Academic journal article Australasian Drama Studies

'Uncertain Work': Designing through Collective Processes in the Devising of Version 1.0's the Table of Knowledge

Academic journal article Australasian Drama Studies

'Uncertain Work': Designing through Collective Processes in the Devising of Version 1.0's the Table of Knowledge

Article excerpt

Note: Coloured versions of the images used in this article may be found as a s/ideshow at au stratasian-drama-stud ies/issues/issue-61/Hecken berg

Our powerful personalities collided and clashed, but the explosions seemed to direct their energies into the work and its complex dramaturgy. We attempted to convince each other again and again of the same ideas with different justifications, throwing in new challenges through material and provocations to the group, demanding that everyone had to struggle to stay performatively afloat. This was uncertain work indeed; the conceptual ships passed each other in the inky blackness, always about to collide.1

After years of informal foyer, seminar and conference conversations with key members of the version 1.0 ensemble - David Williams, Yana Taylor and Paul Dwyer - I wished to investigate more formally this company's design process, especially in their larger, collectively devised works. The focus of these friendly yet passionate discussions was the company's choice not to work with a designer: members of the company stated that they didn't need one, and even implied that they were not interested in making the kind of theatre that had 'designers'.2 By highlighting the means by which version 1.0 developed staging imagery during the collective design process I observed for The Table of Knowledge,3 I argue that, even without a formal hierarchical production model and an official designer, skilful and concerted design work still takes place.*1

Through a shared recognition of a version 1.0 visual 'style', the members of the devising team for The Table of Knowledge worked collaboratively to develop 'staging' ideas and to resolve them aesthetically and practically. The focus of this article is to make visible the implicit design work that the company does, putting into context the debates that surround design in 'contemporary performance'. After outlining the phases of the work's development, I consider how the company's communicative and collective decision-making strategies, and the implicitly and explicitly acknowledged areas of expertise of different company members, contribute to a distinct visual aesthetic. This is significant because, despite their conscious decision not to involve a designer, version 1.0 is a company which nevertheless has a recognised and coherent visual style. I then examine the creation of a number of exemplary staged elements: the deliberate framing and construction of mediatised imagery and a spatial dramaturgy as well as the building of a moment of 'affective intensity' by situating a performer in a physically precarious set-up on stage.

With a 'signature style of blending video, multimedia and re-enactments',5 version 1.0 has 'made its name by constructing verbatim theatre pieces from transcripts',® and is characterised in the mainstream media as a collaborative political theatre group'1 that makes 'verbatim theatre, giving it a provocative, intelligent and politically savvy twist using contemporary performance and multimedia'.8 It is a company 'renowned for delving into politically-charged events and turning them into engaging pieces of theatre'.9 Yet version 1.0 CEO David Williams10 claims that their work does not look like what is generally recognised as political, documentary or verbatim theatre elsewhere, such as, he suggests, the work of David Hare and Tricycle Theatre in London.11 Williams argues:

Our use of those strategies is driven by a very different set of aesthetic principles even if the political imperatives might overlap. So yes, I would say that we made documentary theatre but it doesn't look like that stuff ... We have a very strong interest in the relationship between screen images and live images and the kinds of ways you can use projections blending live-captured and pre-recorded footage to create particular kinds of effects on an audience.12

Regardless of whether this claim of differentiation is rhetorical rather than fully substantiated, this comment does reveal that the 'look' of their work is clearly central to the way that version 1. …

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