As with most Tuesday sessions at the Island, the artists start with a warm up.
It gives them the opportunity to limber up.
To become blank.
Each character has yet to be written. Jo is leading today’s session.
Cheery music blares through the small speakers in the corner of the room.
It gives the four participants chance to be fun, erratic.
The music tones down. More mellow.
The stretches, movements become more subdued.
‘Can I ask you two to stand up’.
Two of the three stand up.
‘Let's play a game. Push not to win it's called.'
The rules of this exercise are explained to our artists.
'You've got to push each other with your arms without either of you winning, otherwise, you would lose the game'.
The two players make an arch.
Placing both their hands on each others shoulders.
The strain of each others oppressing weight makes them both wobble slightly.
It seems to be a game of balance.
Whilst trying to maintain the upper hand by pushing forward, each participant must ensure that they do not go to far.
To do so would mean both would fall.
'It's about learning to trust one another.'
Jo echoes my thoughts on the proceedings.
‘Do you feel like you’re holding back at all?' ‘It’s a really good exercise for trust- learning how to use your body- using all of your strength, like your going to win- then, when you feel like you’ve pushed too much, withdraw’.
Another pair forms up, while Jo looks on, observing.
There seems to be a slight increase in force between the two this time.
They push to and fro.
‘This time it’s different. This time I can see real pushing’.
Jo, again, calls for a halt.
‘Did you feel worried about pushing her?' ‘Yes , because of the socks.'
Each artist voices their concern for their partner during the exercise.
Despite wanting to ‘win’ without winning, each wanted to ensure they did not cause any physical harm.
The next pairing takes the floor.
There is more strain.
Whether it is because they are becoming used to the exercise or they are of the same height, both parties are solidly pushing each other.
So much so, they begin to bow slowly towards the floor.
They discuss the differences. Height. Length.
‘I find it’s harder as she has longer arms’. ‘So Ed has stubby arms’?
‘Learn to play with the balance’.
Jo waves for another round.
This stalemate game is intriguing to watch.
The balance, teamwork and the urge to push.
Learning each others limits of strength.
Allowing your partner to regain power by pushing you further so you both stay upright.
Watching them brings me to making an analogy between their movements, and a seesaw.
Each has to apply enough force to 'win', push themselves high enough, but not so hard that their partner will hit the ground.
'Don't hug each other!?'
I am brought out of my reverie to find the two artists are silently giggling as they hold onto each other in a battle of wills.
The floor squeaks profusely as their feet slide slowly under the strain.
They try several times. Swapping partners. Learning each others limits.
Jo calls a halt.
A broom is placed in the center of the floor.
‘This, acts as a line’.
With one either side of the broom, the artists resume their sumo like wrestle.
Now with the added rule incorporated into the game.
There is a significant increase in concentration now.
‘There’s something with our arms’.
They lift up each others arms to compare to see if they can confirm their theory.
'I want to go farther- the plank position’. ‘Try it’!
Again they get into position. They experiment.
When one feels over pushed, the other voices their concern.
Through both verbal and non verbal communication, they try to maintain balance.
But to no avail.
Partners are swapped.
Through observing different pairings, they are able to compare different strategies.
‘Lets try back to back’.
The partners sit back to back.
Leaning with forced gentleness against each others back.
Slowly rising as falling to the floor.
Using the struggle to balance.
There is silence.
The air thick with their silent concentration.
Although they cannot see each other. They remain in sync. Rising and falling.
‘How did you find that?' ‘Easy’ ‘Comfortable’ ‘The other felt like a struggle- this feels more trusting’
‘You’re helping your partner- by making yourself comfortable you make your partner comfortable’. ‘It’s interesting because the way you were positioned, you didn’t look comfortable’.
They swap again.
With the two new partners becoming so close to each other back to back, and additionally wearing black leggings, they resemble some sort of four legged creature, dancing back and forth across the floor.
‘You don’t have to be together with your bums’!
Laughter echoes around the room.
‘Use the struggle from sitting’ ‘Don’t help the other person-play the game’.
They fall to the floor.
Jo steps up.
‘When I learnt to play chess, I learnt to play attack- the game is to stay ahead, push hard and keep them chasing- if you’re on the defense, you’ve lost already- does that make sense?'
We all nod.
The next pair continues.
Eduardo leans heavily on Kara's back.
We pause to reflect.
‘I felt like with Sasha you were trying to balance, but with me you were just lying on me’.
Kara this time voices her thoughts.
‘He was playing the game’ ‘From the start you have to be in the game’.
They try again.
Eduardo and Sasha this time.
Determination is palpable from both parties now.
Both pairs of feet skid across the floor in a struggle.
‘Now we’re playing’. ‘That was a mental, I’m gunna win!'
Sasha suddenly retracts and lets go so Ed rolls over backwards but lands gracefully on his hands and knees.
Jo calls halt.
‘That was not pretty- but that’s how it’s played’.
We move onto the next activity.
This exercise gives the players control of the other person by touching them.
They are driving their partner.
'It's called the Car Game.'
The artists experiment with this new premise in partners. There is real control and trust.
In the spirit of things, Ed revs up Sasha's ear.
They begin again. All three are now on the floor, swapping and changing from car to driver.
They steal each others 'car' by standing in front of each other.
It’s impossible not to watch this without grinning slightly.
The look of betrayal when one player steals the others ‘car’ is very entertaining.
‘Now you have to exploit a weakness in the unit’. ‘When is there an opportunity’ ‘look for gaps- build up a flow’.
The other artist looks on. Hungrily watching for an opportunity to steal the other's partner.
‘Stop stealing my car’! ‘It’s like grand theft auto’!
Each player tries to protect their car from being stolen.
A text is shared.
It’s briefly discussed.
It’s performed between the three artists.
Jo calls everyone over for a discussion.
‘The reason for this exercise is not just to perform- It is to see how we collaborate together- creating one idea from it and creating a tableau. 'How does our process begin?' 'Potential can sometimes be terrifying- that moment of discussion and interpretation between reading and acting is important.'
We wrap up today's session. Not without wishing Eduardo a Happy Birthday!