'Part of the Invisible Diaries series 
Week 2 / Day 6
This post is dedicated to the members of flashpoint collective,
and all the artists who have worked with us.
When last September we got together with the ensemble I am part of to celebrate our third anniversary and decide upon the next performance that we would make together, little did we know that later we would be entangled in an affair of plagiarism! We were sharing the food that we brought to the rehearsal (this is always part of our working process), congregating in our host’s kitchen (this is another ritual that grew out of necessity, since we have no permanent residence or rehearsal room), and it all looked very promising. By the end of that day, having looked at images, read poems and stories, played with objects, discussing ideas about a piece that we would all be passionate about creating collaboratively this year, we felt this new work was full of potential.
During the ensuing months, we cautiously approached this new piece-to-be, which was in our minds’ eye, in the way that one might try to get a feel for a still wrapped-up Christmas present, try and second-guess from its shape and weight what might be inside. We didn’t want to reveal anything prematurely, so we called it, temporarily, project2020.
We knew that project2020 would be very different from the shows we did before, so we decided to make this piece, as much as possible, outside of London. The first thing we organised for the New Year’s schedule was a day of exploration in rural Hitchin. Of course, the weekend that suited everyone for travel, and that we booked our train tickets for, turned out to be the weekend on which major railway works and disruptions were suddenly announced, so our journey took much longer and was more unpleasant than anticipated.
Eventually, we all made it in time to have our communal meal in our host’s kitchen, and after some table work, we went out for a long walk in the nearby forest. We did not plan much or anticipate anything, we only wanted to take advantage of being in the countryside, so we put on our boots to tackle the moody paths and went out. First, we walked through the village, then took a turn to a field road under a green tunnel of shrubs to see the grave of a giant in a churchyard and hear spooky stories about the local vicar, then crossed a field, and found ourselves in a forest. I don’t know how it happened, but I somehow felt that nature on that cold January afternoon touched us and talked to us. The serene lake, the amphitheatre-shaped valley, the moss on the roots of the trees, they were all the notes to take with us when creating project2020; and that now we were on a journey discovering more and more about our new piece.
flashpoint collective walking in Hitchin (L-R): Lola (the dog) with Ella Kent, Carol Fitzpatrick,
Thom Boudier, Liz Leemann, Nicola Campbell, Shiraz Khan, and Johnny Parr.
(Photography: Katalin Trencsényi)
As the weeks went by, our research deepened, and tentatively we began to think about a name for this piece we were about to ‘uncover’ together, just like parents think about potential names for the yet to be born child.
During our last in-person rehearsal in early March, whilst sharing our lunch during work, we joked about the pandemic; but without noticing, we had developed new ensemble rituals: we no longer hugged and everybody spent more time than usual washing our hands.
Then it happened. What do you do, when life starts writing the play you were about to create, but on a larger scale?!
What can you do when a stronger force than you is at play? We allowed life to carry on with the ‘blockbuster version’ of the show we had in mind, and we carried on with our much smaller-scale work – online.
The first online rehearsal was more about determination than work. It took 37 minutes for the ensemble to arrive in our virtual rehearsal room. We could no longer sit in a circle, feel each other’s energy, take spontaneous turns in talking, or even have several conversations at the same time – the dramaturgy of our process was now dictated by the dramaturgy of this new technology.
We had to learn to be together without feeling each other.
Today we had a singing rehearsal with two music tutors on Zoom. This is how it went: Ruth sat down to her piano in her house, we stood up in our rooms and did a joint physical and voice warm up with our mics on, so we could hear each others’ silly noises (sirening up and down with our voice, to the joy of our neighbours, for instance). Then we all took out our music sheets, muted our mics, so we could hear Ruth playing the piano and learn the new song and sing along with her. Ruth was playing and conducting us, showing the beat with her hand, and we all sang alone in our living rooms, following her instructions. We all saw and heard Ruth but could only see the others on our screens, gaping, swaying, moving to the rhythm ‘silently’.
I don’t know how Ruth did it without hearing us, but an hour later we could all sing the song. She then checked out, and Nick checked in, and we moved to our next piece of music.
Because of the way sound travels, there is a delay in hearing each other when communicating remotely. This makes playing an instrument and singing together impossible. So, we had to abandon the idea of learning this new song in harmony, and just went with the tune. The process was painstakingly slow, moving along from bar to bar on the music sheet. This second piece had an elaborate rhythm, and since Nick could not hear us, we all had to take great care that we all learnt the right notes and kept to the right rhythm, and he had to trust us, that when we gave him our hands up, we were confident that we got it right. The rehearsal was tiresome but successful: by 6 pm we had learnt the two songs that will feature in our new piece.
During this rehearsal, however, a strange thing happened: despite singing acoustically alone, it felt like we were somehow singing together.
The lyrics sounded more profound than before, every word was talking to us here and now about our losses and grief, and our longing for support in the time of need. I could lean on the song, it lifted me, and together with me, it held the whole ensemble. Through the song, somehow, we connected, and I felt that, like during our walk in the January forest, we were touched by something that was bigger than us.
 As a playful gesture coming from my desire to reconnect with the discourse offered by these eminent thinkers, I decided to choose for each title of my journal entries the title of an essay on dramaturgy I found inspiring. I hope their authors won’t mind me recalling their work this way. Today’s title is borrowed from a book by Erich Auerbach.
Images courtesy of Katalin Trencsényi.
Katalin Trencsényi is a dramaturg and researcher of Hungarian origin, living and working in London. Before Covid (BC), her areas of interest were contemporary theatre and performance, dance dramaturgy, collaborative processes, and multi-modal play development. Now she is more interested in thinking about epidemic and theatre. As an independent dramaturg, Katalin has worked with the National Theatre, the Royal Court Theatre, Corali Dance Company, Company of Angels, amongst others. Katalin has taught dramaturgy internationally: including Australia, Belgium, Canada, Russia, and the US, and from 2015 to 2019 worked as a tutor at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). Katalin is the author of Dramaturgy in the Making. A User’s Guide for Theatre Practitioners (2015), editor of Bandoneon: Working with Pina Bausch (2016), co-editor of New Dramaturgy: International Perspectives on Theory and Practice (2014), and editor of the dramaturgy section of the global theatre portal, TheTheatreTimes.com.
Until the pandemic outbreak, Katalin was working as part of the Scientific Team (with Guy Cools, Maja Hriešik, and Anne-Marije van den Bersselaar), coordinating a two-year research and training project supported by a Creative Europe grant: Micro and Macro Dramaturgies in Dance. Now, the project’s future – just as the future of many projects in Europe and beyond – is uncertain.