MCH | BLANK

Official website for Mark C. Hewitt & Blank Productions

Civilization (and its discontents) as work in progress
Blank Productions
2002 - 2017


Origins and early development
The origin of this play was the chance observation in the bar of the White Hart Hotel, in Lewes, Sussex, of a woman all but obscured by the bulk of a red leather wingbacked armchair. All that could be seen was her bare arms and legs (in profile), gesticulating as she conversed with a friend. Over a period of time, this scene transformed into an imagined setting for a theatre space in which two chairs face each other and a man and a woman are talking. This scenario was subsequently explored with photographer Magali Nougarède and visual artist Lindsey McGown, working first with life models, then with actors.

More images in the gallery »
The play and its current production phase »

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Photos © Magali Nougarède (Komedia, Brighton) 2002
Sketches © Lindsey McGown, 2002




Outsize armchairs were specially constructed for these initial experiments by upholsterer Marc Whatling.
The size of the chairs had the inadvertant effect of infantilising the actors (see below),
so they were dropped from the future development of the work.


Above: actors Jonathan Cullen and Jo Howarth

Following a refurbishment of the bar of the White Hart Hotel a few years later, Mark C. Hewitt purchased the chairs that sparked the original vision. These were first put to the service of dramatic dialogue at Farnham Maltings in January 2009. malt(ings) extr-acts was a day of short scratch performances featuring new writing by members of Farnham Playwrights Collective. The work in development was presented as Untitled (exposure 1), performed by actors Cary Crankson and Kathryn McGarr, directed by Elizabeth Newman (below).





Photo above © Lesley Brewin. Farnham Maltings, 2010.


Further development work and experimentation with text and movement was done in early 2011 during Mark C. Hewitt’s residency as part of The Space Programme at Castletown House in Ireland. The images below are taken from an exploration of text and movement with Niamh Shaw and Sonya Kelly.

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A grant in 2012 from the Artists' International Development Fund allowed MCH to travel to Norway in early 2013 to visit composer and sampling percussionist,
Thomas Strønen, with a view to collaborating on music for the work. Following this, Blank Productions applied for and received funding from Det Norske Komponistfond to commission the music.

During 2014, the focus turned to developing the text of the play. Mark C. Hewitt worked over the course of the year with dramaturg,
Katalin Trencsényi, leading to a week of practical research and development. By this time, the tentative title that had attached itself to the work-in-progress, Civilization (and its discontents), seemed to have pretty much stuck. The title echoes Sigmund Freud's essay of the same name, published in 1930, but it is not a play 'about' Freud's book, nor does it attempt to explain it, rather it is one of a number of cultural elements that hover around the work as loose associations. The R&D - with a technical/production team and seven actors - took place at the Half Moon Theatre in Limehouse, London, in November 2014 and combined explorations of the half-written text with improvisations and devising.

R&D of work in progress, Nov 2014
Dramaturgy: Katalin Trencsényi
Music: Thomas Strønen
Sound design: John Avery
Lighting design: Kristina Hjelm
Movement direction: Imogen Knight
Dramaturgical assistant: Simon Stache
Production Co-ordinator: Jo Rawlinson
Visual artist (documentation): Lindsey McGown
Photographer (documentation): Nivine Keating

Performers:
Kathryn McGarr
Lucas Augustine
Rhys Meredith
Liam Shannon
Ipek Uzman
Oxana Nico
Sylvia Chianti

Photos below by Nivine F. Keating © Morrighan Images. Half Moon Theatre, London, 2014

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• “... people expelled from life and time. Their past is cancelled, their future empty. They have no gods at all. They seem caught in an inertia where significant action, should it occur, has to be motivated by ghosts. There is nowhere in these characters to dig for a profound reversal or a revelatory recognition.”
Anne Carson (from introductory essay to her translation of Euripides’ ‘Hekabe’, from the book, Grief Lessons, 2006)


See more images of 2014 R&D »

In September 2016, with a draft version of the text now complete, Mark C. Hewitt visited composer Thomas Strønen in Oslo to consolidate the collaboration that had been initiated in in 2013 and to discuss in detail the interaction of text and music within the emerging production. Some of the music for the production is played and recorded by Food, (Thomas Strønen's band with saxophonist, Iain Ballamy), whilst another section is written for a drum ensemble. During Mark's stay in Oslo, he was able to hear for the first time, live, the music for drum ensemble that occupies a central role in the play. This was performed by Strønen's undergraduate percussion students at the Norwegian Academy of Music, where he is an Associate Professor (see photos below).

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Thomas Strønen leading his percussion ensemble at the Norwegian Academy of Music, Oslo, Sept 2016.

The production at its current stage of development »