Wednesday, 12 March 2014

What is The Imagination Museum about?

As we go into re-rehearsal of The Imagination Museum for our forthcoming performances at Dance Woking (3rd April, 1pm schools matinee; 6.30pm evening performance) and Northampton Museum & Art Gallery (9th April; 11am, 1.30, 2.30pm), I’m looking over rehearsal/performance footage and old notes, and thought I’d share some more updated information about what the piece has grown into since we started researching it in March 2013. I’m going to put this into several blog posts, as there’s quite a lot of information to share!

What is The Imagination Museum about?

Photo by Chris Nash
Our wonderful writer-collaborator Anna Selby wrote a series of poems and fragments in response to a range of different museum artefacts including a fossil, an Ice Age engraving, a stone tool, Roman armour and an excavated skull. This selection of artefacts was informed by our R&D with members of our target audience. Some of Anna’s writing also speculates about hypothetical future artefacts, which enables the audience to think about what might happen next, what we are at risk of losing, and what will change.

I then worked with the dancers to bring these written pieces to life through solo, duet and trio activity. Additionally, each of the dancers has created an eccentric ‘tour-guide’ character for the transitions between the artefact-stories. These tour-guides are called Mildred (who is in charge), Henry (who likes to cause trouble) and Harriet (who likes to go off into her own world), and they keep the audience entertained with a lot of to-ing, fro-ing, measuring and questioning.

The piece is highly interactive, integrating set choreographic elements as well as improvised sections that are developed in response to the audience. It has been designed so that it can be performed as a complete piece or in extract form, as appropriate to each performance context. So, for example, in a theatre the piece begins with a 10 minute ‘pre-set’ as the audience are entering the auditorium, and then runs for 50 minutes. We can also perform extracts from this full piece as a promenade throughout a museum, and we can introduce new elements as well in response to the input of children local to the museum/heritage site and/or to the particular collection/focus of each museum.

What have people said about the work so far?

Photo by Chris Nash
We’ve been fortunate to receive lots of great feedback on the work from our first young audiences and their teachers/families, which indicates that the children like The Imagination Museum’s physicality, interactivity and the way that it is entertaining but also atmospheric, and gives a little bit of historical information as well. For example:

“It was action packed...Bouncy”
“I liked it when we had to throw the boxes down to Henry and when they put the big box on their head”
“I really liked it when they came into the audience and asked us things”
“It made us think”
“I learnt about fossils and facts I didn’t know”
“I learnt some new history in a fun way!”
“I’d like to see the future, no one really knows what will happen in the future so I’d like to see what other people think will happen”
“Funny, brilliant, gobsmacking”

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