In Autumn 2019, Company Chameleon will bring you a new stage production called The Shadow, choreographed by our Co-Artistic Director, Anthony Missen.
The creation follows on from Anthony’s last full-length work, Beauty Of The Beast, created in 2014. Received with critical acclaim across the media, the production received 4 and 5-star reviews, and was described by audiences as ‘exceptional’, ‘powerful’ and as ‘one of the best pieces of dance theatre I’ve ever seen’.
Here, we catch up with Anthony to find out more about his latest new work and the creative process.
1. Anthony, what is The Shadow about?
The Shadow looks at hidden parts of the unconscious mind – repressed tendencies that are unevolved, primitive, inferior or awkward, and the bits of people we don’t normally see, that we are either unaware of, or are hidden from view.
Everyone has public and private personas. We all put our best face forward – take two minutes to browse around Instagram and you’ll see plenty of inflated lifestyles and illusions of perfection. People don’t generally share the stuff they aren’t proud of, nor do they share comments and opinions which might not be liked or well received.
It’s said that we all have three faces: our public face; the face that we show to our friends and family; and the face that nobody sees. It’s the latter that is our truest likeness, and this is what the piece explores.
Civilized society has developed structures, laws and conventions which, perhaps for the path of least resistance, or just to fit in, we subscribe to.
This inevitably means there’s a whole lot that bounces around inside your head that has no place. We’re conditioned in a way that most people are wholly unaware of what these things are – only getting a glimmer when words, emotions or actions burst forth and catch you off guard. Things find their way out in one way or another. The things that we project onto others are often really about ourselves.
With this production, I’m interested in bringing that stuff to the surface and in doing so uncovering what takes place in the unconscious mind.
2. Is there a narrative?
There’s won’t be a traditional or linear narrative, but I’m a storyteller at heart, so although there may be some seemingly abstract elements, I will be communicating stories.
It may be that parts of it are structured like the way of a dream – fragments or strangely intersecting events and characters. I imagine it’ll come out more episodic than a straight line, although all the pieces will point the same way.
As well as looking at psychology, archetypes and behaviour, I am also exploring an accelerant to get towards the point – something that forces the characters to reveal themselves. Sometimes, behavioural patterns that are not on the “normal” spectrum of human behaviour manifest in times of stress, when there’s danger or a life-threatening situation. I considered that if everyone knew that tomorrow wasn’t coming, i.e., the world was to end imminently and we all knew it, then all sorts of behaviour would appear. This is a question I have been exploring, however explicit this ends up being in the finished piece.
What we do know is that all of the characters meet at the same place, and are forced to navigate the encounters with the other characters, and what these have thrown up about themselves.
The line between fantasy and reality will be a thread throughout. Some of what you see will be real and other things will be part of what is going on in the character’s head.
3. What’s the most key part of the creative process?
What’s essential in the making of this production is that the four main dancers take ownership of the stories that they’re going to tell through their performance, and that a safe environment is created in which everyone is comfortable to explore and share as we investigate and devise.
There has to be some authenticity if the audience are going to stay with it and get lost in it as they watch. Before we’ve even thought about moving and dancing in the creative process, there’s been a good level of getting everyone together to talk through the subject matter and what it triggers in everyone’s mind.
We’ve been doing all sorts from word association tests to meta-programming in order for us to dig deep, reflect on our thoughts and experiences, and glimpse at the places that sit in the recesses of our minds. I have to be very sensitive here, I’m asking the performers to reveal themselves, and in asking this I need to take a lot of care. Good, open, honest conversation is vital.
Giving the time and space for this leads to a more open and collaborative way of working and will, ultimately, make for a much richer finished production.
4. What inspired the title of The Shadow?
I came across the term as part of my research. In psychology, Carl Jung, identifies the shadow as the unknown dark side of our personality. The shadow is something that is part of all of us, but we only see it when a light shines in particular way. Most of the time we don’t see it at all, we don’t even acknowledge it, but it’s always there if you look closely enough.
The World Premiere of The Shadow will take place in Autumn 2019. Follow us on social and keep an eye on our web-site for further announcements on tour dates.
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Thank you to everyone who comes to watch us perform and for all your wonderful comments and feedback!