The Watcher and the Watched

First performed as part of the In the Flesh festival at the Barbican Theatre, Plymouth, December 2011

The Watcher and The Watched; exploring visual privacy and voyeurism, a human fascination with what people are doing when they think no one is watching. An experiment in how to translate the feeling of safety one experiences from watching behind the barriers of walls and windows into performance.

Everyone will peer in through a window when they walk past, but everyone also forgets that other people do the same thing when they are in the homes.

Three houses, three living rooms, three sets of people unaware they are being observed by an audience. As the actions becomes stranger or more private the more the audience begins to feel both uncomfortable and fascinated. We play heavily with limited viewpoints, cutting off the audience’s view with a half-drawn curtain, and toy with when to end their access to scenes by pulling down a blind. The sound is sometimes muffled enhancing the sense of privacy, at other times we try letting the audience hear a character’s thoughts or a soundtrack, giving it a certain filmic quality.

There is a fascinating visual appeal with three windows next to each other, opening and closing their curtains in turn as the rhythm of home cycles through, from the most mundane to the most unusual. We are seeing how far you can push the separation between audience and actors, so the latter may indeed have no idea when and when they are not being watched; while the audience know they are never seeing the full picture, with so much of the room and the rest of the house out of view.

The performance is very much work-in-progress as we experiment, rehearse and play with different ideas. While during our first year we generated a great deal of varied work we have now decided to work on this piece for an extended period of time letting it grow and develop as our ideas progress.

It has been presented in the Plymouth Barbican, in a glass corridor with the audience watching from the landing across a courtyard, and generated plenty of interest and valuable feedback. At the moment we have many different types of style of content and this performance is helping us narrow down which directions work best. The search for an easy, tourable format is also a major aim, as we want the work to be adaptable to multiple performance spaces, and not be so site-specific.

Update: At the moment we are struggling to find the next step for this piece. A comination of creativer blocks, and a need to find the perfect place has led to us putting this in a box and leaving it for the time being – though we plan to return!

See more pictures of The Watcher and the Watched

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