Friday, 25 July 2014

Site Specific Sunday - two events from the DEparture Lounge programme.

As part of Site Specific Sunday and Derby Theatre's collaboration with In Good Company towards DEparture Lounge I participated in two unusual events. Both involved sitting down.

A groups of artists and theatre makers called Quarantine presented an event called Table Manners where they invited participants for a meal in exchange for a conversation. The brochure described the experience as an intimate and temporary encounter between two strangers who, in other circumstances might never meet. It was about the familiarity of sharing food together and the art of conversation.

I must learn to read brochures better as I assumed that there would be a table full of people not just one other person. I was met at the door of The Book Café on the Cornmarket in Derby and my food order was taken. I went for the pastrami dish.

Then I was introduced to Renny from Quarantine and sat opposite her. I'm a confident person and looked forward to conversing with this lady. She explained to me about the company and how they hold the same events regularly in Manchester but it tends to be in an Indian restaurant with buffet style food. The topics for the conversation were printed on a 'menu' so we chose our starter topic, our main topic and our dessert topic.

It is nearly a week ago now since this encounter so I can't remember specifics about the conversations but I do remember explaining about my proposed theatre event that I am taking to Germany in December after choosing the option 'what are you part way through?' from the menu. We also spoke about the sea and seaside resorts and I felt (but didn't say) that the encounter was almost like a first date - each person being on their best behaviour and recognising traits within the other that indicate they get on well. I was enjoying Renny's company so much and the opportunity to chat with an intelligent woman over some pleasant food that we over ran our half hour slot (again I didn't read the aspect of the brochure that said the longevity of the slot) and we must have talked for nearly an hour.

The whole experience was very interesting, intelligent, fun and pleasant. Thank you Quarantine and Renny O'Shea.

The second experience was Michael Pinchbeck's Sit with me for a Moment and Remember. This was on a bench on Derby's market square and opposite The Quad - a modern cinema and arts centre. The bench was a wooden one that isn't normally in the position that it was situated. The DEparture Lounge brochure described the site specific experience thus: A bench with a plaque reading ' sit with me for a moment and remember' is placed in a public space. It is both a dedication to a loved one and an invitation to a stranger. You are invited to sit on the bench and listen to a recording that reflects on what it means to sit and remember.

When I arrived to take part there was already someone participating so I went away and came back ten minutes later. I was given a set of head phones and I sat and listened to a soft and warm female voice talking to me as a stranger about contemplation and taking time out to sit and think. The subject, with some instructions to follow, also changed slightly to refer to another - the woman. Part way through I was advised to look to my left. Near to me on the previously empty bench was a young woman smiling and looking forward. It was like she had manifested herself there as a memory made real. The audio continued with instructions to close my eyes and count to ten. I did this in my head. In a sense I didn't want to spoil the mood by talking aloud. The woman's hand then gently rested on mine after I was aurally instructed to put my left hand on the bench. Her hand remained there for a few seconds and then disappeared. During this time I had my eyes closed as instructed and then opened them. The woman on the bench had vanished. During this part of the encounter I had heard contemplations of a relationship that had finished but without remorse. The declarations had a poetic feel to them and inspired some new thinking in me towards my stage writing.

I found the whole experience very relaxing and also quite moving because of the subjects and the warm caring voice that spoke to me through the headphones. I never asked the question but since then I have wondered if female participants have a male voice and a man sitting by them on the bench temporarily.

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