Grizedale Arts

The Mechanicals

12/04/2011 until 0000

Alexandre Singh is working on the development of a standardised set of nine new school plays, The Mechanicals, each written and set designed by a different artist, originally to be performed in Coniston Mechanic's Institute as well as being stock material for reuse in schools around the world. The title as well as being a derivation of the Mechanics Institute name, is taken from 'Rude Mechanicals' featuring in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, who are amateur actors characters within the play, signifying a mentality of untrained theatre. The project has quite a political motivation, attempting to galvanise the use and important social function of Mechanics Institute in Coniston. Writing for plays has been undertaken by artist including Ray Davies, Liam Gillick, Rita Sobral Campos, (a writer and artist who makes sci-fi narratives, glimpses into disenchanted world-views, with writing, photography and sculptural installations) and Momus (a paisley born musician who writes songs about time-travelling incest among other things.) Alexandre often works on collaborative projects and immersive installations that play on museological devices and are steeped in literary and cultural history.

The first of the Mechanicals was a musical written by Ray Davies, called Child's Play. It was written for the Festival of Britain Celebrations, produced by Grizedale Arts and performed by six pupils from the John Ruskin School in Coniston. The play together with music, provides a commentary on the aspirations and disappointments through the decades of modern Britain since the 1951 Festival of Britain. It was first performed at the South Bank Centre on 4th September 2011, as well as at Coniston Mechanics Institute and at the Festival Hall in London.

The projects creates an interesting relationship between the texts and Ruskin’s own works on art, education and social change. In the very first examples of theatre in the western world; the tragedies and comedies of ancient Athens; the plays’ choruses were made up exclusively of amateurs, young men with no acting experience. For many in the audience, their first experience of the theatre would have been as a participant rather than a spectator, removing the division between spectacle and spectator and making the whole environment of theatre less alienating.

The texts have been edited ready to be uploaded to a website from where it can be accessed as stored material, and continually reused in different places with new performers. The other plays in the Mechanicals have yet to see their inaugural performance, with full details to follow as applicable.