Rebecca McCutcheon

Director theatre & site specific performance


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Til We Meet in England 2017

Til We Meet In England At Safe House, Peckham, 2017

‘Til We Meet In England was a site-specific performance in Peckham. Created in and for Safehouse, a tiny, semi-derelict Victorian house in the backstreets of Peckham, ‘Til We Meet in England is part-performance, part-installation, fusing text, movement, objects and song to create a potent, intimate experience.

The production took Elizabeth Inchbald’s rarely performed tragedy, The Massacre, as its starting point. A brilliantly successful writer of wryly observed sex-comedies, this was Inchbald’s only tragedy, using the lens of the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacres to comment on the Terror in France. Wrestling with her horrific, lurid content, Inchbald uses fragments of ‘testimony’, words she claims come from eyewitness accounts, a nascent foreshadowing of testimonial drama. Ultimately, she censored the play, advised that it was unlikely to please (the subtext of this advice being that her own radical liberal politics were the problem).

Newly recovered for a contemporary audience, the play was vibrantly re-imagined for its perspectives on cultural intolerance, refugee experience, and its long-view of England’s international role. It offers a valuable view of Britain’s long, notable and now threatened identity as a place of tolerance and humanism. Examining the play in this context shines a spotlight on a long-silenced woman’s voice, presenting England’s moderation, and a much-needed positive image of Britain’s European past and present.

Lost Text Found Space is director Rebecca McCutcheon (Dido, Queen of Carthage, Vincent River), designer Talulah Mason (Traces, London) and a talented company, in the tiny found space of Safe House are a rare opportunity to encounter this remarkable gem in an intense environment.

See images here:

https://www.losttextfoundspace.com/gallery-1

Press and Audience views:

‘In Inchbald’s The Massacre, the company prove there is a play for today’ – The Times

‘Most impressive is the seamless move between installation and linear narrative’ – The Stage

‘Lost Space/ Found Text’s approach is gentle and intimate, guiding the audience through the performance and inviting them to participate in small ways. The performers’ refrain ‘Can you help me?’ is an invitation, not a command.’ – Exeunt Magazine

Audience responses:

‘I felt part of the action at all times which was both nerve-wracking and exciting – two sensations I rarely feel in the theatre! I was with you all the way.’

‘An intimate exiting way to experience performance. Brilliant cast and space.’

 


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Til We Meet in England – Scratch

tricastinIn September 2016 I directed scratch performances of ‘Til We Meet in England’, at Safe House in Peckham as part of the Peckham Festival, merging text-based performance with site, movement and installation. Til We Meet in England’s starting point was the coming together of Elizabeth Inchbald’s tragedy, The Massacre, with the intimate domestic, near derelict site of Safe House.

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The Massacre is a remarkable text written by Inchbald in response to sectarian intolerance in the French Revolution, which has much to offer today. This text, and its engagement with experiences of displacement across Europe, resonates with current experience, and also highlights a long view, in which such movement across the continent has been a familiar and recurring event. Inchbald depicts her persecuted family, the Tricastin’s, with great humanity and empathy, a valuable voice to hear today, and she is explicit in placing England as a place of humanitarian refuge.

 

 

Working in Safe House with this text, the themes of seeking ‘home’, of finding sanctuary, of the precariousness of life and of the value of sharing all became strongly present for audiences, as we share the same intimate space as performers, and make a journey exteriorwith them.

Safe House is a tiny, domestic house which has reached a point of near-total dereliction. Quoting Tadeusz Kantor’s landmark ‘Odysseus Returns’, this house as a setting interacts with the text of The Massacre, through performance, encounters with characters, with music, with fragments of installations and recorded audio from recent British political life.

The intimacy of the space, as a home which hgatheredas become unhomely, works compellingly with the plays’ themes. The piece gathered momentum as sections of Inchbald’s depiction of an emerging fascist leader were performed, at which point the audience members are put in role as fellow mob members in the claustrophobic space of the living room. Here audiences became physically involved with the action as they wish to be, and are (more significantly) all ‘active participants’ in that they are called on to consider both the moral questions in play, and at the same time to encounter with empathy the characters who are caught in the drama.

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It was thrilling to find all of the performances sold out and I’d like to thank Sydney and the whole Peckham Festival team for making the work happen. We plan to bring the performance back in a longer run, in 2017, and are seeking funding and partnerships to make that happen. If you would like to be involved or support the project, please see our Crowdfunder page to support this extraordinary project and find the kinds of rewards and events you can be part of as a supporter.


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Mob-handed – research & development for The Massacre

Mob-handed – the crowd as character – Workshop 12th March

IMG_1204 In our second workshop at the Jerwood Space, we explored our text within the context of its claustrophobia, its sense of urgency, and more than anything, its sense of shared experience. A walk-through, on our feet, in which no-one in the space was a mere observer. All of us, whether portaying a character or acting as witness to the action, were required to be involved in the action, and there was no concept of being ‘outside’ of it.

This work led on from the previous week in which we had read the text through for the first time, complete with the author’s extremely detailed stage directions to performers. This is an 18th century ‘lost’ text, an attempt at writing about state atrocity, violence and trauma which was itself suppressed from public performance. The text invites many layers of response and interrogation: its relationship to terrible historical events (patchy, hearsay, yet containing moments of reported ‘truth’), its negotiation of how and whether to represent violence and atrocity, placing violence off-stage, but summoning it with an increasing intensity. Its ultimate silence in the face of trauma, its denial of a voice to perpetrators.
This is just the start of the journey with this text, but the impact of this evening’s active reading was marked. This is a text about atrocity that summons and acts upon the violence it seeks to condemn. It contains sparks of contagion, it works with extra-textual qualities – sounds, atmospheres, and most of all, the increasing sense of the approach of the mob. Among many of the insights from tonight’s reading is the way in which the material – the reporting of horror, the need to verify its status as eyewitness account and not lurid imaginings – places this as a play in dialogue with much contemporary theatre and visual art works which attempt to negotiate the difficult, disputed terrain of how to represent that which, it has been argued by many, is unrepresentable.

IMG_1248Another stand out moment, developed through the urgency of the writing and emerging through the shared storytelling, was a sense of the mob as a character. This is a play which attempts to warn of the dangers of unthinking group violence, of the labeling of the other as evil or less than human. In doing so it conjures up a disturbing presence – that of the mob itself. Felt as a live presence in the space, its contagious affect tangible to me, I sense the power of the journey this text is taking us upon, its importance and also how very disturbing it is. This is a deeply ethical, important text for today.

 


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A Testimony and a Silence at Dilston Grove

DVD label

May 2014 – a site-specific performance piece in Dilston Grove in Southwark Park. Dilston Grove is an arts space and former church in which the rarely-performed play, The Massacre by Elizabeth Inchbald, was explored. The play is extraordinary and prescient, a discussion of the tragedy of genocide, written by Inchbald during the French Revolution. It is a play whose tense relationship to terror and to violence, and to human values of respect and humanity, found rich ground in the association of meanings generated by Dilston’s craggy, evocative spaces.