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ITD at 21: Morven Macbeth on touring ‘Nocturnes’

26th September 2019 by Morven Macbeth

We first started talking about the ideas behind Nocturnes in earnest in 2016 as the world was becoming an increasingly confusing place where one could, at times, be forgiven for wondering if what was happening was in fact real. I’d wake up wondering if I’d dreamt yesterday’s news stories. Because, naturally, the news was ‘real’.

Pete and Andrew had strong visual and narrative ideas framed around the blurring and eventually the conflicting of lines between the relationship of the video material and the live aspect of the performance space, playing with how an audience reads the stage. Which media is dominant, which the more ‘believable’, which do they understand to be ‘true’? And we would set the story in Berlin and London during the mid-twentieth century, in the era of Cold War espionage.

Touring what became Nocturnes in the UK after its opening at the British Council Showcase in Edinburgh in 2017 was an edifying experience for the company. We were back in a van after a few years of making fairly massive shows, driving from gig to gig (the set comprised a table, 3 chairs, 3 microphones, some piles of paper and a projection screen) and the post-show discussions were fascinating. And then continued often in the back of the aforementioned van or in the nearest pub if we weren’t driving on towards the next venue that night. But honestly it wasn’t until we took the show to Hong Kong and then to Indonesia in the summer of 2018 that it really hit home to me how much more skewed the world had become since we started making the material we were now touring. Politically, both countries were at pivotal stages, not to mention the oncoming series of earthquakes, landslides and the tsunami which were about to hit Indonesia.

One of the spaces where we performed the show was in an under-construction shopping mall in Makassar on the island of Sulawesi. Imagine a flagship H&M store being built in a new town centre mall but in its rawest form – at the earliest stages of being built – a huge concrete and cement cavern, barely any natural light, no electric light yet, just an enormous, very dusty, very empty space. Shared with bats and mystery biting insects which lived in the inches of cement dust which covered the floor. We loved it. A big white sheet was rigged as the projection screen with lights on stands dotted around the performance space. Our audience sat on plastic chairs on a small rake made out of pallets. The post show discussions here were probably the most insightful and charged conversations we’ve facilitated as a touring company. For many reasons, including the enormous energy and generosity of the local team there, it’s a time I shall never forget.

But that show, Nocturnes, still ever-so-slightly gives me the creeps.

Morven Macbeth

Sept 2019

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