Are We Where We Are? by Chris O’Connell

Are We Where We Are? is a two-year theatre project inspired by the work of the American novelist Henry David Thoreau, whose book ‘Walden: A Life In The Woods’ was published in 1854. Thoreau took himself away from the industrialising world of urban America to find time to reflect amongst natural surroundings. It was in many ways a meditation on the consumerist and materialist obsessions of Western society at that time. In the book, Thoreau writes at one point: “We are not where we are, but in a false position”.  Around 130 years later, Thoreau’s provocation is quoted by a character in Paul Auster’s 1983 novella ‘Ghosts’, as one man searches for meaning in a life that seems to have stalled and begun to fall apart. These two instances of the same quote became a stimulus for us here at Theatre Absolute, as we began to grapple with the notion that, here in the 21st century, we are arguably not where we are, but in fact, somewhere else. It felt apt as the advanced societies we have created spin in seemingly daily chaos. It feels apt when, here, today, one considers the qualities and complexities of justice, equality, race, citizenship, nationhood, isolation, inclusion, the list goes on.

With these ideas in mind Are We Where We Are? becomes a question to our artists, to you the audience, to the wider world. Just as Walden did, we are taking time to contemplate.

Over the next two years we will commission 9 new pieces for the stage utilising a variety of forms in performance that includes text, new technologies, and physicality, and we will do it through monologue, duologue, a devised ensemble production, and 6 short form theatre pieces written and performed by writers, as if they stand at the window of their world, sharing with us the world that they see.  All works will be performed at our Shop Front Theatre here in Coventry. Big thanks to Arts Council England, Coventry City Council, Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, Talking Birds, The Belgrade Theatre and Warwick Arts Centre for their support with the project.

Our first piece was MAY UTANG written and performed by Jules Orcullo. Jules recently worked with us last Summer on our ensemble piece ‘ARC’, she is an inspiring writer. She performed MAY UTANG on Thursday May 11th to 2 full houses. There were post show discussions and we launched the ‘Are We Where We Are’ project . The second piece is ‘I Am Here’ by Laila Alj, on 7th June at 7.30pm. Tickets are via Oxboffice or call 0845 680 1926. Hope to see you there. Chris O’Connell