Monday 17 December 2012

'Running' commentary

‘Running’ Commentary


All quotes are from the book: ‘What I talk about when I talk about running’ (by Haruki Murakami)

Surely everyone can run?
It is a primitive instinct. Escape from danger. Hunt for food. Get home before sun down. Pleasure. Excitement. Gameplay. Foreplay probably.

But running is typically a solitary act. It strikes me you have to be happy in your own company, in your own head, in order to run long distance. Or rather, happy to get out of your head and into a kind of void.

‘what exactly do I think about when I’m running? I don’t have a clue.

On cold days I guess I think a little about how cold it is. And about the heat on hot days. When I’m sad I think a little about sadness. When I’m happy I think a little about happiness. Random memories come to me too. But really as I run, I don’t think much of anything worth mentioning.’

There’s something about different extremes that interests me.

Calm, still, contemplative, free, intimate, connected, solitary...

But also physically challenging, pushing through, repetitive, monotonous, painful, escapist, confronting fear, lonely, controlled...

These differences exist in life and relationships too.

‘In some areas of my life I actively seek out solitude. Sometimes, however, this sense of isolation, like acid spilling out of a bottle, can unconsciously eat away at a person’s heart and dissolve it. You could see it, too, as a kind of double-edged sword. It protects me, but at the same time steadily cuts away at me from the inside. I think in my own way I’m aware of this danger- probably through experience- and that’s why I’ve had to constantly keep my body in motion, in some cases pushing myself to the limit, in order to heal the loneliness I feel inside and to put it in perspective.’

‘I just run. I run in a void. Or shall I put it another way: I run to acquire a void.’

I love to see runners in the ‘zone’. They seem in a strange place somewhere between peace and struggle. It seems so poignant a place for me. What are they thinking? What part of the brain have they accessed in order to do this? Does it feel natural to them, or are they working against instinct?

What has to give in this person’s life and mind in order to reach this place?

‘I don’t think most people would like my personality. There might be a few who are impressed by it, but only rarely would anyone like it. Who in the world could possibly have warm feelings for a person who doesn’t compromise, who instead, whenever a problem crops up, locks himself away alone in a closet?’


I’m interested in the mind body connection which I find extreme in running.

I’d also like to know whether a person’s character and tendencies defines their suitability to perform physically more akin to a hare or a tortoise? And/or whether a person’s physical body make-up forms a person’s behaviour and tendencies? What is that relationship, that two way connection? Does science think it has some answers? A person’s mind and its thoughts are wonderfully undefinable and mysterious.

So it lives in the world of story-telling, invention and speculation.  

(about having the muscle type most suited to long distances and not sprinting)
‘I don’t know any technical details about the characteristics of this type of muscle, but I imagine it’s mostly innate. And I feel that this type of muscle is connected to the way my mind works. What I mean is, a person’s mind is controlled by his body, right? Or is it the opposite- the way your mind works influences the structure of the body? Or do the body and mind closely influence each other and act on each other? What I do know is that people have certain inborn tendencies, and whether a person likes them or not, they’re inescapable. Tendencies can be adjusted, to a degree, but their essence can never be changed.’


(about some bright young girls running)
‘...they run like the wind. You can definitely feel a sort of aggressive challenge emanating from them. They seem to be used to passing people, and not used to being passed. They all look so bright, so healthy, attractive, and serious, brimming with self- confidence. With their long strides, and strong, sharp kicks, it’s easy to see that they’re typical mid-distance runners, unsuited to long-distance running. They’re more mentally cut out for brief runs at high speed.

Compared to them I’m pretty used to losing. There are plenty of things in this world that are way beyond me, plenty of opponents I can never beat. Not to brag, but these girls probably don’t know as much as I do about pain.’

Wow, he’s beginning to sound a little self-indulgent. And my reaction is an immediate dislike of running, runners and all acts of solitude!
Cup of tea anyone?





Week 3 Half way through

3 days at Laughton and at The Nightingale Theatre Brighton


Me/Antonia Grove
Ben Duke (performer)
Charlie Morrissey (movement director)
Ben Webb (writer)

We asked the question again this week, to imagine we had seen this piece (Running on empty) finished and performed already. These are some random, imaginary things we envisaged having seen:

Birdsong, that fucking jumper, desperately trying to catch falling objects in a fishing net, speed, some access and communication problems, trying to run in some very large shoes, a blank page at the end, repeating history, desperately trying to catch falling water in a bowl, ‘you look like a prick’, chocolates, and a snake!




Playing ‘the titles game’ using episodes from Murder She Wrote (Ben Webb’s guilty pleasure!), where you find a movement thing/phrase/pattern/physical representation for each title.
Deadly Lady, It’s A Dog’s Life, Unfinished Business etc.

Me and Ben Duke then did them in any order, side by side, and layered dialogue  Ben Webb wrote over the top

- What do you think of me?
- What?
- What do you think?
- I - -
- Of me?
- I - -
- Do you think about me? Do you think about me often?
- I don't. I do not think about you.
- Ah.
- Except my body thinks about you. All the time.
- Ah.

Etc etc.....

The effect was akin to having a conversation with one person doing the dishes in the kitchen and the other person having a shave in the bathroom, but slightly more bizarre because of the nature of the movement.

We also dramatically altered the highly sexual nature of some duet stuff we’d been improvising around intimacy and moving to aggression by putting our hoodie’s on and somehow subverting the effect so we became more like twins in the womb. Brother, sister. Slightly ambiguous. A much needed shift for all of us! We are moving into more complex territory in the quest to find out who these people are.


We are half way through the research and things are at a pivotal point now. We are all asking why, how and what’s the point? It’s bloody great, i love this bit in a process- the not knowing bit, and the belief that we will know at some point and it will all be fine!
We'll be concentrating on story, narrative and overall context more now we have raw ingredients in our palette.


33, the age that Jesus Christ died. The number of miracles he was recorded to have performed in his lifetime. The age my mother was when she had me. The number of vertebrae in the human spine. The temperature water boils at.

According to Al-Ghazali the dwellers of heaven will exist eternally in a state of being age 33. And according to a recent survey on friends reunited, 33 is the age respondents claimed to reach a state of true happiness.

Eva Cassidy
Eva Peron
Eva Braun
Alexander the Great
All died at 33.

This was the age I began running.

We haven’t spoken much about running so far, although this was where this whole thing started for me.



Monday 10 December 2012

What writer Brad Birch had to say

An extract from the short play Brad wrote for us to work with:

Two people.

ONE                      Before you start...

                                             TWO                    Before you start.

                                              ONE                      Before you start.
                                                                                You’re wearing that fucking jumper.

                                              TWO                    My jumper.

                                              ONE                      Again.

                                               TWO                    My jumper…

                                               ONE                      Here we go.

                                               TWO                    My jumper was…

                                               ONE                      No.        

                                               TWO                    My jumper was…

                                               ONE                      No.

 TWO                    My jumper was woven
   by the emollient nuns of Avignon.

                                               ONE                      No it wasn’t.

                                               TWO                    Its flaxen body grown in the
                                                                                chalky peat of west India.

                                                ONE                      Nope.

                                                TWO                    Bleached for a year in Cambodian sun.

                                                ONE                      None of it.

                                                TWO                    Touched by Jesus
                                                                                and then Mohammad
                                                                                and then John Lennon.

                                                ONE                      It makes you look like a prick.

'The short play was created in an attempt to discover a relationship between text and movement after watching Toni and Ben improvise over a period of time. What is required of the text and what isn't etc. If the text does the same job as the movement then that can perhaps feel stifled. So this was a stab at trying to work out what textures and contrasts can be found in the space between the mediums while still maintaining a harmony.'

Brad Birch

Sunday 9 December 2012

Week 2 woohoo


2 days at Laughton Lodge, Lewes

Me/Antonia Grove (performer)
Ben Duke (performer)
Jo McInnes (director)
Brad Birch (writer)

We asked the question again this week, to imagine we had seen this piece (Running on empty) finished and performed already. These are some random, imaginary things we envisaged having seen:

A conversation that shifts your perception of events, two people with a heavy weight above their heads, a black and white film of the two performers in another time and place, the thrill of an unknown outcome, a singer on a microphone, two people in severe isolation and examination, a million miles between them, things breaking, relentless repetition of a word or phrase, a kiss, a pulsating blurring light, a sickening silence, a beautiful song and a guitar.

It's interesting the amount of similar images there were between us all, irrespective of who was new to the process this week. 

What we did:
We drew and wrote, we told stories, we danced and we played games, but we spent most of the time in the pursuit of combining dance and dialogue.

We worked with one of Brad’s existing scripts (Even stillness breathes softly against a brick wall ) on day 1, and then he wrote us a perfect little play a few pages long to use on day 2.

Me and Ben improvised together (under Jo's direction) to identify the movement quality of different states; intimacy, jealousy, dominance, competition, passive and direct aggression, resignation.

We then layered dialogue on top of these states.


What we think we discovered:

The movement holds an indefinable and unpredictable energy, life and a breathing space. As the movement and relationship between us heats up, it boils to such an extent that something has to be said. The words explain the context like an anchor. The dialogue creates a narrative, a strand, something for the audience to cling onto.

The dialogue tells us how the characters exist in their world, the movement tells us how they feel about that world.

The movement shows us the battle, the war, and the voice explains the stakes. Voice can be used as another weapon. The different layers of communication create a greater depth of understanding.

It was surprising how natural it felt to move whilst in dialogue, but it depended on the nature, form and language of the dialogue.

What next:

3 days this week @ Laughton and The Nightingale, with Ben Duke, Ben Webb (writer) back in the studio, and the lovely Charlie Morrisey will join us in the capacity of movement director mostly (although I will make sure we get to dance with him too!).

Jo will pop by to see where we've taken the process this week and I'm looking forward to Lee Ross coming in to see what we've been doing and hopefully inspire him to write a song or two.

I think some running along the seafront or up the downs is in order again since we are working in Brighton. I might need to borrow Frankie the dog again though.


Tuesday 4 December 2012

What Ben Webb has to say...

I do not run, although I ran. I do not dance, although I danced. We do not write, and yet we did. After this initial three days working together I am left wondering what else we do not do yet but could, or say we do not do but do, or what else is possible when we trust the process to lead us and not us lead the process.

Here we are safe. We hold each other’s stories, we support their journey through the air, we lean against each other and the tiniest gestures become a dance. Are we safe here, I hear you ask? I need to go to the toilet, you say later, and your lips don’t even move. Phrase against phrase; the grammar of our bodies as they make. Let me tell you, you may say dance is abstract, but your body, to me, my love, is never abstract. Every move you make is meaning to me and even your stillness is War and Peace.

Also, I am left thinking about why and how I write - about the desire or need for story, and how that seemed such a given - because before we had even started the room was already full of stories, because we were all there, and we have so many stories inside us, we just haven't told them yet.

In the quiet of our time together we all imagine the woods. The woods we imagine are different woods. We are different and the same. Who is leading who? Close my eyes. The stars come out (imagined). We are telling stories again. We are telling stories with our bodies. But what about the stories our bodies cannot tell? What are the secrets we do not even know that we are keeping? What are we ready to let go? Are we ready? Let’s go. Tell me a secret. I will tell you mine. It does not have to be a real one, it just has to be true.

(Written by Ben Webb after 3 days @ SED studios, Hextable)

Week 1: South East Dance Studios, Hextable


Me/ Antonia Grove
Greig Cooke (dancer/performer)
Jo McInnes (Director)
Ben Webb (Writer)

On day 1 Ben Webb asked each of us to imagine we had seen this piece (Running on empty) performed the night before. These are some random, imaginary things we envisaged having seen:

Darkness, laughter/giggling, a bird in a shed, broken hearts and the smell of sweat, stars, a surprise ending, a sweet and gentle morning, a man and a woman and the space in between, a diary/open letter, a woman running blurred, a race to undress...

The idea behind this being that the piece already exists for all of us on some level.

It does, I can feel it coming to the surface, and I have every faith in its journey to fruition.

After the first 3 days working with Jo, Greig and Ben I can hardly contain my excitement and anticipation.



We all danced, made dance, directed tasks, did voice and movement exercises, told stories, shared, copied, followed and became leaders.


Theatre director Jo McInnes has taken on the role of directing the movement, something she hasn’t done in dance form before, and me and Greig have thrown ourselves into the tasks and improvisations head first. Totally loved every minute of it, and I can feel the possibility of going to places I have never been.   

We have gone from intimate strangers to lonely, hungry giants. We have used text from Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Phychosis and dialogue Ben has provided us with, and experimented with the combination of text and dance.

Ben has been writing for, with and about us amongst other things. He has written before, during and after us dancing. I am in awe of the stream of poignant, poetic and surprising text that flows through his fingers into his computer page.

What pleasure to be dancing with Greig again. Simple, balanced and perfectly exhilarating! We’re totally up for the challenge, and throwing it out there and at eachother. I'm wishing he hadn't buggered off to Madrid.


Crisp blue winter skies and Jo’s excited dog Frankie accompanying our morning run along Brighton seafront.
Coffee and bacon sarnies in the car from Brighton to Hextable, Kent.
An hour long improvisation, after which I didn’t know who or where I was anymore.

I feel the desire to go and make this piece now, but after a blast of stimulating creativity and sensory overload I think we need to step back, take a deep breath and find out some more first.
So next week Writer Brad Birch and performer Ben Duke will join Me and Jo for 2 days at Laughton Lodge, near Lewes.

And we're off..


A driving force, a primitive instinct, pleasure, pain, energetic flow, speed, necessity, impatience, freedom, escape, control.

On... Or more like ‘With’.

Empty...   nothing, the end, the void, the cavity, the loss.

Running out of love
Running out of time
Running into you
Running wild
Running my life
Running away with me
Running on empty
On the money
On the pulse
On the edge
On to new things
On with my life
On the way there
On your marks
On top of the world
On top of me
Empty me
Empty you
Empty life
Empty heart
Empty soul
Empty house
Empty page