It began with a true story - a man found drowned in a shallow river, wearing a home-made fish-suit. This passionate yet doomed attempt to escape from his own human-ness was the sparking point for Hair From the Throat .
What happens if we want to escape human nature? The blurred distinction between animal and human appeals to us while at the same time filling us with distaste. In Hair from the Throat there is a plenty of experimentation with radical self-transformation and amateurish attempts at animalism.
Preparing for Hair from the Throat , we came across this story in an Australian newspaper:
A man had been found drowned in a shallow river. He was wearing a homemade fish suit which joined his legs together in the form of a fishtail, and only provided holes for his eyes. Two more of these suits were found at his house where he was designing them, but none of the neighbours in his tiny village had any idea of his private experiment.
With this strangely passionate story, we wondered what Fish-Suit man's motivations were. What was he doing in that river? What kind of perfection was he hoping to reach with his fish-suit design? Where did he belong? What had he discovered? His preference for a fish-state suggested that there was some weightiness, some difficulty with human-ness that he sought to escape.
With these questions we began our own experiment.
In Hair From the Throat a very specific world is created. Each participant has designed a new self - which they inhabit through their costume. And like the Fish-Suit man, the ambition and result of this is to escape from the usual sense of human-ness. Born from the individual's imagination, each creature sets out to rediscover what and where they are.
This is a game, but a serious one - where none of the rules are yet decided. It is driven by curiosity.
These new creatures explore, trying to orient themselves without the usual clues. In this state of 'not knowing' the discoveries occur by trial and error, and the results are of course clumsy, hesitant, but also inventive. The bodies are amateurish, put together with what was available, and the setting they explore is naïve. Clues in this world are sparse - both for the participants and the audience - who are left to their own imaginations to piece the events together.
Things become more complex when the disguises start to peel off. Suddenly unshelled and returned to their human form, the participants continue their research in 'not knowing'. They discard the most basic knowledge in order to have the freedom of re-orientation. One begins with his own body. Another tries language, and in her explanations to the audience comes hard up against the inarticulacy of definitions and the wonder of the fundamentals. Affinities and conflicts arise between the participants as they search for some contact with each other.
The atmosphere in the performance is one of half dream and half experiment. The audience are invited to orientate themselves within it, but there are no easy explanations. The pleasure experience for the audience comes from this re-invention and curiosity.
What's important about this experiment is the idea that we can be released from the confines of assumption: That a person might search for a more comfortably fitting skin. That they might follow their curiosity, and realise themselves outside the restrictions of normal expectations. In the world of Hair From the Throat , to lose your grounding is both an impediment and a beautiful opportunity. What's important is to keep on trying and inventing - to delve into unknown territory, even if the results are not comfortable.
Hair From the Throat is theatre, but it also has strong links to installation and performance art. The actions that take place are fragile and liable to dissipation. The performance relies on small gestures and subtle sounds. It is an intense and slow building atmosphere, in which actions are left floating. At times it is funny, and at others it is claustrophobic. It deliberately eschews some of the codes of a 'normal' show. This quality has an unsettling effect, and shares with the audience the sense of 'not-knowing', that is a central goal of the work. There is also a cartoon-esque quality to the creatures that are doing this experiment. They have a fairytale air - which they betray by never arriving at the coherent story with the happy ending
Kate McIntosh interviewed by Marianne Van Kerkhoven , published in Kaaitheater Bulletin Nov|Dec 2006 .
".... I don't attach much importance to the 'authority' of information; I am not interested in whether the source is correct or not. I'm fascinated mainly by the way people live and how they collect bits and pieces of information in the course of their lives. It doesn't matter whether this information is right or not: they live with it and through it, and weave their world with it. I like the fragility of this sort of 'amateurish' knowledge: you pick up something you hear and if it 'works' for you it's OK. I look for a homemade mixture of things - bits and pieces that are very personal and contain plenty of humour - and for the fragility of failure and the imperfect.....
I see it as fundamental that there are many different ways of living and that the way mankind tackles it today is not the only possibility. My nomadic life has convinced me that human life as it is organised today is not inevitable. It's inspiring because it explodes the notion that only one way of living and only one culture is 'correct'. In fact my work is made up of 'attempts at being'. Trying things out, being flexible, not losing sight of yourself, finding out what's possible.... I am interested by all those situations where things are 'at an odd angle', both on a micro and a macro level.."
A project by Kate McIntosh
Devised and performed with Palli Banine, Diederik Peeters and Jo Randerson
Artistic advice Lilia Mestre
Sound design Charo Calvo
Light Henk Vandecaveye
Costume construction Myriam van Gucht
Production Margarita Production for The Other vzw
Coproducers Parc de la Villette (F), Sophiensaele (D)
In partnership with Monty (B), nadine (B), Kaaitheater (B)
With the support of de Vlaamse overheid, het Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest