DEsPRESSO: a photo diary

Jemima with Alessandra and Michele
Jemima with Alessandra and Michele

Candoco Artist Jemima Hoadley has recently spent some time in Italy developing a new piece of work – DEsPRESSO – exploring themes of depression and loneliness. This is her photo diary documenting the process.

I was invited by Director Michele Comite to come to Italy to choreograph a theatre show that he had been devising for the past three months, with just himself and one other performer, Alessandra Carraro, a talented actress with Down’s syndrome.

The performance, aimed at children, confronts issues of depression, loneliness and companionship. It seeks to move beyond stereotypes and look at some of the symbolism of depression.

I was asked to choreograph several sections of the show, using the stage set and props. I was sent some images of the performers in rehearsal and had a Skype meeting with the project manager, where I was asked my opinion on what the props and set represented. I was quite prepared to direct the movement for the whole show, as it seemed likely that this would be needed.

When I arrived in Italy on 14th January to start rehearsals, Michele and Alessandra had an hour-long devised script with plenty of action and ideas, but it was still in need of further clarity and structure. As someone coming in from the outside with an eye for movement and feel for dramaturgy, I was able to help move DEsPRESSO along to becoming a great performance.

In the performance there are two doors, a normal sized door which is the door to the outside world from Michele’s room and a small door that Alessandra brings into the space, which can represent different things to different people, but for Ale has a magical quality. There are also two huge coffee cups that can become different things in play between the two characters – such as seats, stilts, a car, mountains, etc.

DAY 2

Michele opening solo - I worked with just Michele this morning, to develop the opening solo of the show. It's about solitude and loneliness. He is alone in his room, trapped inside his depression.
Michele’s opening solo – I worked with just Michele this morning, to develop the opening solo of the show. It’s about solitude and loneliness. He is alone in his room, trapped inside his depression.

 

I watched Michele improvising with the theme of depression, developing the movements with him, drawing out some clear images and composing a score for a solo.
I watched Michele improvising with the theme of depression, developing the movements with him, drawing out some clear images and composing a score for a solo.

 

Sometimes I have to do it myself to feel what it is I am looking for in a particular moment.
Sometimes I have to do the movement myself to feel what it is I am looking for in a particular moment.

 

DAY 3

3a
Building the climax of one of the main dance scenes

 

c.Introducing some new potential props. At first we do not agree on their meaning, or the small door, which I love, but which we must agree on understanding of.
Introducing some new potential props. At first we do not agree on their meaning, or that of the small door, which I love. It’s important we come to agree on this.

 

b.As a choreographer coming into a process from the outside, I often find a big part of my role is dramaturgy. Here we are discussing the reasons behind the script narrative and how this interacts with the set.
As a choreographer coming into a process from the outside, I often find a big part of my role is dramaturgy. Here we are discussing the reasons behind the script narrative and how this interacts with the set.

 

DAY 4

Working on the choreography of the cups
Working on the choreography of the cups.

 

Working on the final scene of the show; making it dramatically authentic and staying true to the narrative arch of the work.
Working on the final scene of the show; making it dramatically authentic and staying true to the narrative arch of the work.

 

DAY 5

5
Written into the script is a space for me to choreograph a playful duet with torches. We don’t get to this particular point in the script until 2 days before the performance. I’m concerned that we are introducing too many new concepts for the audience and that we simply don’t have enough time to do this idea justice. We do go ahead though and I make a very simple torches dance that refers back to the show up until that point. It is a nice visual moment, though we agree it needs much more time and research. None of us like doing things by halves, but this is the first step of the performance development, so we agree to earmark time for it in a future development period. We finished later than expected, but were rewarded with a stunning sunset and dinner in Trento. We’re pleased with the progress of the show, but it’s clear there isn’t enough time to work with the level of detail that we’d like to.

 

Before I came to Italy, Michele had asked me to speak with my daughter about her ideas for the small door, the big door and loneliness. I did this and it gave me the idea to extend my research and work with children from my daughter’s class in Year 2. I was interested to see how they viewed depression and loneliness and how they felt this could relate to movement.

We used ideas gathered from this research and from Michele’s research in Italy with children and people with depression to inform the content and symbolism of the work.

DAY 6

In the final scenes of the show, Alessandra brings a small door to Michele's room. After they enter and play torches, Alessandra emerges and asks Michele to tell her a story. Michele and I both did research with young children to find out their thoughts about what depression and loneliness is and what the two doors might represent. In this scene we created a small puppet show, using animal ideas from the children to represent loneliness - Michele and hope - Alessandra. It's a lovely touch that the 'mouse' is the same as Alessandra's night cap.
In the final scenes of the show, Alessandra brings a small door to Michele’s room. After they enter and play with the torches, Alessandra asks Michele to tell her a story. Michele and I had both done research with young children to find out their thoughts about what depression and loneliness is and what the two doors might represent. In this scene we created a small puppet show, using some of the children’s ideas for certain animals to represent loneliness (Michele) and hope (Alessandra). It’s a lovely touch that the ‘mouse’ puppet is the same as Alessandra’s night cap.

 

Costumes almost ready. The costume designer is very glamorous! She responds quickly to my suggestions for additions and alterations.
Costumes are almost ready. The costume designer [Chiara Defant] is very glamorous! She responds quickly to my suggestions for additions and alterations.

DAY 7

Technical rehearsals are interrupted for prop fixing. The stage turns out to be raked and we need a magnet to keep the door ajar! Unfortunately even though the magnet works fine, it's too late to ensure Alessandra fixes it open in the final scene, as we've not rehearsed it this way and there is only a minute or two to practise. So, the final scene is somewhat lost, as the door swings closed as Alessandra exits and Michele has to open it again.
Technical rehearsals are interrupted for prop fixing. The stage turns out to be raked and we need a magnet to keep the door ajar! Unfortunately, even though the magnet works fine, it’s too late to ensure Alessandra leaves it open in the final scene, as we’ve not rehearsed it in this way and there is only a minute or two to practise. So, the impact of the final scene is a little lost, as the door swings closed as Alessandra exits and Michele has to open it again.

 

The theatre we are performing in is spectacular. The fresco on the ceiling is the 5th layer of paintings, this one done in the 1920s.

 

The performance is very well received. Michele and Alessandra dedicate the performance to Rosa, a disabled dancer with Michele's company, who passed away last year.
The performance is very well received. Michele and Alessandra dedicate the performance to Rosa, a disabled dancer with Michele’s company, who passed away last year.

 

Michele has invited me to return in May to develop the show further and premiere the work for the public in the nearby city and capital of the region, Trento. Hopefully he will be successful in securing further funding and I’ll be able to go back. 

It was an utter pleasure working with Michele, Alessandra and our project interpreter Stephanie.

 


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