“Next Attraction” © Sara Hindmarch
We had expected to be lost in fog,
Although it never seemed to rain in Brussels.
The sopping wet opaque November mist
That had clung to us since London
Faded almost all at once
As we drove through Anderlecht;
In Brussels, we walked from our hotel
In colour-saturated sky,
Uniform in Autumn brightness and
Glassy smooth, and blue like France.
Our eyes began to hurt and we regretted
That we’d left behind our sunglasses.
Later, my contact in the Parliament
Would laugh and say to me that
Everything is transparent here,
And that she was only glad that we
Had not brought with us our
She would find my bafflement amusing.
By my collaborator Abi Staniforth
Jealousy has a new skin. She skulks down the street with her hands outstretched, stroking everything she comes across with her long fingers. In a shop window, she spies a television set playing the smiling face of a pretty news reporter with blonde hair and licks her green lips greedily.
Because it would have been pointless to organise a flashmob if they were actually going to dig it out first. They’re sending someone down to the buried playpark today, apparently. I’ll keep you updated.
Buried playpark, near County Hall. I want to organise a guerilla working party to dig it out, because the Council are too busy building new shiny things to look after the things they have.
By Richard Lewis:
Does the waiter realize
that he is wiping down the glass
in time to the Girls Aloud song on the radio?
Or is it merely a coincidence,
of which only I have noticed,
This moment, this action,
this linking of two external objects,
man and music,
thereby being its creator and God.
Aside from the two unnamed protagonists (we know what their names are, but we’re not telling), SCALE has a third character, and that’s Harry Grindell Matthews, speaking through a time-travelling bakelite wireless.
Matthews, about whom I’ve posted before (here, here, here and here) made his home in Clydach and although, Vinci-like, he invented several things before their time (one of the first working prototypes for a mobile phone, for instance) he is remembered mostly for having invented a “death ray”, which device he was filmed demonstrating by Pathe back in 1924. The story goes that Matthews,invited by the Ministry of Defence to go to London and demonstrate it, tried to play hardball -you come here and see it on my terms.
They did, and said it didn’t work. And then it was buried. In his final years — Matthews outlived the Swansea Blitz, dying a few weeks after the final shots of the Battle of Britain — he became increasingly reclusive. Matthews’ house on that Clydach hill seemed almost to grow strange Heath-Robinson electric fences of his own design, and stories abounded of cars and motorcycles that would mysteriously break down on the stretch of road that passed by his home.
I imagined him sitting alone in his final years, still tinkering. I don’t think that the real Matthews would necessarily have said the things I ascribe to him, but as a symbol, as a story, he has a certain power.
Graham Isaac, in his poem “Ambition is Critical (Swansea Edition)”, said of his experiences of this city:
…history is both a sail and an anchor,
The flying flag and impossible yardstick.
Matthews is, in SCALE, the symbol of that, the inspiration and the regret that colours enterprise in this city. He’s a cautionary tale. He asks us, where do we compromise, where do we collaborate, where do we aim our research? What future are we looking for in the work we do?
I do a lot of thinking in the shower. Now, I haven’t much time this morning, but I was afraid that if I didn’t come here directly, I’d lose all the lovely vocabulary and the syntax and that would make me immeasurably sad. I’ve probably lost it anyway, but I shall try.
‘Scale’ - the first piece of Wood’s residency project, ‘This is How the World Moves’. The title works on a number of levels, but what it is offering you, as an audience member, is a way into the larger concept via these two relatively mundane writers. Their world isn’t exciting, and it certainly isn’t special. And their relationship is awkward and uneasy, neglected in the face of their work and the rest of the physical world in which, you could read, they are mired. They speak of a much more exciting world than the one they really seem to be part of on the stage, with its empty tea cups and dead house plants and incessant rain beyond the window.
But the physical landscape isn’t the only one that this show begins to discuss. It offers up not only a typically British complaint about the Autumn weather (didn’t Summer leave so fast?!) and a geography based around motorways, but also seeks to explore a different temporal, and then a completely virtual, plain. Through an acknowledgement of the expansion of the landscape of their sitting room into these dimensions, the two writers un-stick their feet, shake off the layer of frustrated boredom, and share some interesting ideas about the notions of time travel, politics, and the social media era. In the process, they seem to brighten their physical landscape, and their relationship - and that is a good, hopeful way to end the first, brief chapter of their journey.
Abigail’s thoughts on SCALE. The play is inspired by the feeling of research, of the experience of it, of the entry into a world that is stranger and wider than we hitherto knew. It’s also inspired by research being done now in Swansea University into how we see ourselves online, and how we communicate in a world where the future is happening.
It’s also in some ways a personal piece, although that might not be apparent to the casual audience. But then, it has to be. All research should be personal.