At the beginning of the summer months this year there was a gap in the Wonder Fools schedule. With ‘549’ having just finished its first development period. This left room for a new project: something fresh and exciting. What emerged was an installation performance called ‘This Is What You Look Like’, a piece born out of our desire to connect with people outside of a traditional theatre environment.
The idea behind the installation is simple. An audience member sits at a desk with two performers; one performer has a conversation with the audience member whilst the other performer, behind a typewriter, listens to the conversation and composes a poem inspired by it. The poem is performed back to the audience member and gifted to them on a label, which they can stick to themselves for all to see or keep safe and treasured.
We hoped the installation would provide a fun way for Wonder Fools to meet lots of new people from lots of different backgrounds and create little bits of poetry together without even knowing it. The performance was initially developed with the National Theatre of Scotland’s LEARN department, as part of a project called ‘Tales from the Mall’ which took place in the Forge Shopping Centre in Glasgow. Another hope for the installation was that it could take us into unorthodox locations, like the Forge, and free us from the rehearsal spaces and traditional theatre settings that we were used to.
The installation’s notion of meeting new people in an intimate and vibrant setting seemed a perfect fit to one of the staples of Scottish and British summertime: the music festival. As anyone who has been to a festival will know, there lies in the rainy fields an eclectic mix of personalities with a burning desire to have new experiences, meet new people and have a good time – Wonder Fools in a nutshell then. There is an abundance of festivals in this country which combine music with a range of other art forms and so the Scottish festival circuit seemed an ideal environment to bring life to ‘This Is What You Look Like’.
We have travelled across Scotland – from Moffatt in the South West to Inverness in the Highlands – presenting the installation. We’ve been fortunate to be situated in some incredible locations. At Kelburn Garden Party, near Fairlie in Argyle and Bute, we conversed and wrote poems atop a forest glen one day and the next we performed it all again under a waterfall. Whilst at Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival, we were surrounded by the vast beauty of the Highlands. In this sense then, we achieved our aim of transferring the work we do to new non-traditional settings – which feels an important step for Wonder Fools.
The biggest joy for us is reserved for the reaction of the audience. From hippies to hipsters, from grandparents to children; people are enthused that simple phrases or words that have come out of their own mouths can be made into a small piece of poetry. The tagline we use is ‘Where the audience becomes the poet’ and it’s important for us, as with any work we make, that the performance feels inclusive and approachable. To walk around various festivals and see children, teenagers and adults all wearing labels with WF poetry typed on them was a very special way to spend our summer.
The aim now is to take ‘This Is What You Look Like’ to other unconventional settings. This begins on the 19th September where you can see us perform the installation in a Glasgow pub as part of the Glasgow North West Arts Trail. We hope to see you there.