Stellar Quines: Make Do and Mend March 2021
Composite Image by John McGeoch
I want to tell the story of my lived experience finding and meeting my Pakistani father, through playing with music, storytelling and moving image. As a Scottish composer and musician, the support offered by Stellar Quines was the perfect opportunity to have a space to work with other collaborators: co-director Kath Burlinson; co-director Niloo-Far Khan; producer Kate Taylor; video artist John McGeoch; to do something I don’t normally do, develop a theatre piece on the theme of ‘thrive’ in the sense of how we thrive in accepting difference, and how we can thrive in the face of adversity. With the perspective of half a life time,, I am ready to make this work.
Since the NTS Starter Fund which you can read here, Make Do & Mend allowed us to work remotely for 3 days, exploring 3 questions we felt were essential to the very early stages of collaborating with the different practices:
how do the 3 main practises of music, storytelling and moving image inform each other to tell the story
what are the emotional threads in the music, visual language and storytelling
what is the style of the piece; does our working title Crossing Lines fit for the story we want to tell?
Day 1: Since the NTS week, we expanded the creative team and brought on board digital artist John McGeoch. We worked on making a 5-act structure in order to find the arc of the story. We found a richness in exploring the hopes and dreams of the character we have now named Isla. We were finding answers to how she thrived before we meet her at the inciting incident and the expectations of meeting her family. For the second part of day 1 we each took a short amount of individual time to look at folk-tales from both Scotland and Pakistan and report back how they inform and create universality in their themes.
Day 2: Based on our findings on folk-tales and Isla’s hopes and dreams, Kath drafted a piece of a prologue through a storytelling style that could encapsulate Isla’s hopes and dreams of meeting her father and re-uniting with the land of Pakistan. We played and experimented with a series of musical improvisations with the text as a stimulus. We have never felt close to finding Isla’s voice through the music and Anne’s singing. For the second part of day 2 we started to look at images that Anne collected on her travels in Pakistan, the materials John had collected in advance such as James Hawkins' paintings of mountains and landscapes of Scotland and Pakistan from. We were fascinated by the geological aspects of both lands and also the mountain ranges. It was here, where we started to explore the title from that geological perspective that we came up with the new name, ‘When Mountains Meet’.
Day 3: We collected new images to incorporate into Isla’s hopes and dreams. We started to explore the visual style of the piece and how the characters can be represented through shadow like figures, illustrations or through point of view perspective. Niloo took pictures from historical Mughal art from books at home, which John managed to incorporate into a short animation to show us how layering different styles such as photographs, illustrations and paintings will help to build the feeling of mythical and epic story. The second half of day 3 we pulled together all of the elements and found that while the storytelling performs an important duty of structure and insight into the character, the music offers the emotional weight and connection to Isla, and in turn, it is this that informs the visual world and how it moves through her perspective. Therefore, each practise informs the other almost in a circular way.
Make Do & Mend has been an invaluable process for us all to be able to gather for the first time as collaborators on this project. We have now come away with new questions such as:
Is there an opportunity to balance this story of a woman going east, with another story of a Pakistani person going to the west; how could that voice be represented through the music; what is the scale of this project; who is our audience?
Without Make Do & Mend we would not be in such a well-grounded place in terms of where the story could go and how our working practises can make this happen.
Check out this link to see the other artists that received this development fund: