Life in Lockdown: Day One w/ Society of Strays

Life in Lockdown | 19 October 2020

Two people peering through long grass

#GDLifeinLockdown 2.0

Life in Lockdown is a blog series initiated by Greenwich Dance which features community and professional arists close to the organisation sharing how they are staying creative during these isolating times.

Day One:

Society of Strays is a collaboration between myself Andy Gardiner and John Kendall. We both agree that we are Dance Theatre performers. We met 12 years ago at The Scottish School of Contemporary Dance, John then went to complete his MA with Edge at The Place and myself at Northern School of Contemporary Dance.

John has gone on to work extensively with BalletLorent in Newcastle and also Joan Cleville Dance performing in works Plan B for Utopia and The North. I have worked with Protein Dance for the last 5 years, bgroup, Curious Seed and Riccardo Buscarini and between us both in many other amazing projects both dance and theatre based.

Society of Strays is a new venture for both of us. We began research for a new piece called Existing, Alone… Together in 2019. The idea arose from where we were in our lives, and the kind of reflection one could have on life when waiting in purgatory. The heart of Samuel Becketts Waiting for Godot and Dantes the Divine Comedy we’re a central point to get started in the studio. Our interests lie strongly in Theatre of the absurd, surrealism, pop culture comedy, dark comedy, film makers Roy Andersson and Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite, The Lobster).

Our name was born out of the pandemic really, somehow… well there were many reasons for settling on it. Through conversations at work (our new jobs at a Postal sorting office and Sainsburys bakery) with people who in society are considered the working class. We found it difficult to explain what a working day would be for ourselves pre pandemic. Often people would respond with “could you say that again, I don’t quite understand, I don’t go to the theatre”. Our thought, “well why?” a common answer being “it’s not really for us”, “it’s high- brow” etc. Quite the opposite feeling for us, we want this audience to feel like they, like anyone belongs in the theatre and could engage and respond to the work. How did they stray? What can we do about that? Big question but a mission never the less. One we want to take.

Both of us are from Northern towns Leeds and Newcastle with working class backgrounds and families and a lot of inspiration for us comes from that environment and aesthetic, there is so much we could do from looking at an old family photo from the 60s, 70’s, 80s, the locations, the fashion, the hair the people, brilliant!

We consider ourselves strays because a stray doesn’t know where it fits in, it’s not so easily categorised, it’s belonging not to one thing or the other, it’s so certain in its uncertainty. The mermaid which is our logo is nor of land or sea it shares both. Ours is also imperfect and its imperfections we are interested in, there lies the beauty we want to see. For us the combination of dance and acting as a medium for making and presenting work is paramount, to have the best of both worlds. They share equal importance.

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