ITD at 21: Lots of light…on a wall

Quite without planning or prompting our sited work has become a huge part of our output over the last few years. What started off as a favour to someone to fill a gap in a local festival has become, at least for me, a significant portion of the year’s work…and a portion which is not without its challenges and pitfalls.

I’m no great fan of projection mapping per se, I think mainly because after the initial thrill of seeing a building collapse or explode had warn off I wasn’t sure what was left. Geometric shapes and patterns maybe. More buildings falling down and blowing up. Or a mixture of the two. I find a lot of it leaves me cold, including some of our own less succesful work in this field. So why do we do it?

Well, as with everything we do, storytelling has to be at the centre of it. Storytelling and, wherever possible, live performance. And often not live performance in a conventional theatrical way. It’s hard to give weight, or even sight lines, to a single performer when they’re battling against the presence of a 5-storey building and a cold November night. We’ve tried and failed. Mass is the answer! Mass and music. So, through failed attempts and scrapped storyboards we’ve come to some sort of pattern for a lot of our bigger outdoor pieces: a story and a mass of people helping to tell that story. This could be through song or through participation but whatever its form it’s opened out a whole area of community and participatory work which was hitherto unknown to us as a company. Often working with the supremely talented James Hamilton we’ve had a handful of magical experiences bringing together often unconnected groups of people to tell accessible and, occasionally, monumental stories on dark dark nights.

We do continue to try and finds ways to give individual voices clarity and space in these pieces but it has to be the right context. A single performer can be so easily lost. But if the space or the voice is right (Leap and HouseDown are good examples) then the enormity of the architecture and video work and the charisma of the performer can create something great.

So I’m not a huge a fan of projection mapping, per se. But I am a huge fan of anything that re-ignites the almost forgotten winter festivals in this and many other countries. They’re starting, once again, to give people a little much needed light in the cold, wet and windy winter nights. A little stepping stone to the spring. And it’s lovely to be part of that.

Simon

November 2019