Foot in Both Camps: Parody, Pastiche & Living History

We talked about

- The range of performances already happening at The National Trust and other heritage properties, from costume demonstrations, to guided tours, guides interacting, and performances
- Being provocative, being playful, being accurate and being overwhelming.
- children, education and the responsibility not to mislead by misinformation.

and we mentioned

- Father Christmas

What is the point of interpretation? What is its purpose ? educational ? entertainment value ? The purpose determines the style of 'performance'.
Volunteers and performer both noted how visitors sometimes avoid interpreters, creating a circle of avoidance.
Language interpreters sit very close to heads of state because there is another dialogue going on simultaneously. We talked about the distance between interpreters and their audiences, aout people who listen in to conversations which are supposed to be one to one. There are networks of relationships and interaction in this way.

We discussed the wider matrix of historical information that is available, that interpretation is not the only form of historicism.

1st & 3rd – some advantages & disadvantages

First person interpretation - "I am Mary Elizabeth Lucy" and I am in 1853 (and I do not understand 2007)
Third person interpretation - "the Victorians would have.." (explained by an interpreter who is able to observe then, and appears to be dressed as "then", but speaks from "now". These present different kinds of emotional relation with the audience.
How do Triangle approach interpretation and how is the emotional relation different ? Second person interpretation - "I am playing with really being a servant from 1853" (as that person I have a unique perspective on 2007 - as far as I’m concerned its 1853 – as far as you’re concerned it 2007’)

1st person:

- the actor is limited to the horizon of the age s/he is inhabiting
- this perspective on the era can only be a fiction or fantasy (maybe not a disadvantage)
- The actor holds the information, but not necessarily authority
- the interpretation is subjective
- if it is a bad performance, the gap between the person acting and the person they are pretending to be is exposed.
- Trying to pass on educational points makes it less convincing.
- hard to talk about yourself when you are supposed to be arrested in the here & now moment.
- The Audience becomes a passive spectator

- can be convincing, intense, film-like
- Good if played a bit mad i.e. investing in the gap we mentioned above “this one thinks he’s Napoleon”

3rd person:

- too much emotional distance ?

- the distance makes the educational content clear

Mixed 1st & 3rd

- tends to be illustrative, focussed on costume
- confusing

This analysis this grammatical (that’s the convention) in theatre, the interpretation happens without announcing, or not announcing ‘who I am’ in theatre the authority is questionable –think of Shakespeare multiple perspectives

2nd person:
Triangle practices a method of second person interpretation. The inspiration for our use of this term comes from Scott Magelssen's Living History Museums, Undoing History Through Performance (Scarecrow Press,2007). In our methodology, which extends Magelssens survey of Performance Studies and Performance Art practices, 2nd person interpretation is not only individual, but a way of building a network of others: ‘you’ who confirm ‘I’. Other people are in scenes and are characters with you. The actor has a foot in both camps, and juggles then and now.

Although factual information can be overshadowed in this method, a new resource is discovered by uncovering relational histories and social dynamics.

This encourages collaboration with visitors and volunteers who become participants in the job of interpretation. Working with these resources and with historical information is like popular history, oral history, or story telling rather than stage acting.

Living History is an oxymoron
Then and now here and now – so many contradictions of historicism
Criticism of living history - Popular histories, dominated by big names, sweeping time divisions – but this ignores the emotional investment in history

Camp incorporates old fashioned things, dead things. Camp living history is located on the margins away from the sacred space. It can never occupy the central space ie History as it is done properly. Re-enactment performs on the margins of history, it prefers the margins

Then and now in the here and now

Absurd or ironic play can only follow a sincerely invested set-up. Inversion needs something to invert. Include the external world, don’t refuse it.Talk openly about the National Trust, 21st century, visitors, children’s food, technology, Triangle as a theatre company. You have discovered them all very recently. Modern and daily objects (chewing gum, trainers, a watch bought on ebay) can be used once a fantasy has been built up, to undercut the ridiculousness of the interpretation.

We can joke that the time on a fob clock has stopped because the clock was bought on ebay It is important not to think of objects as props, but as artefacts, whether they are from the museum or from the theatre company stores. Using objects from the modern world in a Victorian scenario (eg beer glass for water) is good for a joke. It is ideal if the object is beautifully apt, but still ironic, like a beautiful but diminutive glass of water, that is presented as if it were a glass of wine to a character lounging on a lawn. A use of scale in objects, physicality, and voice, through exaggeration, and bathos (sudden deflation) contributes to the exaggerated naturalism and peculiar ‘authenticity’ of the 2nd person re-enactment.

We discussed the plates in the kitchen that at one time were used, but now cannot be touched. Replicas allow us to touch - but even then we cannot tou ch the real thing. When everyday objects are laid out on display they are presented out of context, and their banality is accentuated even though they have supposedly become precious.

Signs & Labels
Joke about the DO NOT TOUCH signs, which tempt you to touch the surface underneath them. The ropes are barriers which mark out the area which is more precious but annexed or forbidden. Joking about these is a relief for the visitor who is aware of the ways in which these barriers condition the response to history. By speaking in whispers and insisting on care, we earn the right to allow visitors to peak into hidden cupboard or passageway.

Age - human years. Age - an era or generation. Age-gaps and intergenerational interpretation. My age is not really different to your age - generation cycles,

copyright, Triangle, 2007