Digital Reporter Caitlin Stansfield tags along to rehearsals with our Associate Company Quarantine…
Summer. Autumn. Winter. Spring. is the latest piece from radical company Quarantine. This ambitious quartet examines the cyclic nature of life and the impact of time, and can be seen individually or in a seven-hour marathon. They were kind enough to let me come and have a peek at their rehearsals for Spring. at the fabled Old Granada studios.
We begin the way all great things have begun since the dawn of time; with food. We sit down with the cast and creative team to enjoy a meal together. Towards the end, we answer some of the questions dotted about the table (What was the last thing to make you cry? What is your simple pleasure? What is the worst hair cut you’ve ever had?). This ritual captures the essence of what Quarantine is about; starting conversations, sharing stories and provoking an honest reaction.
On paper, it sounds like my own personal hell – the idea of speaking to a room full of people fills me with dread and audience participation has left me cowering in my seat before now. But there is something about the openness of the strangers that I’m sat with that makes sharing with them not terrifying, but joyful and cathartic. As I talk to some of the women performing the piece, it is obvious that I am not alone. The common thread running through the conversations is how comfortable and supported they feel, allowing them to be vulnerable and sincere, which is essential to the piece.
Quarantine’s ethos is reflected in the choice to use not actors, but real people throughout. The diverse cast totals over sixty people, with Spring. performed by pregnant women. While this whirlwind of chaos would probably be a recipe for disaster in the hands of a more traditional company, the team at Quarantine seem to revel in the unpredictability and manage to channel it into something meaningful and thought-provoking. Artistic director Richard Gregory explains that they provide a framework for the cast, but give them the freedom to explore within that.
We move to the soundstage. After the cheerful canteen this vast, sprawling, empty space brings a sense of calm over the group. The women are encouraged to find a place and just try to make a connection with us, watching them, watching us. Two women have an easy discussion based on suggestions and talking points shown on a board behind us. It may be because there are only a few of us here, but it all feels very genuine and intimate. It will be interesting to see how this translates at the performances, but I think the impact of the silent contemplation at the beginning will make this engaging even with a full audience.
The thing that stuck with me most is that this production is, in every sense of the world, truly universal. You might not have experienced all these stages in life, maybe you never will, but you will find something here to relate to. The team explained how when working on Spring. in Sweden, the women there faced exactly the same challenges and worries and anticipations and fears as those here. This really encapsulates how I feel about this piece; it has the potential to make us examine, and maybe break down, the societal barriers that keep us from talking to a stranger, because you probably have more in common than you think. It’s wonderful to see something designed to coax us out of our comfort zone to empathise and relate to ordinary people’s stories. You might not identify with or even like all of it, but it will definitely give you something to think about, and, like me, you might leave feeling a bit better about the world.