Letters to Windsor House – Sh!t Theatre

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Sh!t Theatre are a company of two based in a rapidly gentrifying area of Northeast London. The pair live, work, research and perform together in an ever-complicating set of professional and unprofessional relationships. Over the course of the performance ‘Letters to Windsor House’ we see the performer’s relationship take emotional turns as they face up to their continued coexistence, and the success of their work being founded on the circumstances of precarious living they face as individuals.

Louise and Rebecca have been living in the same flat in a housing development called Windsor House (with other blocks in the development being named after other royal castles), for around three years. The flat has damp, mould, and other neglected areas of structural damage. Over the course of their tenancy, they’ve received countless letters intended for previous tenants of the property, which they’ve kept in a chest of drawers in the hallway. After a long time of collecting these, they decided that it was only right to open them, and started researching the legality of opening letters. Finding that the law stated that if you were concerned for the wellbeing of the intended recipient of the letter, (and that it was illegal for a man to open letters with no mention of a woman), you were entitled to open said letter. After feigning concern for the previous tenants, Louise and ___ begin to open up the letters, disguising their names to protect their identities. They find through this delving into people’s lives that they actually get quite worried, about breast cancer, about single parenting, about the states of affairs that people held in the flat before them.

The narrative of the research is interrupted by a small dance number about a character Rob Jecock (who may or may not be an adult baby), and an emotional friendship exercise where both parties write honest letters to one another. Louise and Rebecca talk about their relationship and the difficulties and necessities (both professionally and financially) of living and working together whilst dressed at thrown-together Royal Mail post boxes.

And then we return to the research at hand, different envelopes are opened and we see the lengths at which the performers become enthralled and even slightly obsessed by the previous tenants of their property. They try communicating through facebook, twitter, do avid cross-referential searches on google, LinkedIn, directories, and conversations with members of the local community. Rob Jecock seems to be the only one that can still be found and talked to, and as he may or may not be an adult baby they choose to focus on him. They find that both he and another previous tenant now both work for a major energy company, and get in touch with the company to try and develop a conversation. After a few failed attempts the pair visit the branch were Rob works to try and catch him on a lunch break. Eventually after multiple dead ends, they are contacted by one of Rob’s old flatmates who agrees to skype them.

Another break from the narrative as more letters are exchanged, and the tensions in the relationship become apparent. Feelings of indebtedness and ‘growing up’, finding property outside of the romantic vision of their combined theatre research. Questions like what it means to live with one another in an non-reciprocal fashion, amidst impressions of recent, suspect decorators, boiler servicers, and surveyors that have demanded entry to the property to carry out their work. A conversation about who these people might be, and where the letters detailing their work have managed to get lost.

The skype session follows, for what is an awkward realism amidst a developing fantasy about adult babies, invented soap opera relationships, and curious acts of labour. He confirms first of all that Rob Jecock is not an adult baby, and then begins to shed light on the landlord of the property. Through a friendly sharing of information, both parties realise that the landlord is actually a council tenant and has been illegally subletting his property.

What follows is a series of hypothetical questions posed to the council through phone calls. Asking about what would happen to the council tenant should they get caught, and by extension what would happen to the lease they signed originally. Of course, Louise and Rebecca do not expose their landlord, both in an attempt to maintain their existence in one of the only inexpensive properties in the area, and in order to not persecute their landlord for probably being in a similar financially stretched position as they are.

They choose to coexist, to live within the loopholes, the damp, the areas of neglect from structural reform. In Letters to Windsor House, Sh!t Theatre propose an alternative way of organising our living, bound not to top-down structures of the landlord and tenant. Sh!t Theatre as a performed, considered act of disobedience within the council structure, play with notions of how maybe in spaces of neglect, we can find growth, or at least spaces to develop cultures of our own. In great times of austerity, when organisations are bound to the psyche of not-growing and making-do with what they can; maybe these spaces of neglect in the domestic system can provide alternate homes for performance to manifest.

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Performance Criticism

This is a blog dedicated to the furthering of performance criticism, appreciating the tendency towards the cross-disciplinary nature in contemporary performance, and the necessity for a cross-disciplinary critique of that.

Gordan Douglass was born during Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2016, from the repeated misspelling of performer and curator, Gordon Douglas. Gordan is interested in the legacy of performativity, inheritance of politics, notions of rehearsal, and practices of antagonism.