Note to the Reader

In 1992, Berger wrote a Note to the Reader ‘I travel to places. I live the years. This is a book about keeping rendezvous. (The ones I failed to keep are another story.) Each account begins with an image which conjures up something of where the meeting took place.’ Our reader might be our audience. Our book might be the performance. Our places might be its pages. Our account begins with an image being torn up. A photograph of a migrant copied from the book. It becomes a gesture we explain later. It is a ticket to the show and the journey we are taking. We travel to other places. On buses. On trains. in trucks. Our performers suggest with their movements where we might be and the audience are passengers on this journey. Clutching their suitcase. Holding onto their ticket.

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The meeting places we visit are border control, immigration centres, factories, barracks, the train station, the city. We zoom in and out at different scales from the domestic to the industrial, the micro to the macro, someone wrote feedback on the first Work-in-Progress that took some time to decipher. They wrote that they enjoyed the ‘modelling-as-storytelling’. We took this to mean the use of objects, toy cars, wooden train sets, so the audience look down upon the city as we build it. A rendezvous is a meeting at ‘an appointed place and time’ and there is something formal about each performance we stage in the S.H.E.D. Audience members book for one of our time slots, as only 8 people can be taken on the journey at a time. This is partly because of limited capacity but also because it lends itself to the intimate and immersive ‘modelling-as-storytelling’ approach.

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Berger concludes his Note to the Reader by saying: ‘Some would not be easy to find on a map, others would be. All of them, of course, have been visited by other travellers. I hope readers too will find themselves saying: I’ve been here…’ We are aware too that our theme, migration, has been visited many times, not least by the book that inspired us. We are aware of its topicality, its resonance, but we are also aware of ways to unlock parallels between the text written in 1975 and the situation today and locates the audience in this ambiguous space between then and now, there and here. As we say in the text ‘You have arrived. You are here’. When we say ‘mostly you travel by night, hidden in lorries’ we are citing Berger and Mohr’s original text. But we might also be talking about the plight of immigrants travelling from Calais. We might be talking about Syrian refugees escaping conflict zones. We might be talking about different eras, different conflicts, the text talks across and between time. The show, like the book, looks beyond a news story’s temporary life cycle. As Berger wrote – ‘It can happen, that a book, unlike its authors, grows younger as the years pass’.

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