Quarantine – a personal story

I’ve only recently discovered Quarantine.  First at Home for a five hour preview of Wallflower, where the company tried to remember every dance they had ever danced, and placed each dance into the context of their own lives.  Then one lunchtime at Kabana Curry Cafe where I swapped my conversation for a veggie curry.  Today is the seven hour marathon of Summer, Autumn, Winter, Spring at the old Granada Studios building.

As humans, we are endlessly fascinated by the behaviour of others.  We want to know each others’ stories.  Look at the success of reality TV (remember the first Big Brother?), Humans of New York, or just the people like myself who sit in cafes and trains tuning into others’ conversations, wondering what is the context, the relationships, the stories.  We read books to see into the lives of others, to access people both like ourselves and different to us.  We listen to songs to know that others share our emotions.

Summer fills the stage with a large number of performers, where we catch just a glimpse of their lives.  There is a naturalism to the movement, as the participants move according to instructions on a screen to the rear of the auditorium.  At times, specific performers are asked questions.  Some produce complex answers on the spot and we believe we see into their lives.  Others falter in the moment and we question whether given more time they would come up with a more incisive answer.  Each person unpacks a bag with important possessions; I could have spent the day looking at each person’s choices, trying to understand the person inside.  Within this performance there is such honesty, but also the need for each person to present the image that they perceive to be right in what is an unusual situation.

Autumn is an informal session where the hall is filled with a range of activities and discussion groups.  There is a choice to participate, or to get some food, drink, and meet up with old and new friends.  I take part in a discussion where we try to recall the history of the world.  Different perspectives become clear, based on taught knowledge, religion, geographical focus.  We remember what we have learnt and experienced but it’s never the full story.  I watch from a distance as a clairvoyant tells the future.  People dance to a silent disco.  People make samosas.  As two people play table tennis, the orange ball spills across the floor, disrupting a discussion.

Winter.  Some stories only work if we can relate to the narrative. Winter is a film about a woman who has accepted that her life will end. She reveals her hopes and fears and minute details of what is important to her. I found this particularly poignant; I know other people did not. Perhaps we are most interested in the stories that have the greatest significance to us, given our unique experiences, in our own lives, now.

Spring.  Nine pregnant women take to the stage, filled with giant silver pillows and bathed in a golden metallic light.  Each person in turn is asked questions about how they see their child’s future, the future that has become our own past.  I think about how many different paths my life could have taken, how reality compares to young dreams, and what might be in store for the future of my children and their own children. It’s a never ending cycle.

This is a production where you have to find the story, which will always be a reflection of your own story.  In a work of such complexity, including so many people, it ends up as an intensely personal experience.

A Quarantine, HOME and Contact co-production, supported by SICK! Festival, taking place at Old Granada Studios.  There are two more performances of the quartet on 2 and 3 April, check for returns. 

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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