November 1, 2016

Making Wallflower: Rend, repair, repeat

James’ trousers are torn again.

Someone in the costume department is repairing them for the third time, a third rend in a fabric already scarred with cotton thread and patches – torn always in the same place.

The first time was Dublin Theatre Festival 2015, the second time was in Vitlycke, Sweden, right in the middle of a performance – a shrug to the audience  –  “I don’t mind if you don’t.”

James shows me the repairs, criss-crossed layers of stitching and cloth, re-made, renewed, an old pair of trousers created again, over and over.

James’ trousers make me think of Wallflower and its business of remembering. Mostly, the memories that surface during Wallflower are new, shared for the very first time and possibly the last, but sometimes the performers return to memories they’ve shared before, maybe because they have something to add, because there’s more in that memory to explore, because they feel differently about it this time around…

Each time they re-remember a dance, they add a new repair, a new patch to the fabric of the memory, making it more richly detailed, patterned – reinforcing it. I wonder if they return to these memories often enough, whether the patches will be all that remain. Will the moment become a version of its last telling – like a game of ‘Chinese Whispers’ – leaving other details behind?

Memories evolve, changing their shape and character – they fraction or fade with time, but also with use. Wallflower is partly an exercise in restoration – of recalling memories buried deep under the surface – but also of creating memory anew, with every revised telling.

Hannah Hiett does Quarantine’s words and things 

(Written at the University of Aberystwyth, October 2016)

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