Originally posted on Lancaster Arts.
Thinking about the future
I’m sitting in Halifax, Nova Scotia, thinking about being in Morecambe one week from today (read the audition call out here). We’ll be starting work on a version of our show This is Nowhere, a performance in the form of a scavenger hunt in which a phone app guides people on solo journeys around a town in search of undercover encounters. It’s a fun game – there are clues to decipher, new missions to unlock – and it’s a collective brainstorm about the future. The title is a reference to the word Utopia, which translates as ‘nowhere,’ but also means an imagined future community in which we live together perfectly.
We made the Halifax version of the show in 2018 and, if anything, dreaming of Utopia seems even more quixotic now than it did then. Forget living together perfectly, we can barely live together period. How can we agree on what is best if we can’t even agree on what is good? We’ll be making this show in Morecambe with people from the area, in light of the hoped-for confirmed funding of Eden North, of ‘levelling up,’ and also of COVID, Ukraine, rising food costs etc. All the while we’ll be asking, “what kind of future is possible?” What do we want from the places we live in?
Mazes and labyrinths
Technically speaking, a labyrinth isn’t the same as a maze. A labyrinth involves a single path, designed to take you from one point to another. It isn’t a straight path, but you can’t get lost in a labyrinth. Keep moving forward and you’ll get there. In the process, you have some time to yourself. It’s a meditative exercise, a chance to think about things.
A maze is more whimsical. You can get lost in a maze. You want to find your way from Point A to Point B but you end up all over the place, zigging and zagging, reaching dead ends. A maze is not calming, but it’s playful.
This is Nowhere is something between a labyrinth and a maze.
It’s not always the big things
There’s a lot to be said for little, ordinary things. I love grappling with cosmic matters, too, but they’re unwieldy and easy to misinterpret. When we made This is Nowhere in 2018 we noticed an amazing thing as people roamed throughout downtown Halifax, trying to find some of the thirteen hidden encounters. Since anything could be a part of the performance, everything was part of it. When you’re searching and deciphering clues you notice things for the first time, even in your own neighbourhood and on streets you walk every day. Where does that little door lead? Who turns on that light? Which forms of labour are more visible than others? Who is that singing behind the fence? Maybe the answer reveals a larger truth about the structures that operate in our lives. Maybe we suddenly get a piece of the picture we were missing. Or maybe we just get a new memory of a corner we passed a thousand times and ignored. A little moment that proves to be quite expansive.
I’m lost when it comes to the future, but I’m jazzed about packing my bags and returning to Morecambe in a week (my colleagues and I were there for a week in the fall). I’m eager to hear more of its stories, to meet the people who will be our collaborators, to audition the people who will be the undercover actors, and to find the secret sites that will punctuate people’s journeys through the maze/labyrinth.
“You are nowhere. You are now here.”
Alex McLean is director, writer and devisor, and co-artistic director of Zuppa Theatre Co. His work explores the past, the present, and things that are too small to grasp or too big to contain.