Karen
Christopher

can't find the edges of Seven Falls

from the live performance of Seven Falls, May 2017, (the boat in the background is not Harry's)
credit: Vanek Photography

It’s hard to know when the performance starts or when it stops. With some performance there is a very clear start and finish. There might be a long set up time but it is clearly defined and delineated and the start of the performance has a kind of click. When it is over perhaps there is a bit of disassembly required but there is never confusion or blur regarding the far limit of the show margins. But with Seven Falls, partly because it is made so quickly each time it is made, and because its making and its beginning are intermingled with the circumstances of its presentation to a larger degree than your average studio-based performance, it is hard to absolutely identify the moment when the performance of it has taken over and when it has finished passing.

It finally ended after an intermission of about a week when I tried for the second time to return the padlock key for the lock and chain that secure Harry's canoe to his barge. I went to see if he was around as I’d been carrying the key in my wallet since I returned the canoe that day after the show ceased to be an organised event in front of an assembled audience. He'd been so generous to let us use his canoe in performance, loanin git to me without having ever met me before I presented myself in front of his boat with the request of it. Now I wanted to be sure to be diligent about every aspect of the return of it to its rightful owner. I’d sent him a text enquiring about how to return the padlock key. I was hoping it was a spare—but I didn’t know that for sure. I never got an answer. After about a week I went to see him at his boat in person. When I got to where the barge had been moored it was gone.

Later that day as I rode a bike over a bridge in a different part of the canal system as I glanced to the right I glimpsed a familiar distinctive paint job. I went down to the tow path and texted from outside the boat. A message came back from Harry: Just leave the key somewhere inside the boat. With that I opened the door to his boat home and placed the key on the counter feeling part of a magical world free from worry. And as I left it there the notion hit me that now the show was finally over and that I had been the last audience member as well as the last performer to leave the stage. Some parts of the work are very very private.

Tags: Teresa Brayshaw, Seven Falls, duet, Chisenhale Dance Space, canoe, TwoFold

Posted on Saturday, 3 June 2017 by Karen Christopher

we started it some time ago and it doesn't seem to stop

This just in from Teresa Brayshaw: This image created from our actions unleashed into the world and we have no will over it. Indeed we have no will to have one. Not our idea nor anyone's. We found something to pluck and we plucked it and the photo from 3 years ago is now beckoning young people into a theatre school in Bilbao. This is not what we intended but it is what we always intend. When we performed this piece in Cardiff last year that is not the photo we wanted used for publicity. It was chosen for us from among the ones taken a festival before. We offered no resistance even though we thought there was a better one. One in which the local humans looked a bit more enthusiastic. Now here it is again. I suppose I haven't much to say about it. Just there it is. That photo like a bad penny. Or a sweet reminder.

Tags: Teresa Brayshaw, Seven Falls, duet, Bilbao, Act Festival

Posted on Friday, 28 October 2016 by Karen Christopher

Seven Falls can't fail

As part of my current performance work I am engaged with making a series of duets. Each duet is designed collaboratively between the two duet partners, me and one other person. The duet partners determine the length of work time, the style of the work, the starting place, and the specific making process undertaken.

One of the duets, Seven Falls, has a method that canʼt fail. It is site-specific and must be performed next to a large body of water, a major river, lake or sea. In each location it is performed it is re-made with a few foundation elements common to each version. The method is swift and immersive.

My partner for this duet, Teresa Brayshaw, has a full-time job and a 11-year-old son. If she is to be able to make this work we have to do it fast--she doesnʼt have much time. Our working methods have been designed to allow for her tight schedule. She and I arrive at a site having met a few times for meetings in the month or so leading up to the performance date. Then once on site we usually have 3 to 4 days to re-make the work in response to the site and take care of logistics. The swift turn around time means thereʼs no time for arguing, it means that everything we do during those 3 or 4 days is about getting ready for the piece. Not failing means being flexible, open to change, to uncertainty and being fearless about the possibility of getting it wrong. And if we want the process to be enjoyable it means we have to allow leisure activities to invade these work-heavy days and food and sleep. We stay together, eat together, walk around the environs together, and treat everything as possible material for the work. When our plans are scuttled for logistical reasons we change our plans, treating it as an opportunity to improve the piece. We agree to less than readiness--we are always ready.

ls that young would be able to deliver the translations, reading off the handwritten cards prepared for them. At our last performance, in Bilbao, we thought we would have 20 young girls from the theatre school making a cameo appearance in red cardigans, we imagined them flying small hand-made red paper kites. Then we were told the school would be finished the week before our show and it would be impossible to get them back to be involved in our show. But, we were told, it was possible that two 12-year-old girls could join us on the day of the performance. The old idea wouldnʼt work with this new configuration. But we had a new one--the girls could deliver the translations into Spanish and Basque of our minimal spoken text. This seemed like a great idea. When photos came the week before our arrival the girls looked more like 16 years old and we asked via email how old they were. There was no answer and unbeknownst to us they changed the girls, assuming, because of our question, that they were the “wrong age”. When we asked about the girls the day before the show we were told that there were new girls now and that they were 8 years old. Now we wondered whether girls that young would be able to deliver the translations, reading off the handwritten cards prepared for them.

When it was all done, looking back, it was genius to have such young girls reading the translations. They wore red dresses and we wore red dresses and we were amazed how beautiful it was to have them read the translations and then take our bows after weʼd walked into the distance at the end of the piece. In this way, we let the circumstances compose the piece with us and because we had not overdetermined the outcome or solidified our expectations, there was no chance of disappointment and thus no failure.


Tags: Teresa Brayshaw, Seven Falls, Paddy Mackenzie, Bilbao, Act Festival

Posted on Sunday, 30 June 2013 by Karen Christopher

Seven Falls in Bilbao

Paddy joins the show and makes a boat.

Tags: Teresa Brayshaw, Seven Falls, Paddy Mackenzie, canoe, duet, Bilbao

Posted on Friday, 14 June 2013 by Karen Christopher

once more into the canoe . . .

A state of presence with each other in our case was fostered by a relaxed way of being together and holding open for possibilities and not straining to achieve but rather finding an active search, finding a way to put our bodies into it. Not following instructions but following instinct or train of thought. Submitting to trickster. We two found an even ground between us where physical work, throwing the body into action, provides results and further direction. This time the piece will incorporate giant paper boats and miniature kites along with the usual canoes filled with water and procedures for keeping safe. Teresa Brayshaw and I will be getting into the canoes in Bilbao, Spain. We are recreating our performance duet, Seven Falls, on the last day of the ACT Festival. The programme can be seen here if you zoom in you can see us in the strip at the bottom (closing night).

Tags: duet, canoe, Act Festival, Bilbao, Seven Falls, Teresa Brayshaw

Posted on Tuesday, 4 June 2013 by Karen Christopher

two women lying in water-filled canoes / a constant quivering / two figures surrounded by buckets of water

For me the work is about a central image I care about. The rest of the piece is a way to earn that image. There are layers of foundation and sediment around, above, and below that but somehow that is a central core that gives me something to go on . . . especially when everything is in flux (most of the time).

Tags: So Below, Seven Falls, duet, Control Signal

Posted on Wednesday, 4 July 2012 by Karen Christopher

We are here: Millennium Bridge, Gateshead

The day before our show we are checking the location and making some plans and feeling a bit cold and wondering how cold it will be the next day when we will for sure be getting into canoes filled with water. This we know. And we are trying to feel certain about everything but the only thing that is certain is that we will have canoes and they will be filled with water. Everyone at the GIFT festival in Gateshead is very cooperative. We asked for Canadian canoes. We got Canadian canoes. We asked for water. We got water. We also got mega phones. Very exciting.

Now the day of the show is here, the wind is whipping through on its way from the North Sea, the air is as grey as the Tyne, we are visible only because of our red jackets.

Tags: Teresa Brayshaw, Seven Falls, Gateshead, GIFT festival, duet, canoe

Posted on Sunday, 6 May 2012 by Karen Christopher

get in the canoe

Second conversation of our first conversation week. I (Karen) and Teresa attempt a dialogue about a piece that doesn’t exist yet. The plan is that I’ve organized a structure for this conversation. I was ready with it. This is on skype as T is in Manchester and I am in London. We started with Teresa showing me an iron mouse which I initially thought was a chocolate rabbit. I had made a plan (organized) to introduce a new conversational direction every 7 min. First section was free form and then it was to be each section introduced by a word or a question--however--once the mouse appeared I remembered an earlier organizational idea which was to start by saying “show me something” then this was to be continued with each of us taking turns showing something to the other. Interruptions continued and none of my plans was ever followed but we were not at a loss. We were moving, moving fast.

Tags: Teresa Brayshaw, Seven Falls, duet, canoe

Posted on Tuesday, 7 February 2012 by Karen Christopher

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