The Iron Ship.

BR Kershaw

    Research output: Non-textual formPerformance


    Role of researcher: Baz Kershaw, originator/co-director/writer. Chief Collaborators: co-directors - John Marshall (University of Bristol); Bim Mason (Circomedia Circus School); Mike Cannings (Commercial Manager, SS Great Britain Project). Participants: students of Department of Drama and Circomedia. Venue: SS Great Britain, Bristol Docks. Dates: May 15-21, 2000; 6 performances. Other outcomes: conference/seminar paper. Documentation available: slides, audio discs/tapes, video tape, reports, etc. Funding: AHRB Small Grant in the Creative and Performing Arts (for field research). The Iron Ship was a large-scale site-specific production created for a "popular audience" of 150 per performance. It was in part designed to clarify some methodological differences between "practice-based research" and "practice as research" through addressing 3 questions: a) How can performance best animate "heritage" by using cultural memory to produce contesting histories? b) How does performance at heritage sites engage memory-work by different groups in the community? c) Spectacle tends to turn the human into a cipher/symbol, so how can a sense of the human be created or retained at the heart of spectacle? For the first two questions, field-research (AHRB funded - focus groups/individual interviews) with four "memory groups" was undertaken to provide material for analysis. The final two scenes of the show - Dining Saloon and Finale - were designed to provided material relevant to the third question. Preliminary findings have been explored in a seminar paper presented in New York and Cork, Ireland; these include (for each question) a) movement/music and spectacle were as successful in creating contesting histories as scenes which used dialogue and recognisable historical characters, but there were significant variations between memory groups; b) variations of interpretation of the past through performance at heritage sites may be of less significance than the ways in which different audience groups produce contesting ways of constructing "history"; c) a focus on "historical character" in spectacle may enable spectators to retain a sense of the human even when it is totally challenged. This project was positioned internationally, in scholarship through its address of crucial questions of "heritage" and performance, and creatively through its testing of aspects of spectacle as practised by groups such as Welfare State International, Bread and Puppet Theatre, Brith Gof and others.
    Translated title of the contributionThe Iron Ship.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 2000


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