My visit to the Sotteville street theatre festival in June was enhanced by the presence of Dr Susan Haedicke, who is an expert in this type of performance art and has written extensively on the subject. She introduced me to two actors from the Jeanne Simone Company, who are pictured here, and we later witnessed one of their street "interventions".
This is an except from the report of a lecture she gave on their work:
The first video Haedicke showed was initially confusing. It was a 3-minute excerpt of a 45-minute film of the Jean Simone street theatre company. The actors in the clip repeated bizarre movements, such as circling a streetlight pole, while keeping their heads touching the pole, this movement complemented by wild arm flailing. Viewers could have been puzzled by what sort of radical change would come of a performance like the one featured. The presenter responded to such criticism of this performance by explaining that these performances constitute events, not content. The performers have targeted the “perception,” “disgust” and “tension” of the public bystanders.
From the point of view of a photographer, the opportunity to photograph these actors in one of their performances was a chance to portray ambiguity. Without background information, the viewer of these images would probably describe them as a street "incident", but it's hard to know what's going on. Is the woman in the top picture a dancer who's decided to use the road to practice? has she lost her mind? has the man just had a row with her? are the three people in the middle image embarassed by her antices and have to look away? was the bottom image taken seconds after a mugging? if not, why is the woman on the road?
Susan emphasises the way this type of theatre aims to bring about radical change in attitudes. Thanks to Susan, I had a chance to talk with the actors and I liked and understood the emphasis they place on the relationship between their actions and the space in which they take place. Part of their aim at least is to get the "audience" (actually, a large group of people following them round the streets) to reassess the space and look at at it in a very different way. I think they achieve this objective.