Too Prolix: A Tour Out of Time (2014)
[Performers, script shaped from archival documents, locations on The Historic Dockyard, Chatham]
Too Prolix: A Tour Out of Time was performed as part of the Arts Council funded Töne festival (2014) http://www.tonefestival.com/2014/03/25/steve-klee/
In this site-specific piece a small cast re-enact moments from 18th Century labour disputes between Chatham Dockyard workers (artificers) and the Navy hierarchy. Ports and dockyards have long been viewed as breeding-grounds for democracy; Plato - who advocated rule by an enlightened elite - much preferred the land-locked shepherd to the wayward sailor.
Too Prolix… evolved from the discovery of archival worker-petitions, which revealed the Dockyard artificers to mobilise dexterous arguments and erudite vocabulary in order to gain leverage over their bosses. It is my contention that these complex documents are examples of democracy in action. They are ‘performances of equality’, textual assertions that the workers are inferior to no one. The script for the piece is composed of citations from these petitions, responses by Officers and Commissioners of the Navy as well as other contemporaneous sources.
The refinement evident in the petitions is mirrored in Too Prolix… by the acting style employed. Choreographed movements drawn from the tradition of Rhetorical gesture accompany the performers’ words. This modus, used throughout the 18th Century attempted to codify and embody sophistication, intelligence and social status. It was employed in the delivery of public speeches, on the theatre stage and in polite society. For Too Prolix… this gestural form has migrated into sites of historic labour and been appropriated by those who under ‘normal’ conditions were considered to have no right to rhetoric.
Too Prolix: Research Material (2014)
Images of works: Research Table (2014) [Glass topped table, Chroma-green cloth, broken fingers from a museum display mannequin, books and magazine spread]; ADM (2014) [Photographic reproduction of archival material]; The Body of the Book (2014) [Antique document: Francois Nivelon (1737) Rudiments of Genteel Behaviour, loaned by Gainsborough’s House, Suffolk, display cabinet, Chroma-green cloth]
Too Prolix: Research Material was an exhibition accompanying the live performance for Töne festival and was held at POP, Community space, Chatham.