How much do we actually pay attention to the places and people that are around us? Would noticing those small yet sometimes significant details change the quality of how we live? This is what I wondered while watching The Claim in association with Hannah Bruce and Company and Northern school of Contemporary dance. The Claim explored the hidden spaces behind the scenes of the West Yorkshire Playhouse. It also gave us a glimpse of the sights and sounds we hear everyday in the city of Leeds.
Our tour began with downloading an App on our smart phones and then putting on headphones. This App was developed and designed by Peter Worth and Jonathan Eato and was a great piece of technology with perfect functionality. From then on in, we were invited to follow the voice ‘in our head’ that was giving us instructions and commentary through our headphones via this app. The voice started by drawing our attention to sounds and sights of the building and the city around us. It then took us on a journey through the Quarry theatre where we saw dancers gracefully striding up the seats, sliding in and out of view as they moved between sitting, lying and standing. It was simple and fleeting. It was enough. From there we moved onto the stage, a moment to imagine how the performers feel when they look out at audiences. Then we travelled down into the depths of the building experiencing the different spaces in unusual ways – corridors, locked doors, colours, the sounds of machinery, the waste and rubble. We felt the walls, felt the temperature changes, and saw ordinary things in new delightful perspectives and further downwards we went, eventually arriving in what seemed to be an actual quarry – a rubble of bricks, dust and sand.
This space was beautifully lit and we could see a languid and long limbed dancer moving around the rocks. As I watched I could feel the sand beneath my feet and smell the dust drifting through the damp air. Beautiful sounds chimed in my ears and all the time I was having a quiet conversation with the voice in my head. We were invited to leave a memory here amongst the rubble, to be kept safe. I did leave a precious memory there (but that is between me and those bricks).
The Claim at West Yorkshire Playhouse (specially commissioned for the festival Transform 14 was utterly beautiful. For me, it was a thoughtful moment of tranquility that reminded me to lift my head out of my own stuff once in a while and pay attention to what is happening around me.