Originally, I thought about the overall structure for Matters of Life and Death thematically following something approximating Elizabeth Kubler-Ross' Stages of Grief:
e.g. (in our version): disgust, denial (shock, panic, misguided hope), guilt (mistrust), regret (longing), hope, acceptance
Having spent 2 weeks in the studio with the ideas I'm less certain about starting out the structural work with something so thematically mapped out, and with each section focusing on a single theme. This isn't actually how the world works, and quite often when we're working in the studio on 'anxiety' for example, it can transform into fear or panic, and even into hope. It is the crossover that is interesting; the tension between two different emotions or responses and the way we see that tension being resolved or not resolved. So one person can panic, be comforted and panic even more as a result. Another can panic, be comforted and then feel secure and more capable of moving on. Another still can panic, be provoked even further (perhaps by another person, although that person could also be a physical representation of what is causing panic within the mind of the character rather than a separate entity) and something else will happen.
So, I think it makes more sense to me now to magnify elements of the original scenario within the work (the scene in which the body is found floating in a Fenland sluice), perhaps by focusing on what 2 or 3 characters are doing instead of all 5, or looking at things from a different perspective (which could also mean an imaginary perspective), and to allow these magnifications to show me how to structure the work, allowing for crossover rather than grouping thematic ideas together.
Overall the piece has to have a sense of development - it will begin in darkness I think, so it will end in light. It will begin with a frenetic, irregular rhythm, it will end with a flowing rhythm which shares the qualities of water. Through the process of repeating the original scenario or seeing it again in a different light we will learn more about its component parts - movement themes will help us tie everything together, but as the work goes on these themes will become increasingly interconnected and therefore more and more complex.
As we (the audience) know more about the original scenario, the characters also know more. However, as they (and we) know more, and things get more complex and multi-layered, we have to admit to knowing less. As David Eagleman writes in one of his Forty tales from the afterlives, if we were given an opportunity to see everything around us in terms of some kind of fundamental code and therefore to know more about how the world works, we would still most likely do things that the code told us that rationally we shouldn't do.
"being let into the secrets behind the scenes has little effect on our experience" (from David Eagleman's 'Blueprints')Recognising the pattern shouldn't diminish the thrill of experiencing it or the immediacy of doing something without really knowing why. Eagleman uses infatuation as an example: "knowing the inescapability of heartache does not reduce its sting...glimpsing the mechanics of love does not alter its intoxicating appeal".
I think I also have to remember this in terms of my approach to making my work as well as the content of the work itself. Often I see things in patterns, or I try to look for patterns in order to determine the next direction. It's useful to have a certain amount of structure mapped out in order to keep rehearsals on track. However, sometimes there isn't a pattern - I just like something I see, for no discernible reason and my instincts take over. That is also okay, and a valid way of allowing the work to unfold.