World of Carton
ANDREA COSTANZO MARTINI: PAYPER PLAY
During the pandemic the choreographer Andrea Costanzo Martini and his team discover that sometimes a dance piece needs to follow its external circumstances so that creativity arises from chaos. The myth of creation becomes a deeply personal matter and the confrontation with our own demise transforms into a discovery of movement and new life.
By Andrea Costanzo Martini and Yael Biegon-Citron | 7th May 2021
PayPer Play is the first work I created intentionally for a young audience.
The concept and first ideas for the piece were developed more than two years ago but of course, back then, nothing could have prepared us for what was about to happen world wide because of the Covid19 pandemic.
In every creation process the meeting between plans and reality plays a huge role in the final outcome, but in this case it determined not only the way we would work but largely the content of the piece itself.
Originally I wanted this work to talk about creativity. The possibility to build an entire world starting from a drawing on a simple A4 paper, an action that every child experiences in his/her everyday life. A piece about the consequences of letting one’s fantasy run wild. What if imagination could turn suddenly into reality?
Plans were made
On a practical level we wanted to concentrate first on the movement and choreographic aspects while working in Israel and to then develop the stage set in Munich with the help of a local team during the month long residency that was to take place in Germany at Fokus Tanz. As we started working though, lockdowns began to happen more and more often, stopping our process and leading us to the conclusion that our plans were, themselves, nothing but a fantasy. It became clear that we would have to physically build the set in Israel and to postpone the premiere to better times.
That added a huge challenge to the work but it also offered us the possibility to integrate the set to the choreography early on in the process, thus determining the development of the piece itself. Otherwise locked in our homes, the dance studio became the only place of mental and physical release, and the story and dramaturgy of the piece soon followed a similar path. We realized that the main character of the piece could be going through what we were going through: loneliness, boredom, frustration, fear and a need for release.
A story emerged
A man locked in a small world where the only contact with the outside is a TV proposing him to buy objects that will fill the void caused by solitude. Something we have all been experiencing on our skin.
The “house” of the hero became his new reality, the Matrix. An empty canvas to be shaped and filled with the objects of his desire… conveniently delivered to his doorstep.
We realized we were exploring the myth of creation in all its glory: the hero (aka God) makes (aka orders) things until he fabricates a creature in his own image. But like in the myth, the creature is not what the God wanted it to be. The creature has a will of its own, a desire, a personality, as well as the power to create. Like we had to accept the loss of control of our own creative process (due to the pandemic and the constantly shifting work conditions), so the main character of the piece had to come to terms with the loss of control over his own world and the existence of death itself.
As humans we wish we didn’t have to deal with these questions, but reality shows us clearly again and again that these issues are unavoidable. They are the very essence of who we are. Difficulties scare us but they also shape us, and in this case they shaped the show itself.
World of Carton
Having to create the set while working (one of the designers is also a performer in the show) allowed us to get a deep insight of how the objects could be integrated into the movements and the actions. Entire scenes were created after noticing the way cardboard behaves, its weight and look. The monochromatic space exacerbated the feeling of loneliness and the need of otherness, of alterity, of variation… things we didn’t imagine before seeing them in front of our eyes became evident.
Technically cardboard is extremely difficult to work with and fragile so each scene presented a different set of challenges and solutions which then affected the way the set itself had to be handled through the movement and choreography. Dance and objects integrated in one, gave life to each other, determined the story in a dynamic back and forward of questions and answer.
Creativity and control are two ideas that often shift between supporting and contradicting each other; too much control diminishes creativity, and creativity with no sense of control can lead into a feeling of chaos. These balances were a big part of our creative process as well as themes in the piece itself – a controlling protagonist suddenly faces the unraveling of his well-curated space and life, as a result of inviting an agent of chaos into his space. They inspire each other, but also challenge each other, up to a point where the final, third character is introduced – and life will never be the same. Within this new-found dynamic, they will question control, freedom and joy while learning how to let someone new into their world.
Dealing with death
One more big theme emerged through this research. As much as we tried making this creative process happen and these pieces of cardboard to hold onto their shape, as much reality pushed us elsewhere. Things can change anytime, without warning…things can end.
The other side of creation is death, by definition unknown territory.
What is death?
Can we talk about death?
Can we talk about it in a children’s piece?
Especially in a period where many of us have been radically exposed to it, I decided to put the subject on the table and to try to explore it without fear. Instead of ignoring it I thought it would be smarter to stop and look at it.
If death can be seen, somehow, as lack of movement, I think exploring it through dance is a fascinating challenge.
So it is to approach death from a light and tender place, mixing humor and sadness.
The image of Frankenstein came up in many conversations. It is the result of a desperate need for life, so strong that it’s ready to go beyond the laws of nature.
At times creating this piece felt like trying to breath life into something that is resisting it… and succeeding!
Being perishable is a fate that unites everyone and everything. The cardboard tears, countries seal their borders, movement becomes stillness.
However even when things look and feel motionless, change is always on its way, together with new beginnings and, often, joy.