It’s a HOAX. Let’s Reimagine Rubbish.
As a theatre and object maker, what really gets me going is reimagining familiar, forgotten and disregarded things.
That's probably why my favourite place in the whole of Building BloQs workshop is the off-cut bin by the wood burner. Among the piles of castaways, my inner scavenger comes out to play. Maybe I just love the idea that a phoenix could rise from the rubble. Or maybe I'm just cheap.
I’m even happier when I can pull other people into my work - to collaborate on ideas for HOAX, my theatre company. In my time at Building BloQs I've consistently drawn on the expertise all across the different departments, be it the metal and wood workshop, laser cutter or textile studio, to help bring projects and visions to life.
From a metal and wood wheely door (with asymmetric window to match the wonky table); a water-cooler stage lamps; a distressed corset made with a blanket relinquished after a distressing airplane journey (for a character...in distress) and the laser engraved MDF dagger, I've raided Building BloQs' bins – and talent – to realise my foolish theatrical ideas more times than I can count.
My core motivation for recycling is that waste is inherent in theatre. Objects are built not to last except in the human imagination. Countless groups have sprung up to deal with the environmental footprint of set construction, especially around London, yet landfills still brim with beautiful, evocative props and objects. For me, it's just not good enough.
Not only is it time to reassess our thinking around temporality, but we need to reassess the role of theatre objects in our imaginations.
With that, HOAX has a vision that's both practical and cultural.
Practically, we upcycle, recycle and pay due respect to the materials we use. Culturally, our performances offer observations and commentary about the role waste plays in our lives.
In 2015, for example, project designer Andrea Carr headed into the wilds of Reading festival to collect abandoned camping materials ahead of our upcoming show, Stuck. She came across a dire sea of textile trash in nylons, polyester, ripstop, plastic toggles and zips: petrochemical waste with decomposition times of between 200 and 2000 years. A fun fact learned at Reading: 13,500 of the festival's 45,000 tents are trashed at the end of the weekend. Given tents start at a mere £20, and sleeping bags £10, the festival going masses could be forgiven for seeing them as one-use, throwaway items.
Thanks to Andrea's foraging and her ability to see a beauty in camping equipment (which definitely eluded some of us), HOAX was able to create an evocative landscape, a non-degradable backdrop for the stage show. In each Stuck performance, the scenery swallows up the players on stage, presenting vivid visuals that interrogate the role of waste and collective imagination in our contribution to climate change. What has emerged is a world that's simultaneously real and artificial, beautiful one moment, problematic the next.
Using the synthetic materials to tell our stories and staying true to our ideals, is a balancing act. Especially for a small, touring theatre company. Once again that’s where fellow BloQs members come in - they help us make the best use of our materials and see in the most efficient technical, practical, spatial solutions.
Aside from the practical daily benefits, the Building BloQs London workshop has been a solid partner on our mission. Their story is one that started with a vision that evolved with thrifty techniques and materials and is now rising - phoenix style - in the wider community.
Waste is not a sexy topic and our solutions are not perfect: the materials used will outlast us all and inevitably end up in a landfill. As a theatre company, we are not in the business of materials engineering. But we are here to engage people’s imaginations and if, for a short time in a long life cycle, materials can be reused and redirected in a way that gives food for thought about our planetary future, then just maybe we can collectively foster some positive social and ecological change.
You can see ‘Stuck’ at The Hackney Showroom on July 11th + 16th, 2017 at 7:30 pm