Images: © Polly Tisdall and Rambling Heart
Rambling Heart set up shop in the Three Week Window bright and early on Monday 17th September and prepared to entertain the passing public with a twenty-minute tale of trade and exchange.
As we prepared for performance – hanging brightly coloured, shimmering fabrics and a fine selection of clothes from our own wardrobes, on large frames and clothes rails – shoppers, commuters and one very excited class of primary school children stopped and stared at the window: eyes caught by our life-size puppet, Fiona, and giant tent-like Bag for Life. A lucky few were treated to a wave and a nod from Fiona who was warming up for the long day of performances ahead (9 performances in all) and the bravest waved back, smiling.
At 10am the first performance was underway: telling the simple story of a mother and a small daughter, in a red hat and a blue dress, who are browsing in a clothes shop when the daughter disappears. A non-verbal performance, designed especially for the window, the story of the little girl’s vanishing, her mother’s frantic search and eventual reunion with her daughter, now reduced to just her clothes, was told entirely through physical theatre and puppetry. Pieces of clothing, on rods, sprang to life and danced with the little girl (initially an actor), actors hung on hangers amongst the clothes, coatstands played jump rope, even receipts took on a life of their own; fluttering into the air and swarming around the little girl before crashing into the window and sliding down the glass. Accompanied by original music from our accordion player, the action built to fever pitch with a storm of shopping bags and the entrance of a man made entirely from receipts, before the little girl was drawn behind a clothes rail and her mother – Fiona, our giant puppet – recovered her ‘daughter’ in the reduced form of just her red hat and blue dress.
It was fantastic to become aware of our audiences growing throughout the piece, to see that many people, once they had been drawn in, chose to stay for the duration of the performance and to have the opportunity to chat with people in between and after performances and to hear their responses. Comments on the day included: ‘Strangely captivating…An odd mix of clever and weird’, ‘Very creative and innovative’ and ‘It certainly made me think about shopping’.
The piece was created as part of the broader development process of a larger piece the company are currently devising which will explore consumer culture and customer service through the re-telling of true and traditional stories and devised work – and our research is therefore reliant upon people sharing their shopping stories and experiences with us. At Three Week Window it was great to have a direct opportunity to talk with audiences and to hear their ideas. Some people were kind enough to share their thoughts on shopping on our discussion posters which were up on the shop front and their words and thoughts will now go on to inform our development of the larger piece.
There were many memorable moments from the day for us: talking at length after one performance with two gentlemen who attended a drama group for people with mental health issues and were full of excitement about the show and the project: two ladies who were so struck by our ‘shop’ that they began browsing amongst the clothes on set: and copious company latte drinking!
One of our favourite responses came from a gentleman who passed by earlier in the day and made a special effort to come back later to see the show. He described to us how he had enjoyed the moment with the flying receipts which nip at the little girl’s fingers, commenting that ‘that is how it is with shopping: you’re all pleased with your new things, excited – and then the bill comes and bites you on the hand!’
We would like to thank Little Earthquake, Tin Box and Point Blank for making our fabulous day in the window possible.
If you missed us in the window then don’t worry: a video of the day will soon be available here – where you can also comment on the piece, share your own shopping experiences or just say hello via our contact page.