DANCING, TALKING, TABOO
In 2020, Pascal Theatre Company (PTC) put a call out to women whose lives, and mental and physical health had been disrupted by Covid and the enforced isolation of lockdown. Respondents were offered a platform to express their feelings, plus the opportunity to work with expert theatre and literary practitioners to explore and develop their ideas.
The result was the Giving Voice project (www.pascal-theatre.com/project/giving-voice), a digital archive featuring work by 38 women in written and recorded form.
Forward a year and the ever-resourceful Creative Director of PTC, Julia Pascal, found a way to extend the reach of the project – by collaborating with students from The London Contemporary Dance School at The Place Theatre and professional performers to create a promenade performance piece for the 2021 Bloomsbury Festival based on several of the Giving Voice submissions.
An immersive improvisation/rehearsal process explored the imaginative connections between dance, speech and memory, interweaving song, bodywork and cabaret-style performance to share the hidden stories brought to light by the project…
Comments on Dramaturgy and Direction of DANCING, TALKING, TABOO!
Fragments from women’s lives were the text for Dancing, Talking Taboo! The texts were danced, sung, spoken in the 19th century St Pancras Church. Performers were second year students from London Contemporary Dance Schjool keen to move from pure dance to dance-theatre. Over lockdown the Giving Voice Project had recorded memory shots from the lives of 30 women. Stories came from Jewish Polish and French girls taught to hide from the Nazis as remembered by their older selves. From a sexually abused Englishwoman with learning difficulties. From an Irish Catholic who instinctively knew that she should never be alone with a manipulative priest. From a woman with one breast herb-foraging London for her gin and tonic.
The 20 year olds were terrified of using their voices. Eventually they learned to sing, to shout, to howl. To inhabit the Church with its altar, its crosses, its Mary. The Lady Chapel represented Pétainist France. Stained glass windows housed grotesque, human gargoyles. A baptismal font with moving human statues was the set for the confession of a stigmatized Roma. The altar, as the audience platform, subverted hierarchical structures. Never were women’s voices heard in such a way and in such a space.
‘Dancing, Talking, Taboo’ was performed on Saturday October 16 from 3pm-5pm at St Pancras Church, Euston Road, NW1 2BA.
Julia Pascal interviewed by Luke Mallet about Dancing, Talking, Taboo! for Bloomsbury Radio 9 October 2021
Hear how Julia answers questions about how she started acting, writing, producing and the origins of Pascal Theatre Company. She explains work she and the company are currently involved in, challenges and successes during lockdowns and future possibilities: Read a transcript of the interview here
Interviews with dancers from The Place and performer Amanda Maud about the their involvement in ‘Dancing, Talking, Taboo!’
What were your expectations coming into the project?
What has the rehearsal process been like for you?
What is something that you’ve learned?
Why would you encourage anyone to come to the performance.
Megan Bader interviews Emma Poyer
both dancers from The Place
Jenni Bowie interviews Jasmine Leach
Megan Bader interviews Amanda Maud
Amanda Maud actor, singer
Some feedback on the event:
GIVING VOICE CONTRIBUTORS respond:
- An outstanding experience, moving and surprising all at once.
- No words can I say how that was. Very moving indeed how my poem came over wow.
- I was in delight that you have attracted a diverse group of students. Their family & friends will. Come to be there for them and hence the word will go round! Great theatre, dance and stories told.
- What an incredible, engaging, unexpected, friendly, scary, talented, bizarre and wonderful performance!
- It was a wonderful way to engage the audience. The storytelling really shows how we can carry our stories with us. Beautifully performed. Engaging!
- FAB SHOW – mixture of dance, culture, history, etc – well done to all.
- Brilliant performance, very enjoyable, love the setting.
- Nicely inclusive with an eye also to accessibility.
- It blossomed from initial interviews to this wonderful piece of theatre.
I enjoyed the performance, wonderful to see body movement in such an impressive space and a powerful combination of words, music and dance, congratulations!