords. Some less practical, the sea, love, family. You can see some examples below…
IMG_0884I have continued with research into emotional consciousness and memory – and have shared a couple of terrible experiments with the other Starting Block folks. Something I’ve been so grateful for in this process is the chance to regularly air terrible ideas. It doesn’t matter how many other voices one gathers, when making work alone it always feels like you’re shouting into a vacuum of your own version of nonsense. It’s inevitable that when devising physical theatre, the material that ends up in the show is that which resonates – in a very unscientific way it’s very self selecting. So I have to keep reminding myself that I’m not responsible for all the nonsense that comes out. If there was a point to this piece, it’s that considering the meaning of life may be a pointless waste of time, but it’s necessary. Thinking about the meaning of life becomes it’s own reason. A bit like making theatre, maybe.
Exiting the drop zone now.
So I think the body of the show is sketched – and with two weeks to put it together that is reassuring. It’s not nearly as despairing as I thought it would be – and having said it would just be a physical piece, there are words, and I’ve written a song! With a small harp. And there’s dancing, and a radio show. And I’m starting to get excited about sharing it. Which is good. Still two weeks go… still time for more nihilism.
Catch Philippa’s Kinkens as part of the Starting Blocks Showcase on Sat 19 March. FIND OUT MORE.