Stories for the Future emerged as a multi-disciplinary ensemble production with immediate relevance to the COP 17 summit held in Durban. Faced with the challenge of creating a performative work that addressed the pertinent issues of climate change and environmental sustainability, a group of multi-skilled artists were selected to represent the Drama for Life Company Laboratory.
This artistic product was performed at various COP 17 exhibition sites as a dramatic response to this UN annual summit. The work was approached from an ensemble method of artistic practice, and the group worked intensely (with limited time) to create a collective product with various mediums and approaches.
The initial concept emerged from an idea of incorporating butoh and performance/installation art that could capture striking images of the given theme: Climate change, and its effect on human survival and geographical/social displacement. The performers and musicians maintained a unified record of our narrative which was divided over an episodic progression of 5 days; each day revealing one episode of the story.
This was established by creating a visual script on paper through phrases and keywords that helped track the narrative within a specific framework. New sentences and ideas were added to the script each day, which visually represented a mind-map of our collective ideas and emerging process. During a few weeks of rehearsal, ‘Stories for the Future’ was condensed to a three part presentation, which allowed the artists to shift their focus to a clearer, more specific product.
The script, which became the blue-print for the concept, aided in this adjustment as we were able to see what parts could be easily edited and/or enhanced to a three part product: The visual script formed the foundation of our complete concept. The musicians began improvising with phrases of sounds that enhanced the performance images created, and the result was a unique and captivating sound score.
The concept organically shifted to incorporate graffiti art as a performative device, creating an innovative approach to immediate visual design-making and the act of live theatrical performance. Mak1one, an established graffiti artist from Cape Town, joined the project to offer his extraordinary skill. The predominant set piece was a length of 15m waterproof canvas that was laid on the floor, becoming a ‘magical theatre carpet’ upon which the performers could explore movement and verbal exchange.
The canvas was manipulated at the beginning and the end of each episode – the ‘Stories’ unfolded in a three part episodic narrative – as the performers explored folding, lifting, moving upon and hiding beneath, the length of canvas. ‘Stories of the Future’ also maintained a ritualistic style of presentation- and an intrigued audience response emerged- especially when we performed a mobilized performance piece that travelled through the exhibition site of the ICC.