Geneva, written and performed by Jane Arnfield, was about love, mountaineering and hallucination. Investigating human limits in extreme, punishing situations, it asked why we repeat our mistakes, why we refuse to see things as they really are, why we keep on going upwards and onwards… Jane’s process of research began with a trip to Everest Base Camp in May 2003, and a series of interviews with climbers who have scaled Everest. Her questions raised more questions – if we don’t take risks how do we explore, if we don’t explore how do we test commitment, if we don’t test our commitment how do we know the strength of our investment?
Geneva had 3 parts – first, a simple lecture with slides, intersecting facts, invented ‘facts’, documentary and constructed images about the history of mountaineering with details from Jane’s own personal history; next a visually and physically-driven main section, combining a short poetic text with simple choreography in a field of 750 domestic light bulbs; finally, a brief coda of an avalanche of video and sound, created from fragments of images and sound from the rest of the show.
Why we made Geneva
“Geneva was a departure for Quarantine – the first (and only, so far) time that we’ve asked another artist to initiate a project. I’d worked with Jane previously at Northern Stage and she’d performed for Quarantine in both Frank and something a taxi driver in Liverpool said… Jane is a fabulous performer and an original thinker – we felt like we could take the risk with her to make something which hadn’t started with one of Quarantine’s core artists.
Looking back, Geneva was a mixed success. It’s still one of Simon’s (Banham, Quarantine’s designer) favourite pieces – Jane in the field of lightbulbs made for some stunning images. However, Renny and I questioned whether or not what we had made was in fact a Quarantine piece (and the discussions around that help us to define what makes a Quarantine piece). I certainly felt more like a facilitator of somebody else’s ideas than I have with any other project – and escaping this feeling was one of the main reasons I set up Quarantine in the first place. I think that somehow we failed to connect the personal and the political in the ways that have underpinned our other work. But Jane’s performance was brilliant – complex and clear and honest and passionate.”
Richard Gregory, Director
I have to say that this show worked for me, in its courage, its eloquence, and its willingness to look directly at some of the terrifying everyday risks people may be trying to escape, control, or understand by taking to the hills. Joyce Macmillan, The Scotsman
Credits and performance details
Text and performance Jane Arnfield; director Richard Gregory; designer Simon Banham; videomakers John Alder & Alex Elliott; composer and video editor John Alder; choreographer Jane Mason; lighting designer Mike Brookes; dramaturg Duska Radosavljevic
Geneva was a co-production with Northern Stage, performed at Newcastle Playhouse in December 2003 and January 2004.