No Scent Like Brassika.

The Creative Performance Process: A Reflection. By Kirsty Shipley.

I have to go back, I have to go home, to the place where it all started, to the place where I started. To the place where I could sit and watch ‘The Wizard of Oz’ on repeat whilst my Grandmother doted on me… That place does not exist anymore. (No Scent Like Brassika: 2012)

This booklet aims to reflect on my process of creating a theatrical performance through ethnographically derived research. ‘No Scent Like Brassika’ is a solo performance constructed from ethnographically sourced field research material. (Interviews, observations and mystories) My performance practice is cross disciplinary and I borrow strategies from several separate schools of thought. These include Social Sciences (branches of ethnography), Geography (map-making), and storytelling. Each section within the booklet seeks to construct a view of process and/or performance through a reflective approach. Mapping processes appear throughout the book as they are used to organise thoughts, compose, edit, document, position the material, aid the process and generate ideas. Maps include cognitive maps, geographical maps, spatial maps and material maps. I have always been fascinated by the stories of family life which are shared through the generations and No Scent like Brassika focuses on the strong bonds Granddaughters and Grandmothers share in and through their relationships. The memories, experiences and images that lay imprinted long after the matriarchal superglue/ the Grandmother figure is gone. ‘No Scent like Brassika’ seeks to stand for your Grandmother, my Grandmother, his Grandmother and her Grandmother. And I hope that as you leaf through these pages you find a memory of mine or his or hers that triggers thoughts of your own Grandmother – the superglue. ‘My text is flawed not when it is ambiguous or even contradictory but only when it leaves you no room for stories of your own.’ (Mairs: 1994:74) Please Note. The field research participants’ names have been
altered to protect their identities.


Christopher Frayling (1993) – Considering a Practice led research Framework. The artist, by definition, is someone who works in an expressive idiom, rather than a cognitive one, and for whom the great project is an extension of personal development. (Frayling: 1993: 2) I would firstly like to explain the content of this book in line with Christopher Frayling’s framework for defining areas of study through practice led research. Frayling, in his article Research in Art and Design (1993) reconsiders the definitions of art and research and suggests three categories to consider. He highlights these areas as ‘research into, research through and research for’ (Frayling: 1993: 2) and suggests that categorising arts based research projects into these three separate categories aids the articulation and communication of our own research intentions. Working in such an ‘expressive idiom’ makes articulating research methods, processes and decision making difficult Frayling’s suggestions help overcome that barrier and aid the construction of a practice led research project. Throughout my process the table I created on the following page has been a constant referral point to stimulate ideas and boost development. It is my aim to clarify the research associated with the performance No Scent Like Brassika in order to encourage a deeper insight into the process of creating and researching this ethnographically based theatrical performance. The following table should also provide a guide to the topics weaved into and discussed throughout this booklet. I would also like to note that although an attempt has been made at clarifying my research interests as associated to the development of my performance practice and in line with Frayling’s notions, categorizing each individual element is challenging – some elements could fit in all of the boxes.

Research Into. *Old age. *Ethnography. *Cabbage. *Mike Pearson’s ‘Bubbling Tom.’(2000) *Tami Spry ‘Skins: A Daughters Reconstruction of Cancer.’ (2003) *Interview methods. *Empathy. *Social Science. *Stone Steps. *Ethnography and performance. *Babooshka (Folk Tale) *Simone De Beauvoir “Old Age” (1977) *Personas of the self. *Qualitative research. *Norman Denzin. *Dwight Conquergood.

Research Through. *Ethnography. *Interviews with Grandmothers. *Interviews with Grandchildren. *Mapping. *Observations. *Cabbage. *Performance. *Play. *Performance writing. *Rehearsal. *Personas of the self *Characterisation *Voice. *Action – scrubbing, cleaning, chopping. *Lines

Research For. *Cabbage. *Stone steps. *Grandmothers. *Babooshka. (Folk Tale) *Superglue. *The Wizard of Oz. *Cabbage recipes. *Chopping *Cooking *The physical effects of aging. *Thesaurus alternatives for forever and ever. *1950’s women and polishing the steps. *Lines *Journey’s


NLP Creative Exercise. Initially, as an exercise to developing an ethnographically derived performance, I spent time in the studio considering an NLP based exercise. Developing notions through this process, before engaging in field research allowed me to clarify my aims and identify the starting points to embark on the process. The NLP creativity exercise, credited to Walt Disney (Dilts: 1998: Online) as a storyboarding creative strategy, is a starting point to developing a creative action plan for independent study. It makes something from nothing using improvisation. NLP exercises poster themselves as ways of overcoming brain or writers block. This exercise takes the basic elements of NLP and transfers them into a creative form which helps develop starting points for creating performance material. The particular exercise places the performer into four creative stances through a cycle of thought perspectives. The first stance is the “visualizer”, this stance pushes the artist to vision, in the mind’s eye and in an ideal world how the performance may look in the future. This vision is then vocalised through the second stance labelled the “dreamer” articulating how, without restrictions, I picture the performance. The third station places the creative performer in the shoes of the “pragmatist”, I see this role as the planner, the organiser, who begins to put the visualized and dreamt up notions into action. Finally is the “critic” who interrogates and critiques the self and the ideas which have been articulated throughout the doing of the exercise. The performers vocalisations of these four stances are recorded in the studio space and then played back in order to make notes and determine areas of interest which may be followed up in the creative process. The exercise is repeated several times and as a result the ideas develop. A map of this exercise follows, the map articulates

some of the main points which resulted from the exercise and considers my next steps in the process. A Map of NLP Exercise: 22/06/2012


‘Mystory’ (Ulmer: 1989) as Method. I began by borrowing methods from autoethnography. ‘Mystory’ is a method initially developed by Gregory Ulmer (1989) which suggests the collaging of three texts as a starting point for developing and presenting autoethnographically derived research notes. Ulmer’s method can also be transferred into a performance context and compliments a starting point for developing autoethnographically based theatrical performance. Ulmer describes ‘Mystory’ as ‘three levels of discourse – personal (autobiographical), popular (community stories, oral history or popular culture) [and] expert (disciplines of knowledge)’ (Ulmer: 1989) As a method ‘mystory’ provides a starting point to a triad of discourse based material that compliments ethnographic research and the process of creating theatrically based performance. The results provide layered texts and descriptive narratives which have been carefully weaved in and out of one another to compliment a meaning. As a method ‘mystory’ provided a starting point as I returned from the field. Considering some of my research alongside Ulmer’s triad provided a perfect platform for me to begin the process of weaving my fragmented research together. However Ulmer’s method is very text centric, as an ethnographic method it is heavily centred in discourse. Implementing ethnographic methods throughout my performance process has been problematic. Ethnographic research situates itself in the written word on the other hand performance incorporates much more, visual aesthetics, movement and scenography. It is these elements that are often almost disregarded within ethnographically based research. Using ethnographic methods resulted in a textually heavy research outcome. This also reflects

on my inexperience as an ethnographer and perhaps more attention should have been made, throughout the field research process, to document elements in forms other than text such as photography, video and tape recording in order to gain a varied response. This portfolio could have provided a constant reference point for the development of action, scenography and aesthetics. As material to position alongside Ulmer’s triad I considered the Russian Folk Tale of Babooshka, the academic text Old Age by Simone De Beauvoir and an autobiographical story about my own Grandmother. The Three Stages of ‘Mystory’: A Popular Folk Tale: Babooshka Research into Babooshka/Babushka/La Befana resulted in the discovery of many differing versions of the popular Russian folk tale. The many spellings of the name Babooshka also triggered a deliberate miss-spell of brassica to brassika, spelt ka it combines the word brassica with Babooshka through a play on spellings. Babooshka is considered the
Grandmother of all Grandmothers and the play on words hints at two titles, no scent like cabbage (referring to the autobiographical ‘mystory’ and the smell travelling through the room. See Scentsory experience section in this booklet) and no scent like Grandmothers. (referring to the various smells associated with Grandmother such as cooking, cigarettes and perfume) I also found variations

of the Russian story across cultures, American versions and Italian versions. In some of these variations Babooshka translated La Befana is a witch replica of the westernised figure of St Nicholas/Father Christmas. The slight changes in the differing versions of the story were used methodologically in the construction of the following performance text. Furthermore the slight changes in each story highlight the transitory nature of storytelling and memory, the multiple versions of the same story provide examples of a Chinese whisper effect.

The story of Babooshka recognises her as the Grandmother of all Grandmothers. Babooshka is a lonely woman who journeys forever and ever seeking to find the baby Jesus Christ after a visit from the three wise men. Babooshka is also often wrongly related to Russian nesting dolls, the doll inside the doll inside the doll, which I may add was the reason I first turned to Babooshka for the purpose of performance research. The Grandmother, mother and daughter line reflects the image of three Russian nesting dolls. The journey that lasts forever and ever can also represent a long lasting suffering which goes on endlessly, for ever and ever, perpetually, until the cows come home, as she sheds her leaves in decay. The path of Babooshka’s journey was represented by the vertical cabbage leaf line. I also developed a melody which aimed to represent the journey that lasted forever. This one line melody became a reoccurring theme, on the Babooshka line, throughout the performance. I seek to layer narrative upon narrative upon narrative, to create a descriptive version of the popular Russian folk tale. The story of Babooshka is a loose platform to hold the weight of my ethnographic research. I fragment the telling of the well-known story, layering it with my own descriptive details discovered through ethnographic field research. The story becomes layers and layers of experiences and interpretations from other grandchildren, grandmothers and grandmothers of grandmothers. The following performance text mixes a variety of traditional versions based on the story of Babooshka, alongside descriptive ethnographic research developed through interviews with Granddaughters as they discussed their Grandmothers appearances and house interiors. My hope is that you recognise an element of your grandparents in my ethnographic

twist on the Babooshka story. Maps of this process can also be seen in the fragmentation section of this booklet.
A frail fragile old woman sits, almost ninety-three lined face. Alone in her three bedroomed council house perched at the top of the hill. Her house the one with the aviary once filled with cockatoos. It has been a harsh winter, wind bangs again the doors rattling the windows. Never lonely but never with many visitors in her usual attire, always a skirt she never wore trousers, in her brown mac because brown was her favourite colour, blue headscarf wrapped tight. Her face was never without makeup a line around her jawline, lipstick on her teeth. She is tucking into her third slice of cake despite being a diabetic. Her cuckoo clock in the hallway cuckoos every fifteen minutes. Her wallpaper, the white kind with the little pots and pans, yellowing from the nicotine. Her favourite painting hangs above the fireplace, an elephant and her young. The stars spun from a web laced with dew twinkle in the sky. When three burly men approach her door, three burly men who look like debt collectors rattle her door; three burly men with heads like onions thump her door. Her horrible nail bitten hand twists the doorknob and she invites them in. They are looking for a witch and ask the lady, with her blue headscarf wrapped tight, to join them. But grumbling about her nobbling knees, her eroding memory, her arthritis, her Addisons’ disease, her once fractured hip, her vulnerability to pneumonia, her hard of hearing, her diminished eyesight in her right eye, her inability to smell, her diabetes, her reliance on several medications, her body riddled with cancer, her jittery nervous system due to the Parkinsons’, her inflamed kidneys, her high blood pressure, her weak bladder, her crooked back and her circulatory problems, she declines. Soon after she sets off out after the three burly men, the three burly men who look like debt collectors, the three burly men with heads like onions and she walks forever and ever. (No Scent Like Brassika: 2012)

The language used in this story seeks to enter the audience into a ‘mimetic contract’ (Culler: 1975: 193) a way of projecting these images onto the audience members in order for them to connect these

descriptions to their own lived experiences, reminding them of Grandma’s house. The Three Stages of ‘Mystory’ - An Academic Text: Old Age (1977) by Simone De Beauvoir. In her book entitled Old Age (1977) Simone de Beauvoir focuses on the study of the elderly across social and cultural borders. Drawing on many examples Beauvoir illustrates how old age is viewed and perceived in both modern and historical societies. In her second chapter she focuses on two common views of the elderly and provides examples relating to varying sociocultural contexts. The first of these views paints the aged as a wise, respected body with mounds of knowledge, the second contradicting view visions the elderly as a weak burden to society. Beauvoir also illustrates that these views are informed by the cultural circumstance of the society; if the culture is struggling nutritionally the elderly become a burden whereas in opposite societies the elderly are nurtured as the holder of the stories and wisdom. I believe the second stance relates more to westernised society and I can recognise elements of respect towards the elderly within my own family. This westernised view of old age was also highlighted throughout my role of ethnographer as I engaged with field research participants one interviewee noted I want my children to form a relationship with both sets of Grandparents…they can gain so much knowledge from them, knowledge of things I wouldn’t even know about. (Fiona: 2012: Field Research Project) What most informed my ethnographic based performance research, through the reading of Beauvoir’s discussions in her opening chapter, were her physically orientated descriptions of the aged body.

The individuals’ appearance changes and this allows his age to be estimated within a few years. The hair whitens and grows sparse…the sexual steroids vanish and the sexual organs degenerate. (Beauvoir: 1977: 31-33) Her descriptions informed the writing of two performance texts which were oriented toward the description of the physical effects of old age. The first is as follows.
I honour you in words but at the same time I allow you to wither away with physical neglect. Lost elasticity. Shortened in the lower and sagging. The top thinner and gradually changing colour. Sparse the growth appears elsewhere. Circulation not quite circulating. Wrinkly and shrivelled up you throbbing bulb. Age determined by split leaves. Not as beautiful as you once were, more full-bodied now. Leafy and green. More worn on the outside but good as new on the inside. Today you remember not of yesterday. (No Scent Like Brassika: 2012)

This performance text was also written with the physical appearance of cabbage in mind. Cabbage, with its wrinkly and aged appearance, gradually throughout the process, became a metaphor for the physical effects of old age. Many of the characteristics described in the above performance text play on the appearance of cabbage and of old age. Cabbage became a representative of the many figures, grandmothers and notions represented in the performance. The decision to include cabbage


in the performance derived from the next stage of ‘mystory’; the personal autobiographical.

The Three Stages of ‘Mystory’: Autoethnography: A Personal Story I have a memory, I am not sure I can remember this memory, I am not sure if this memory is correct. If I ask other people they remember this same memory differently, their versions of events differ. This is my memory, the memory of a six year old me. My version of events. My personal truth.

We are all there, at the place we call home. The house is bustling as it always is by around midday on a Sunday. The women are all sitting in the kitchen and they are chain smoking, cooking, cleaning and taking care of the children, there are a lot of children. The men are in the living room and they are playing cards and they are chain smoking and they are gambling for small change. There is a joint of beef in the oven slowly cooking. It smells


lovely. The veggies are bubbling away in a pan on the stove. The Yorkshire puddings are in the oven rising tall like the empire state building when Granddad enters. This is unusual he doesn’t usually enter until he is called for his dinner and dinner is a good ten minutes away yet. He announces he has gambled this weeks rent money on a horse which he assures Gran was a dead cert. There is silence, no more laughter, no more chatter. Gran’s face begins to turn red and she begins shaking and boiling like the pans of veggies bubbling behind her. She is pissed off she isn’t going to be able to pay the rent, they aren’t going to be able to feed themselves and they may even get kicked out of their home. She

She throws the pan of boiling cabbages at him. (No Scent Like Brassika:
reaches for the closest thing to her.

2012) The cabbage bubbling in a pan and rattling throughout the duration of the performance represented the bubbling and boiling of my own Grandmothers rage upon hearing of my Granddads gambling ways. When the cabbage is removed from the boil there is a silence, for the first time there is silence, the silence echoes the the build-up of Grandmothers rage as she pulls the pan off the boil to throw it at her husband. I then consume the cabbage, the cabbage I never got to eat, the cabbage that was missing from the plate, the cabbage that is gone because Grandma is gone, the family is no longer superglued. The pan of bubbling cabbage was the last memory to be represented by the cabbage line. Placing it on the line became problematic in the final stages leading up to the performance. Once I had performed the get-in, with the tiered seating in place, I realised that to perform the final cabbage eating ritual on the floor and as part of my cabbage line would prove problematic for sight lines. Therefore I had to make the decision to move the final fragment of the performance to make it visible to all members of the audience. I decided to move it onto the yellow steps, the steps were a place that I visualised as home/ Bridlington. Therefore consuming the cabbage on the steps made sense; it

related to a return home to tell an autobiographical story that happened at home to conclude the performance. The three stages of ‘mystory’ therefore presented a triad of material which developed the starting points for developoing No Scent Like Brassika. As highlighted in the previous pages the ideas of old age, Babboshka and her journey, the autobiographical story and cabbage all derived initially from Ulmer’s method of ‘mystory’. Again however the method supported textually based material and provided no indication toward what we consider performance elements such as aesthetics, scenography and movement based sequence. These elementes were later added after the texts were developed.


Ethnographically Based Field Research: The Interview. In order to develop a performance narrative, that was not solely related to the autobiographical, I undertook a field research project in the small town of Bridlington. I chose to place my ethnographic field research in the town of Bridlington because it is the town I was brought up in and the town in which many of my Grandmothers, down the ancestral line, also grew up in. In order to develop field research in Bridlington I had to go home. I have a connected relationship with the space and can also relate to the places which were mentioned as part of the field research project. I also wanted the reflections of my field research participants to trigger my own memories in relation to Bridlington and my own Grandmothers. Most importantly I wanted the experiences of the several Grandmothers, included within the performance, to resonate within the spectators and force them to consider their own Grandmother and her home. D. Soyini Madison (2012) suggests that the interview displays itself in three forms, ‘oral history, personal narrative and topical interview.’ (Madison: 2012: 28) and ‘each type will often and necessarily overlap with the others.’ (ibid) What initially proved challenging was getting Grandmothers to talk about themselves; many of them didn’t want to share intricate personal details of their personal oral histories with me. I believe this was due to the time spent in the field; if the project had been longer my field research study would have been more in-depth. Normatively field research can span up to two years and this way a trust has time to develop and results in a more in-depth research study, I had two weeks. It seemed, as I continued to talk to Grandmothers about their personal oral history, that a lot of these histories sustained a “cultural

sameness.” (Conquergood: 1982: 6) Grandmothers wanted to tell me about how different it was back in the day. The stories I initially collated were about bathing in a tin bath in front of the fire, having a toilet outside and having no electric. This is labelled by Conquergood as a “cultural sameness” and articulated further in his article Performing as a Moral Act: Ethical Dimensions of the Ethnography of Performance. (1982) Conquergood provides a map (see FIG 1) which highlights the ethical concerns for performance and ethnographically derived field research

FIG 1 (Conquergood: 1982: 5)

notes. This view of the elderly derived from my initial field research discussion appears to appeal to the “Enthusiasts Infatuation” stance. Conquergood describes this stance as ‘unethical because it trivializes the other.’ (Conquergood: 1982: 6) For these reasons I opted to talk to participants about their Grandmothers, this way I could gain a represented view of Grandmotherness from the eyes of multiple Grandchildren of all ages. This field research sought to observe, participate and interview Grandchildren regarding their Grandmothers. (that does not mean to say

that the Grandchildren were not Grandmothers themselves) The Grandchildren’s stories represented in my research are sourced from a variety of ages. (aged seven through to eighty-eight) By expanding my research areas of interest I was able to develop more complex layers of narratives which could potentially trigger the spectator’s relations to their own Grandmothers. By interviewing Grandchildren I was able to gain a varied perspective of the matriarchal figure in the family and the representations of them painted by their Grandchildren. Generating questions was a difficult task, what did I want to know about Grandmothers? I guess because I have a close relationship with my Grandmother it was about the relationships. Additionally, because I believe my Grandmother does not sustain the cultural stereotype we assume of Grandmothers, it was about the deviations from the norm, the unexpected behaviours of Grandmothers and their visual appearances. What is seen and heard and experienced in the field, these are “the nuggets around which you construct your questions.” (Glesne: 1999 in Madison: 2012: 28) Bearing this in mind I constructed a map of the questions I could potentially ask Grandchildren about their Grandmothers. This map provided the starting points when setting out into the field research and provided a platform to trigger conversation regarding Grandmothers’. Throughout the field research process these questions were added to and developed and some were cut altogether. Some of the outcomes of the above questions were articulated through the Babooshka story and other answers, some of which were more lengthy and detailed were described as a whole anecdote within the performance through my own eyes as the ethnographic researcher.

A Map of Possible Interview Questions 19/06/2012

As I immersed myself in the research, patterns began to emerge in the memoirs I collated. Commonly, stairs and steps appear multiple times in stories across differing individuals. Gran would tell the same stories over and over again. There was one she would repeat, a story from her early days of marriage. (She married at sixteen) My Granddad wouldn’t get out of bed so she set it on fire whilst he was in it. (2012: Field Research Participant) I began thinking of stairs in the context of life, in that we start young and we climb the stairs, we reach a peak and then old age begins to set in and we begin to deteriorate and perhaps begin to descend the steps. This reflects my decisions, emerging from field research, to have two sets of steps built with the aim to place them in the gangways and use them as a representative of a life journey. However once these steps had been constructed, they were too large. The large quality of the steps could not

be overcome for health and safety reasons therefore I omitted one set of steps. Many memories of steps also associate themselves to youth. Alan (2012: Field Research Participant) told me a story, when I asked him to take me on his own tour of Bridlington, replicating Mike Pearsons’ performance Bubbling Tom (2000). Pearsons’ performance takes his audience on a guided tour of Hibaldstow, in Lincolnshire, the area in which he grew up. Similarly I requested that Alan give me a tour of areas in Bridlington (a place he has lived all his life) that hold particular significance to him. Alan showed me some steps he would go down on his sledge he said, between laughs, “I would come whizzing down those steps every winter, when the snow was thick, in my sledge.” (2012: Field Research Participant) When I asked Alan of the busy road lurking at the bottom of the many steps he replied “We didn’t care much for the busy road, it just made it a little bit more exciting.” Alan still places a rose every Christmas for a young girl who lost her life sledging down the steps. We later visit her grave in a small graveyard where his mother, father, brother, mother-in-law and father-in-law are also buried. In reflection this interview method was probably the most successful, although it didn’t particularly place the Grandmother figure at the centre of topic, it did provide a relaxed and unpressuring atmosphere and therefore the results were more detailed. Furthermore Alan’s Grandmother did pop up in conversation as he showed me where she used to live as part of the guided tour. When I spoke to Granddaughter Amy in regards to the objects she remembers in her Grandmother’s house, the story developed into Amy discussing with me her return to her Grandmother’s house after her Grandmother had deceased. She continued by showing me the innards of a golf ball, her inheritance, and detailing how she ended up with it. Using a

‘memory prop’ (Aston: 1999: 102) also proved to be a successful interview technique. The ‘memory prop’ functions as a stimuli in the recalling of stories and memories. Amy treasures the innards of a golf ball, which interestingly is an object that she had never seen until after her Grandmother had deceased. When I interviewed Beryl, a great grandmother herself, she told me stories of her Grandmother Lizzie and made reference to Lizzies’ strict regime. “Mondays were about polishing her yellow stone step, a clean step meant a clean home, every Monday without fail. You didn’t dare stand on the step before it had dried.” (2012: Field Research Participant) When I questioned Beryl she told me of the time she put her foot on the step leaving a big black mark. “I got a wet cloth around the lughole. Christ it bloody hurt”. The interview with Beryl, occurred in her living room over tea and biscuits in a traditional interview scenario and this may have restricted Beryl’s representations of her Grandmother. I was touched by Beryl’s in-depth detailed memories of her Grandmother, most of which involve a strict house-keeping routine. What interested me the most was Beryl’s fear of her Grandmother, she knew little of her as a person, as an individual. Lizzie was a strict figure and her presence required the best of behaviours. Their distanced relationship

provides a stark contrast to my personal close relationship with my Grandmother. Transferring a physical representation of the yellow stone step, as discussed by Beryl, into the performance space accidently triggered a thought process which implemented the yellow brick road in The Wizard of Oz. (1939) I began to view this yellow step structure as home, the place where my ethnographic research into Grandmothers was derived but also a home that didn’t exist anymore because the matriarchal superglue had gone. The Wizard of Oz was always a film I watched at Grandmothers house, she had it recorded on a VHS. This step triggered autobiographically associated memories as I am reminded of watching the film with Grandma. Both myself and my Grandmother idolised the Wicked Witch of the West, her character, her wickedness and the green colour of cabbage began to be considered as a replica of the face of the Witch. This (cabbage) represents the Wicked Witch of the West. You don’t fuck with her otherwise she will stuff a fucking mattress with you. She will turn you into a beehive. She will set her Monkeys onto you and she will get your dog too. (No Scent Like Brassika: 2012) Additionally, due to the lines formed as paths, I wanted attention to be drawn to my feet. By including replica ruby slippers I was able to further connote the relationship the performance had to The Wizard of Oz (returning home, the yellow brick road, the green face of the wicked witch, the stark contrast between black and white and colour) and draw attention to my feet. The ruby slippers also added to the noise my feet made as they walked on the path of cabbage leaves. Furthermore the stark black and white forming of stage left contrasted with the bright yellow steps situated stage right and allowed for further connotations to be made to The Wizard of Oz as the film changes from black and white

into colour. This was not as clear as I had hoped in the final performance. When I was technically rehearsing the performance I came to the realisation that my cooking surface was underlined with U.V paint which made clearly visible, under black-out, graffiti writing. In order to cover this up I had to cover the kitchen surface with some material. I aimed for the material to replicate an older era and to be dull in colour (brown, black, white, grey) in order for the transition from black and white into colour to be more obvious. However under the lighting the brown material appeared yellow. Throughout the process I toyed with how much Wizard of Oz detail would be necessary to the performance. Initially I referred to the witch, wore ruby slippers and walked on a yellow step. I decided to consider The Wizard of Oz further as material and as I began to consider the return home I wrote more hints into the performance. However I began to think of the relations as too obvious, the ruby slippers, the yellow steps and the coded description of the witch was enough for the spectators to consider the relationship to The Wizard of Oz.


Ethnographically Observations.




The slippage, into accidental conversations with strangers you have never met. Journal Entry 22nd June 2012 The book sits in the
corner, almost on display but privately. It is rarely noticed. The page naturally falls open onto a photograph captioned the original Darby and Joan. I have no idea how many greats ago these pair were, I also have no names, just Darby and Joan. They are staring lovingly at one another a quiet life of mutual devotion, loving, old fashioned and virtuous. Who knows how many Greats they are down the line. “I don’t know their names” a male voice asserts, “my great-great-great Grandparents or so the legend has it.”

FIG 2 ‘The Original Darby and Joan’ by Frank Meadow Sutclifffe see (Shaw: 1974: 52)

Journal Entry 3rd July 2012 I have just come off stage when a friendly voice asks if I
would like an apple juice. She is carrying a painted slate roof tile, I am intrigued. She tells me that this is a tile that she has taken off her Grandmothers roof to have painted as a gift for her birthday. It will be her hundredth birthday. We began, completely by chance discussing her grandmother and the many favourite things, she had commissioned an artist to carefully and in much detail, paint on the slate roof tile. She begins to talk in great detail her reminisces of the smell of manure in the fields. Her Grandma loved that smell, it was her favourite smell. The Granddaughter began to go through, with me, each little fragment of her Grandmother’s one hundred years as they were painted on the roof tile. A picture of salt, she loved salt, especially in her porridge, and gardening and she refers back to the manure story. There was also a door with a number on it, her Grandmothers’ house…or am I making it up now to fill in for the gaps in my memory?

Journal Entry 7th August 2012 I am enjoying a cigarette, on the bench just up the
street from work, I have to smoke here, work don’t like me smoking near work it gives off the wrong impression and to echo my boss “who would want to see you outside smoking and then five minutes later be served some food by you.” Not to mention the cigarette butts discarded by the door. So I am on the bench enjoying a cigarette watching the world


go by, when an elderly lady supported by a shopping trolley joins me. She just talks I listen, I am writing this from memory, whether what I write is what Joan said is questionable. She talks I listen “Do you mind if I sit here? I was hoping to get some fish and chips from Bentleys but it looks like they are closed, I am going to have to make something when I get home now, I can’t go to any other chip shop, I have been going to that one for coming on thirty years, he always gives me a small fish with chips and scraps for £2.00, he charges me the minimum. My name is Joan I can’t walk too far because of my bad hip, it’s been playing me up for seven years.” Joan goes on to tell me about her husband, she was widowed thirty-seven years ago, with four children three of which she has out-lived. I am ten minutes late back from my break but I feel like I know Joan, I know about her life and her experiences.

The heightened level of sensitivity to the surroundings, to what is being said, to what is happening around me. Journal Entry 31st July 2012 I am sitting in a café, nursing a terrible hangover, today
is my birthday and last night was a little heavy. I am listening to conversations whilst I nurse a small double shot Americano. I have just overheard an elderly lady telling her friend all about her past week. The school summer holidays have just begun and she has gladly agreed to look after her Granddaughter who is eight. It is the perfect opportunity, the Grandmother thinks, to teach her some life-skills and has decided to teach her how to sew. She goes through the process with her friend, how she taught her to thread the needle and began tutoring her Granddaughter on all the different threads and stitching techniques after about an hour had passed her Granddaughter stood up, put her hands on her hips and let out a big sigh followed by “you can do all that, but you can’t play my Nintendo” The two women laugh at her cheekiness, a look of adoration on their faces.

Journal Entry 4th August 2012 I am sitting in the same café, it is a place I have
begun to frequent in desperation of hearing something which may be vital to my independent research project. I am beginning to forget I am a performer and am rather enjoying my secret life as a spy, hiding out in cafes hoping I may see or hear something. This time an elderly woman is sitting with her two grandchildren, I believe the pair are twins. They are bickering as they tuck into a meal of fish, chips and garden peas when their Grandmother reminds them that “being pretty on the inside means you don’t hit your sister and you eat all your peas.” The girls listened and ate the rest of their meal, peas included.


Fragmentation Creating performance material using ethnographic methods does have its flaws. In the first instance the research material covers a wide genre and considers multiple experiences. However when considered as a whole the ethnographic field research is fragmented because the method has required the ethnographer to skip between interviews and observations with field research participants and in the surrounding sociocultural environment. The result is similar to what Walter Benjamin discusses in The Storyteller(1936: online). Benjamin suggests a process of bringing oddly found materials into play to be creative with such as a ‘web’ of stories. The results of ethnographically based field research are just that, a ‘web’ of stories When transferred into the performance paradigm the material lacks “connective tissue” – the research does not fit together. This fragmentation in relation to ethnographic research is further articulated by Spry as she suggests ‘fragments might take the form of a word or list of words, an image, a metaphor, a sentence.’ Spry goes on to quote Grande ‘or an “idea as they come alive within and through people(s) communities, events, texts…”’ (Spry: 2011: 141) As part of the process I was placed in this creative dilemma, I had collated the field research and transferred elements of the research into a performance context but the links between the grandmothers were not quite forged, nor were they clear in my mind. Clear patterns emerged through the re-occurrence of imagery such as steps, cleaning and cooking. I began to think that by including these elements

I was again confirming a cultural ideal and falling into the unethical territory of Dwight Conquergood’s (1982) “Enthusiasts Infatuation”. The notion of Grandmothers cooking and cleaning also falls into an antifeminist trap; we categorize the matriarchal figure as appealing to a common stereotypical ideal. Spry (2011: 142) suggests mind-mapping as a way of joining together fragments generated from ethnographic research. Considering the research in the form of a mind-map allows the ethnographer and performer to visually join together “clusters”, “themes” or “main Points” (Spry: 2011: 144) Once these “clusters” have been determined Spry highlights “Research” (2011: 145) as the next step in the process. These processes can be seen through the following two maps as I try to determine the links between the Russian folk tale of Babooshka/ Babushka/ La Befana and the ethnographic field research I collated. The first map presents descriptions from differing versions of the folk tale and the second seeks to place the descriptions derived from the research into the framework of the traditional tale.


A Map of the Facts: The Babooksha/Babushka Tale. 22/07/2012.


I began to think of Superglue as a metaphor for the work that Grandmothers do; they hold the family together by gathering them all on a Sunday. Several of my field research participants had commented on family gatherings which always took place at Grandmother’s house, and a handful of these also commented on the collapse of this ritual when the Grandmother figure was no longer present. Ironically Superglue provided the “connective tissue” which connected all of these stories together. The fragments were superglued together through the realisation that Grandmother holds the family together, the realisation of the metaphor of the Grandmother as the superglue of the family. As I began research for the composition of a “superglue” text I began to notice that the descriptions of Superglue could also relate to the work my Grandmother did in holding everything together. LEADER of the adhesives industry, superglue is SUPER, used to FIX just about ANYTHING, It can HOLD a ton of WEIGHT, modern miracle invention that CURES, ultra TOUGH an incredibly STABLE adhesive with incredible bonding strength, an almost UNBREAKABLE bond.(No Scent Like Brassika: 2012) Superglue provided the connective tissue I required to begin to knit together the ethnographic and autoethnographic fragments derived from research. Alongside this knitting together came the connection of the work to the self, so far the work had become tied up in ethnographic research. This is not considered a negative implication, but I wanted the work to include elements of the self as outlined in my initial process plans. Through using superglue as a metaphor and considering how the self is present in the work, I connected the fragments of ‘mystory’ and field research together.


Voice and the self The notion of the multiple performing self or persona has also been something I have interrogated as part of my process of developing an ethnographically based performance. After collating my field research material and translating that material into a performance context using multiple voices, I came to the realisation that the self was missing from the work. Writing myself into the work, I struggled to determine the authentic self and how I was going to present this authentic self in a performance context. ‘Performing self in front of an audience is I would argue the most “foreign, scary [seemingly] uninhabitable but necessary” kind of performance because self is perhaps the most difficult text to embody.’ (Spry: 2011: 171) As a performer I get really nervous when it comes to presenting an authentic self, and I normally choose to hide behind a persona of the self, a self who is very different to the authentic self. This stance mainly evidences itself through the voice which differs from my day to day voice. My aims throughout the development of this performance were to situate both voices of the self, the performing voice and the day to day voice, alongside the voices of the field research participants I chose to represent. As Smith (1993) suggests ‘there is no ‘true’ self at the core that can be unmasked because the ‘self’ is a hypothetical place or space of storytelling.’ (in Heddon: 2008: 27) Embodying a vocal stance that most reflects my authentic self is something that is considerably challenging for me as a performer. I often choose to present a voice and characteristics that are different from my authentic self. Bobby Baker (2001), speaking of her stage persona adds ‘I

step on stage, I become something else’ (in Heddon: 2008: 42) and as Heddon later outlines, Bakers strategies ‘construct a ‘self’ that is multiple, complex and perhaps ultimately unknowable’ (Heddon: 2008: 44) The use of voice is highlighted in step three of Spry’s guidelines for the rehearsals and performance processes. In this step she suggests that the voice must ‘illustrate the internal elements of the persona.’ (2011: 196) Spry discusses a technique she labels ‘practiced vulnerability’ (167) in which she encourages performers to discuss and write performance text associated with a self-performing vulnerable body. Taking this idea into consideration I developed text to replicate the feelings I have when I am on stage. The nervous feelings I get when I am performing solo work that is personal, this performance text allows a vision into the authentic self.
I am alone, palms are sweating, a tidal wave of shivers is running down my thighs forcing my knees to wobble, to shake. My face is twitching, my shoulders are so high I haven’t even got a neck and hiding behind this mask I feel safe. (No Scent Like Brassika: 2012)

Nerves are inevitable; they cannot be rehearsed as they only present themselves in the final performance. Rather than continue to present my nerves as a weakness No Scent Like Brassika attempted to incorporate my nervous disposition, and the voice I hide behind as part of the performance. By acknowledging my nerves I aim to turn what is often considered a weakness into a strength. This is articulated through repeated referrals to the truth, acknowledging my shaking frame and

taking moments in the performance to breathe and practice relaxation. I hoped that this honesty and reference to the self would help relax me in the live performance and bring out my authentic everyday voice. In reflection I believe that these constructions of the self were evident and talking about my feelings on stage allowed for elements of my day to day voice to be heard. It could however do with some more work in the future. The struggle then, for me as a performer, lies in the construction of three performative stances; Kirsty the performer, Kirsty in her day to day life and Kirsty representing the Grandmother characters. We have to consider the multiple roles of the Grandmothers represented as part of the performance. When we consider Anna Deveara Smith’s performance Fires in the Mirror (1993) we are reminded of the multiple personas’ she represents through voice and characterisation. The definitions between the characters are clear through her use of props, physical stance and voice. As part of my field Research I discussed the repetitive things Grandmothers were prone to saying, I shared with them things that my Grandmothers are known for saying in a hope that they would share with me their own Grandmothers “known for” phrases in a kind of performance exchange, a sharing of experiences. Grandmother Mavis would always say “’ear all, see all, saw nowt. Eat all , sup all, pay nowt and if ivver tha’ does ‘owt for nowt do it for this’sen.” Mavis’ Granddaughter told me this was what Mavis was known for saying and in the manner it is spelt. By repeating this phrase over and over I was complementing the many times Mavis’ Granddaughter had heard her repeat that phrase. She implied, in the interview that Mavis said it “until she was blue in the face.” (2012: Field Research Participant) Therefore I replicated this stance in a performance context.


Station Map. 10/09/2012

Cabbage Pot Cabbage Boiling Station. Cabbage Chopping Station. Babooshka Story line. Cabbage leaf path.

The Yellow stone steps. Five Grandmothers ↔↔Bridlington. from

My Personal story line: Cabbage leaf path.

The cabbage line, a grandmother figure line.


Compositionally dividing my performance space into sections allows me to gain an overview of the placing of material in relation to space. It is a compositional strategy which can apply to my complete process and as Perkins suggests A map becomes part of a story to be created and enacted…it becomes a subjective imagining instead of an objective tool. (Perkins: 2003: 6) Each separate section sustains different types of material. The Horizontal line or path of cabbage leaves for example is where I discuss from an autoethnographic angle how self sits in the work and also decisions in the construction of the performance. The vertical line or path of cabbage is where I tell the story of Babooshka and her journey which a=lasts forever and ever, until the cows come home, for eternity. The steps present the space I use to articulate the stories of the four Grandmothers I am representing from the field research and also seek to represent home, a place that doesn’t exist anymore. The fifth Grandmother is my own Grandmother who is discussed on my autoethnographic line. Throughout the process the definitions of each station often became blurred and constantly changed throughout. By articulating my stations through mapping processes allowed me to gain a personal overview of the composition and which areas best contained each fragment of material. However in reflection I do not think I was entirely sure as an overview of what the cabbage line represented. Each individual cabbage sought to represent a different identity or story from the performance. Babooshka, me, the wicked witch of the west, my grandmother, an elderly ladies face and sentimental objects were all referenced through the cabbage line. However I think the relationship between each could have been more clearly defined.

A Scentsory Experience. I am cooking cabbage in the performance space, rehearsing and at least once a day I am disturbed, perhaps by a security guard, a student or a technician and they tell me “It smells like Grandmothers house in here.” ‘oral history performance and its poetics attempt to embody the mise en scene of history. Oral history performances therefore do not function as factual reports or as objective evidence, nor are they pure fictions of history. Instead, they present to us one moment of history and how that moment in history is remembered through a particular subjectivity. The emphasis here is a felt, sensing account of history as well as its particular materiality.’ (Madison: 2012: 35) Here Madison makes reference to the stability, in terms of factual information, of oral histories. But she also suggests that the collating of oral histories is about the added ‘felt sensing account of history’ in that it is descriptive and incorporates the senses. In performance I am always trying to incorporate the senses, as senses are inextricably linked to memory. Sally Banes articulates this as the ‘olfactory effect.’ (Banes: 2001: 1) We associate memory with the smells, textures and sounds of a time passed. A smell can trigger a remembrance of a memory of experience that occurred in ones life. The use of smells in performance seeks to contribute another layer to a semiotic sign system as Alfred Gell describes ‘somewhere inbetween the stimulus and the sign. (in Banes: 2001: 2) Gell suggests a liminality associated with the semiotic system of aroma in that it seeks to stimulate the experience but also acts as a signifier in the performance. As part of the process of creating this performance I sought to fill the room with a scent of cabbage in order to

replicate the autobiographical branch of ‘mystory’, the oral history of being at Grandma’s house and her throwing a pan of boiling cabbage at Granddad. Again I am in danger of confirming a stereotypical ideal which suggests that all Grandmothers smell of cabbage. In order to get away from this labelling I articulated my autobiographical ‘mystory’.


Reference List Ashton, E. (1999) Feminist Theatre Practice: A Handbook. (London: Routledge) Banes, S. (2001) Olfactory Performances. (TDR, vol 45, no1: pp68-76) Beauvoir, S, D. (1977) Old Age. (GB: Cox & Wynam Ltd) Benjamin, W. (1936) The Storyteller. [accessed online 17/08/2012] at :

Conquergood, D. (1982) Performing as a Moral Act: Ethical Dimensions of Ethnography in Performance. (Literature in Performance 5: pp1-13) Culler, J. (1975) Structuralist Poetics, Structuralism, Linguistics and the Study of Literature. (London: Routledge) Dilts, R. (1998) The NLP Pattern of the Month: Walt Disney- Planning Strategy. (Storyboarding) [accessed online at 17/09/2012] Frayling, C. (1993) Research in Art and Design. (Royal college Research Papers. 1.1: pp1-5) Heddon, D. (2008) Autobiography and Performance. (GB: MPG Books Group) Madison, D, S. (2012) Critical Ethnography Method, Ethics and Performance. Second Edition. (USA: Sage)


Pearson, M. (2000) Bubbling Tom. In Heathfield, A. (ed) Small Acts: Performance, The Millenium and the Marking of Time. (London: Black Dog Publishing: pp172-185) Perkins, C. (2003) Cartography: Mapping Theory. (progress in Human Geography, 27, 3. Pp341-351) Smith, A, D. (1993) Fires in the Mirror: Crown Heights, Brooklyn and Other Identities. (New York: Doubleday) Spry, T. (2011) Body, Paper, Stage: Writing Autoethnography. (USA: Left Coast Press Inc) and Performing

Shaw, B, E. (ed) (1974) Frank Meadow Sutcliffe, Second Edition. (Leeds: John S Speight Ltd) Ulmer, G, L. (1989) Teletheory. (New York: Routledge)

Performance Photography by Elaine Whitehead


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