In preparation to bring NATION on tour later this month, we began work on the project – specifically on the concept, story and performance – in October at Ship’s Company Theatre in Parrsboro, NS. Nick Bottomley and I have been fortunate to create this show in numerous beautiful retreats in beautiful places, and Parrsboro is no exception. It’s a small town in Nova Scotia on the Bay of Fundy with a rich history of ship building, lumbering and coal during the provinces famous Age of Sail. The theatre is built right on the bay and we’d often take our breaks to watch the dramatic tides going in and out.
NATION has been lying in waiting since we last performed the show in July 2015. The reception to the show among those who saw the limited performances (Truro and Halifax) was really positive. We’d clearly hit on something that was activating imaginations and engaging the audiences’ minds and bodies. Still, the concert felt like a very well realized proof-of-concept. While the themes and ideas we were riffing on while we created were coming through, many questions of “what” and “why” still persisted from those who saw the show and especially from those who did not. It was obvious there was still work to do to mine what was in our heads and to offer a “way in” to the audience. The pieces was sitting very close to the fence between theatre and music, but we weren’t quite embracing that yet.
When we began the project, we knew only that we wanted to work together, that it would be a concert of sorts, that we shared a keen interest in landscape, culture and nations, technology, and nature. What emerged was this collage of sound and video, and we rather thought the whole thing had a dream-like quality. This is a quality we loved about it, and wanted to exploit further. We created a narration for the concert – a mysterious and unseen voice which aids in both understanding what’s happening and in creating a paradox within it. We wrote each day on various themes that we were riffing on; car culture, various landscapes and life on those landscapes (forests, ice, mountains, rivers, seas), cities, space and the stars etc. Employing the cut-up technique we reassembled these into the perplexing narrative recorded by actress Erica Hunt in Lethbridge, Alberta.
The narration was really wonderful, and it helped bring all of this music, audio and video into the same dream world. What still lacked was a definitive context for the whole show. We wanted to hold the audience’s hand as we invited them into this dream. To show them that it really is a dream, to show them how the dream is created through remixing natural found sounds and sights from our world. This is what we’ve been putting our heads to in Parrsboro and continue to work on in Halifax presently. We’re bringing new skills and more vulnerability to the table. We’re really excited to perform this again. We absolutely love this show, and we love the questions it leaves us and our audiences with too.
NATION tour dates (click for tickets and info):
Friday, November 18 – The Highland Arts Theatre – Sydney, Cape Breton, NS
All images photo credit: Richie Wilcox