At Home with Art

Presented at the Battersea Art Centre, London, September 2001.
Revised version shown at “Soundings” Festival, Rose Bruford College, April 2003. 

Conceived and devised by Kandis Cook and Nick Till. Performed by Laurence Harvey. Sound and lighting by Nick Till and Kandis Cook.

The time had come to confront Wagner….

….at home, where he is most often encountered.

"Anthony Bye looks forward to hearing the music without extraneous visual distraction." (caption to an article on concert performances of operas at the 1996 Proms, BBC Music Magazine). How often you’ve heard it: "if only you didn’t have to look at the stage". So stay at home. Enter the free space of your own imagination.

Wagner saw this coming, of course. His works could only disappoint on stage - he knew it. Most of all Tristan und Isolde, the opera that is all about the longing for liberation from physical being, and yet is so hopelessly earthbound when we experience it in the theatre.

What does it mean when we invite the tumultuous spirit of Wagner to act as soundtrack to our everyday lives ?

In this performance all three acts of a recording of Wagner’s Tristan are played simultaneously. From three corners of the space Wagner’s music swells, surges and subsides in oceanic flux, the characters’ voices ricochet back and forth in uncanny dialogue with themselves, Wagner’s obsessive leitmotifs echo to and fro ceaselessly across the space. The performance space is arranged as a bedsit in which performer Laurence Harvey, kleinmeister of the unexpected, prepares to cook an elaborate dinner. Is he "at home with art"? We never know if he hears what we hear. But his mundane activities seem to mirror Wagner’s grandiose tragedy of passion and death. As his carefully prepared souffle - a culinary gesamtkunstwerk- rises slowly in the oven he gradually transforms himself into a woman, mixes a potent cocktail, and prepares to join himself for a lonely dinner. At the triumphant climax of Isolde’s Liebestod Harvey removes his tumescent souffle from the oven; on the final statement of Wagner’s love-death theme he seats himself at the table and watches as the souffle sinks before him.

"Very funny and very sad… It makes me cry just thinking about it again" (from BAC audience surveys)

© Post-Operative Productions, Nick Till, Kandis Cook, 2002