Slow connection

7 April 2020

YESYESNONO's Sam Ward reflects on how the pandemic has affected the company's tour of the accident did not take place

YESYESNONO performing the accident did not take place, photographed by The Other Richard

Here’s the concrete: there was the Monday when we found out the New Diorama Theatre was closing, quickly followed by various other venues that we were due to be performing at. Rhian (our company producer) and I talked about livestreaming the show to an empty theatre in London. We asked the rest of the team if they were up for it, and when they said yes we got in touch with the Bunker who said they could host us. There was this period of a few days that felt genuinely exciting. Like trying to outrun an avalanche. We had a great team around us. We had a plan that changed minute by minute, and we had some sort of focus as the world seemed to be careering into slow-motion. Our Arts Council funding and the fact that the New Diorama and the ARC Stockton Arts Centre paid their guarantees in full (legends!) meant that we could pay everyone their full contracts worth. And look, the plan didn’t work in the end. For various reasons, none of which can be attributed to much more than the entire city of London going into total lockdown. But it was nice to have a plan, even if only for a moment.

Here’s the less-concrete: I spent a lot of time thinking about livestreaming the accident did not take place. I spent a lot of time talking about how it’s actually the peeeeeeerfect show to livestream (Mum!) because it’s about the mediation of information via the digital, via screens. But at the same time, our work is designed for the live experience. We make work that functions by juxtaposing the digital with the fleshy, organic, oh-shit-we’re-all-in-this-room together. I am, deep-down and for totally-personal-I-can’t-prove-or-explain-it, overtly suspicious of the digital, of its ability to simulate connectivity whilst actually affecting separation. Maybe all this means that livestreaming can be harnessed to properly explore that digital ennui which I seem perpetually interested in creating in all my work. But I don’t know how to do that when I’m stuck in a house all day. And I’m not sure anyone is going to want to see that when this is over either.

I keep rewriting this last paragraph to try and end on a more positive note. I’m not a total pessimist. I just feel a little lost. They will most likely reinstate project grants at the end of this year or in 2021. But are there any theatres that will want to commission an experimental theatre company? Theatres are going to be tightening their belts and looking for solid, risk-free work to build up their resilience again. No shade. Our government doesn’t fund the arts properly. We are a philistine culture. I’m not sure when we’ll be able to make a show again and right now that’s sort of okay. It’s not like theatres were lining up to commission us before all this. But there are shows we want to make. And there are cool lighting effects we want to try. And there are leaf-blowers we want to use to try and make a sort of petal whirlwind effect. And it would be a shame if we never got to do any of that, you know?

@noffmag / [email protected]