Part of the Invisible Diaries series:
Week 5 / Day 6
Instead of hitting the virtual theatre and dance shows flooding my social feeds whenever I have a spare moment (which isn’t that often, once I factor in all the childcare, cooking, cleaning and what remains of paid work), my way of relaxing currently includes the BBC home improvement programme ‘Your Home Made Perfect’. Each week, two architects propose a rethinking of a problematic house to its owners, via the medium of virtual reality. The owners (so far, always a couple) then choose to proceed with one of the options, and, as a climax, we’re shown the finished renovations.
Today I watched an episode in which the entrance hallway was a central part of the redesign. Architect Laura Jane Clark says: ‘It does lots of things … it sets you up for the house’. I began to think about all the analogous possibilities there are in considering these apparently transitional, functional spaces in houses – hallways, landings, staircases.
According to these architects on TV, an entrance hall forms the invitation to the house. A well-designed one makes you want to come in and explore further. A bit like an overture, it gives an introduction to the character of the inhabitants through hints of their design preferences or assortment of umbrellas.
What if a house was a piece of theatre? ‘Welcome to my home! Come in, come in - you can catch a glimpse of the Act 4 climax by peeking through that corridor, and please take note of my family history by paying attention to those photos on the wall. But for now, follow me into Act 1, the living room, where we will have exposition cocktails. Don’t forget to hang your disbelief on that coatrack before you come through.’
Recently I played with my daughter on the landing with old wooden blocks that haven’t come out for a while. She created a playground, giving her doll access to a much-missed ritual of her own daily life. I built towers for her big bad wolf to blow down with great glee. I couldn’t help thinking of the blocks as facets of the arts industry, and my daughter as the coronavirus causing a huge collapse in a fraction of the time it’d taken to carefully build and balance.
In usual life we move through these hallways and landings, up and down stairs, intent on our destination and sometimes impatient with the route (especially the multiple stair climbs every morning to retrieve endless forgotten items). Nowadays, they’ve become part of life, places which we can inhabit, in which we can play, and wait, observing life, without that sense of guilt at stopping.
Lockdown is a bit like being trapped in these transitional spaces, at least when it comes to thinking about my career in the arts sector. I’ve been used to interminable door knocking and stair climbing to locate, and maybe reach, my destination. On the 24th of March this year, I just sat down on the stairs, not sure where next, as the doors off the hallways and landings banged shut.
And here I wait. Sometimes, sitting on the stairs gives me a fresh vantage point on the whole thing and makes me wonder what I’d do to reconfigure it all. Knock a wall down here? Build a new front door there? Maybe extend out the back? I can see other people doing hardcore lockdown exercise, running up and down right past me, hastily cutting new doors into walls and painting them bright colours. More often than not, I simply can’t face the idea of climbing any stairs in the future, especially when I don’t even know what’s behind those closed doors.
I’m hoping that after lockdown, my stairs will turn into the ones from Hogwarts so that when I do start moving again, I can reach a completely new, and as yet unimagined, destination.
Or maybe I’ll just live in a bungalow.
Miranda Laurence is an independent dance dramaturg based in the UK, with over 10 years’ experience working in the dance and arts development sectors. She collaborates with dance artists across the UK and internationally, recently working with Johanna Nuutinen (FI) and Attila Andrasi (HU/ES). Her practice and professional development has been supported by awards from Arts Council England, Oxford Dance Forum and South East Dance.
Her collaborators work in a range of dance forms, from Kathak to screen dance. She is also in demand as a workshop leader, recently invited to Arhus by the Association of Danish Dramaturgs, and by London Studio Centre for their MA in Dance Producing.
Miranda has also directed the Dance & Academia project based in Oxford since 2008, convening a number of seminars and conferences engaging movement practitioners and academics in many different disciplines.
Alongside her freelance practice, Miranda is employed as Arts Development Officer at the University of Reading, where she is developing a strategic arts programme for the University including leading on new public art commissions.
Photography courtesy of Miranda Laurence.