Sites and situations

Since spending last weekend listening to Alain Bergala lecturing on mise en scene (OK, reading Alasdair Satchel’s comprehensive notes-cum-translation, coming to the Mise en Scene page soon), I’ve been looking at sites and situations around me with a heightened awareness (the point of art is to make real life seem more interesting, more like art, or something).

Today, in a nearby cafe-in-a-bakery, lunch became very cinematic.  The room we were in – the site: double height ceiling, with full height windows above the main entrance; two rooms off to the right – one into a semi-roofed little courtyard, where 80 years ago, our late neighbour went as a child to fetch milk from a cow tethered there; the second door into the kitchen.  Skylight windows above, and a half hidden mezzanine gallery.  Light coming in from many directions, and half hidden spaces, with voices behind.

The situation: a young mother, with three children, caught short when presented with the bill; weighing up whether to leave the children and go to a cashpoint 5 minutes away (she wouldn’t take a sub from us); in the end deciding to challenge the bill (they’d made a mistake, but she was still short).  Two waitresses, one older, one younger, both of whom became involved (as we did).  The older waitress, not so sotto voce to us ‘don’t worry, they’ll be gone soon.’  Then at some point a young American man comes in unobtrusively, and hovers oddly, picking at bits of paper and promotional ephemera in the background.

Workshops in the project might struggle if they use whatever spaces they have to hand, and follow the suggested two-hander social situations (attraction; conflict; jealousy).  Looking for sites that have multiple entrances and light sources, and thinking up social situations that have a couple more layers of complexity, is going to be more productive.

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