The Shelter - Q&A with Kate Steenhauer and Shane Strachan

The Shelter - Q&A with Kate Steenhauer and Shane Strachan

We have a great multidisciplinary piece about real life on the streets of Aberdeen which combines live drawing and verbatim theatre on Thursday 26 April 2018. Sound and sight give different perspectives on the city’s bus shelters through a gradual accumulation of brush strokes and repeated snippets of ever-growing conversations. Watch a beautiful work of art evolve in Japanese ink at the hands of multi-award-winning artist Kate Steenhauer, alongside a vibrant verbatim text which flits between light and dark in a jazz‐like manner performed by writer Shane Strachan. Originally developed with the support of the National Theatre of Scotland, Freshly Squeezed Productions is pleased to support Kate and Shane and present this work in progress sharing of The Shelter.

Can you tell me a little about your backgrounds?

While we’ve both been resident in Aberdeen for twelve years, Kate is a fine artist originally from the Netherlands and Shane is a writer originally from Fraserburgh.

Kate produces work based around heritage, industries and landmarks. Live drawing lies at the core of her practice, capturing people absorbed in work and play, often at unique locations and preferably with production in full swing. Her drawings are then transformed into contemporary images using oil paintings, printmaking and Japanese ink. She has won multiple awards, and exhibits regularly at the Royal Scottish Academy, Royal Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts, Mall Galleries, Bankside Gallery and Royal College of Art in London, with 2 major solo shows at the Meffan Gallery and Gallery Fifty Five in 2017. Her art is part of permanent public art collections at Aberdeen Maritime Museum and Angus Council. She is also currently collaborating with dancer/ choreographer Imogene Newland funded by Creative Scotland and Citymoves to develop and perform a live show at the May Festival of Aberdeen this year.

Shane primarily writes about the Northeast region and how it relates to the wider world. Since completing a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Aberdeen, his work has been published in New Writing Scotland, Gutter, Northwords Now and various other national magazines and anthologies. He’s also had work staged as part of the National Theatre of Scotland’s Granite project and for Paines Plough’s Come to Where I’m From series. As well as The Shelter for APA, he’s been commissioned by Creative Scotland to create new short stories as part of the centenary celebrations for Muriel Spark this year.

Kate and Shane met for the first time in October 2017 through the National Theatre of Scotland’s One Day to Play artist exchange which brought together creatives from different disciplines to create unique original work for theatre.

The Shelter

Can you tell us a little about how you conceived the piece?

During One Day to Play, Cora Bissett and the National Theatre of Scotland team challenged us to go out into the streets on the night we met and use our individual practices to collect images and text in any way we thought could be useful for creating a new piece of theatre. We quickly found that bus shelters were fruitful places in Aberdeen for interesting human interaction where folk from across all areas of society suddenly find themselves having conversations with strangers that they most likely wouldn’t do in another context.

The next day we decided that our theatrical scene would involve Kate capturing the innocence of young children playing in bus shelters in Japanese ink, alongside Shane performing the uncensored verbatim of the far-less-innocent adult conversations overheard in the shelters. This meant that what the audience sees and what they hear are two very different perspectives of life on Aberdeen’s Union Street which unfold in a circular manner in the scene: while the audience gradually begin to pick out what Kate is representing in her (initially) abstract ink drawings as she returns and builds upon her marks by enhancing the finer details, the text performed by Shane similarly becomes clear as repeated snippets of a variety of conversations gradually accumulate to their full unveiling at the close of the piece.

The invited audience seemed to respond well to this new way of creating theatre and the original scene has since been recorded and projected in Union Terrace Gardens as part of the most recent Spectra Festival. Since January of this year, we’ve been back out on the streets collecting more images and verbatim text for further scenes which we’ll showcase during the sharing on April 26th. We’ve also been using our research and development time to test out how to project a close-up of the live drawing Kate does on stage and we have been playing around with how Shane will interact with this as he performs the verbatim text.

The Shelter 3

Do you have any aims for the piece?

The show is about real life on the streets of Aberdeen and what it means to seek shelter in an urban landscape. With each new scene, we’ve tried to challenge ourselves to do something different with the way the text flows and the image evolves. We hope that this will hold the audience’s attention, and that they’ll be able to piece together a wider narrative about Aberdeen and its people over the course of the whole performance. It’s definitely a risky and challenging piece: syncing the timing of text and drawing is tricky and the Japanese ink Kate is using is very fluid and can have a mind of its own, so anything could happen on the night!

We’re also keen to engage as wide an audience as possible with the show throughout our research and development process as we’d really like Aberdonians to see the piece as an ongoing dialogue with the city that they’re part of. To encourage this, we’ve been tweeting quotes from the script and development sketches along with the hashtag #aberdeenoverheard You can see all of these on the twitter account @writeaberdeen and there’s still time for members of the public to tweet in anything they overhear at an Aberdeen bus shelter (in any language or dialect) which might then make the cut for the show...

What do you have planned for the future?

Both of us are really keen to continue working on this project together, whether that be as an audio-visual art installation (like we did for Spectra) or as a bigger theatrical work using a similar process but across Scotland. We’ve been applying for various opportunities to develop it further, so watch this space.

The Shelter 3

For those who have never attended an event such as this how would you entice them in?

For starters, we may have drawn and/or overheard you in a bus shelter on Union Street or passing by one earlier this year, so you may very well be the star of the show! It’s also a pretty special experience to watch a fine artist at work drawing and painting - it’s really quite calming and entertaining in itself, but add to this a mad amalgamation of the many voices you overhear every day in Aberdeen, then you’ve got quite a unique experience that’s definitely never been done before, so it’s not to be missed!

 

Thanks for the talkthrough of The Shelter, the show itself is free but ticketed, and tickets are available here.

Posted on Monday 26 March

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