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Ghost Letters I & II
 
all photography & copyright: Joanna Kane
 
Reviews of the performances and the costumes
Now this is an unusual experience. Shocked. Moved. Saddened. Calmed. Enlightened. Freaked out. Whatever you feel after this promenade performance around Brompton Cemetery, you are bound to feel something.

Scampi Productions presents Ghost Letters, based upon the powerful poetry of American Richard McCann. On arrival one does not know what to expect. Wandering around a graveyard at dusk, thoughts naturally turn to death – but as the performance gently and unexpectedly begins, one is drawn into a haunted world which is both living and dying. The recited verse explains how and why we’re inextricably linked to the two.

Nicola Dahlinger and Vanessa Mildernberg thoughfully direct and creatively choreograph eight performers lead by Thomas Thoroe, who delivers the poetry with it’s deserved passion and energy. Meanwhile the chorus’ use of movement and mime is surprisingly chilling.

The actors work as one moving body as they beckon their audience deeper into examining the cycle of feelings released when a loved one is lost.

The audience forms an integral part of the piece. We don’t sit down. Instead, we are constantly invited to follow the performers into different parts of the cemetery. Bodies appear from nowhere while the beat of the verse builds to a touching climax. This truly beautiful poetry leaves no emotion unturned. “What are we but ghosts if we don’t touch?” asks McCann. One cannot help beginning to question our most natural communication.

Jane Stead: Fulham & Hammersmith Chronicle, Thurs Aug 19 1999

 
 
The work reminds one of another German artist: Joseph Beuys. Beuys magical story of rescue during World War II and his subsequent use of felt and fat as material for his sculptures are known to have complex metaphorical associations, among them a sense of protection and survival. Sendler’s muffled world of fibre creates a similar poetic protection from the realities of day to day emotional and auditory exposure. And much like Sendler’s interior skins, Beuys’ is quoted with explaining that, “The outward appearance of every object I make is equivalent of some aspect of inner human life.”
 

The unsettling emotion conveyed by these works in reminiscent of an environment described by late Japanese author Kawabata Yasunari in his short story “One Arm.”

On an unusual night Yasunari’s main character imagines that he hears the following radio warning: “because of the wet branches and their own wet feet and wings, small birds have fallen to the ground and cannot fly.

Automobiles passing through the parks should take care not to run over them. And if a warm wind comes up, the fog will perhaps change color. Strange-colored fogs are noxious. Listeners should therefore lock their doors if the fog should turn pink or purple.” Sendler’s performers would likely have seemed at ease in this strange fog. Here the felted costumes present a strange tension between a sense of being smothered and that of being swaddled, a world where beauty could as likely be magical as sinister.

Jessica Hemming: Selvedge textile magazine
issue no 03 Sept /Oct 2004

 
 

These costumes was later shown in 'Felt, Felt, Felt', a European Touring Exhibition and now form part of the permanent collection of the Crafts Museum of Central Finland, Javascula, Finland

"Wool seemed to be the ideal natural material to merge the group of 'Dead Souls' with the environment of the cemetery."

Jeanette Sendler

     

 

 

Richard McCann’s garrulous elegy to a lover who died of AIDS is delightfully upstaged by the faded overgrown Georgian grandeur of Brompton Cemetery. Weaving between the wonky, ivy covered gravestones and through the arches of the enveloping colonades of the Great Circle, Thomas Thoroe plays a poet recounting the anguished loss of a loved one. The story takes us into seedy back-streets for early sexual encounters, into depersonalised hospitals in the vain battle for life and off on anguished drinking binges in the wake of the inevitable bereavement.

 
  Informing this narrative are the themes of touching and breathing, leading to fantasised reunion with the loved one and releasing the narrator back out of the underworld.  
  Whether or not McCann’s Poetry actually succeeds in rising from the tomb of it’s highly personalised anguish, there is more to this performance than just the language. Nicola Dahlinger’s promenade production had a chorus of seven mummified actors dressed up in mouldy white felt appearing like wailing banshees from the surrounding crypts, drifting through the graveyard like ghosts and acting as a supernatural cortege.
 
 

But the elements too have their part to play in the creation of the transient atmosphere: planes lining up for Heathrow overhead, wind rustling in the trees, armies of barking crows, the smell of the earth and the shadows lengthening in the setting sun. Thoroe is sometimes over-emphatic in his desire to match the intensity of McCann’s often impenetrable, occasionally banal poetry. But whatever one’s private response, the event itself is a great pretext for indulging melancholy emotions of one’s own, recollected in the tranquillity of this beautiful cemetery.

Patrick Marmion: Time Out August 1999

 
 
 
 
Ghost Letters II
Following the success of the performance in Brompton Cemetery, London, it was performed in the Friedhoefe vor dem Halleschen Tor, Berlin, 2001 as Ghost Letters II.

 

 

 

 

 
Please visit www.emergingproperties .de to learn more about the performances Ghost Letters I-IV    
Newburgh Textile Centre of Excellence

Textile Centre of Excellence
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Newburgh, Fife

Scotland KY14 6DP

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