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Flautist Juliet Beadle conjuring up surreal thoughts

Music is always an integral part of ExploreTheArch productions

A thought-full show for Christmas

Screen Shot 2017-11-22 at 17.02.18Ever seen the 1892 illustration of a man’s profile in which his three daughters’ faces are hidden? Apart from serving as a reflection on gender statuses at that time, it reminds us just how long hidden pictures in illustration have been around in the media, pictures that grab our attention and thoughts. This is just one of the fascinations that East Sussex’s experimental theatre company ExploreTheArch draws on this Christmas in their new production The House of Midwinter Thought. Erica Smith explores the inner world of thought.

00GailSteam“How readily our thoughts swarm upon an object“ the modernist writer Virginia Woolf begins the second paragraph of her 1917, The Mark on the Wall, the short story that has inspired ExploreTheArch’s vibrant new show. The company explores Woolf’s vivid twisty-turny thoughts through a number of vintage technologies that thoughts swarm on. Stereograms, lenticular postcards and shadowplay glide into view and a giant hand-made kaleidoscope is built on stage. And the company’s signature paper forms swoop down on string and revolve and evolve to live music, composed for this startling new production.

The central thought in Woolf’s remarkable little story is a mark on the wall, a shadow that morphs and shape shifts just as many interior objects do in the depths of midwinter in firelight when our thoughts are tucked up indoors. The contrast of the cozy room, in which ExploreTheArch’s audiences will snuggle in armchairs, with an expansive gothic exterior is a theme explored in a number of nineteenth century short stories by female writers. Woolf references the nineteenth century with objects that her narrator bids farewell to: a bagatelle board, iron hoops and a tapestry tablecloth with little yellow compartments. Washing her hands of the old, Woolf’s elusive character wonders at the new world facing her while acknowledging that she might at any moment stretch out her “hand at once for a book in self-protection.” It is very much a rite of passage story of a female stepping into a volatile, uncertain world lashed by the vestiges of a male dominated society. Her thoughts feel surprisingly fresh and relevant today.

00MidwinterThoughtVirginia and Leonard Woolf mused on three significant thoughts as they celebrated Virginia’s thirty third birthday in January 1915. They considered the purchase of Hogarth House in Richmond, the acquisition of a hand press to publish their work (and the writing of other like-minded authors) and apparently the procurement of a bulldog named John. The first two thoughts became realities and in 1917, Hogarth Press was born. John the bulldog remained a thought.

A replica of Woolf’s humble desk-mounted copper platen press will be present in the festive foyer space in ExploreTheArch’s St Leonards’ venue this Christmas since The Mark on the Wall was Virginia’s first self-published story. Self-publishing freed the writer from the anxiety of sending her work to publishers and having to deal with stress-inducing editing demands. The doors open thirty minutes before The House of Midwinter Thought shows begin at the company’s enchanting tucked away venue in St Leonards for audiences to mark the centenary of Woolf’s story in various personal, creative ways.

ExploreTheArch’s The House of Midwinter Thought, opens on 17th December for two weeks and tickets, including a limited number of free tickets for children and young people, are available online and from The Bookkeeper Bookshop, 1A Kings Rd, St Leonards on Sea. Tues-Sat 10-5, cash sales only, no booking fee.

This festive production is a magical way into the work of a writer who presents to some readers as a wall of words. In performance, Virginia Woolf’s 1917 short story is enticing and bewitching and welcoming to young and adult viewers alike.

The House of Midwinter Thought opens on Monday 18 December and runs through the Christmas period to 30 December. Performances are held at Archer Lodge, Charles Road, St Leonards-on-Sea TN38 0QX.
For more information, and to book tickets visit the website.

Posted 18:33 Wednesday, Nov 22, 2017 In: Performance

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