Carried Away

Carried Away was a precursor to Loaded, a new work about weight and loads

We presented a performance of initial ideas at Jacksons Lane, Highgate, London on 28 January 2009, following a period of research and development.

Developed and supported by Jacksons Lane.

The ideas

Carried Away dramatises the relationship between someone who is carried and someone or something that carries – it explores the ways in which the carrier might himself be carried by a force or purpose that is in some way bigger (heavier, stronger, deeper…) than him. It considers how the carrier, in order to achieve his goal, may also need to ‘let himself go’, to let himself be literally carried away.

The narrative substance is loosely drawn from two very different but curiously symmetrical classical texts: the fairytale, ‘The Gingerbread Man’ and the medieval epic The Legend of Saint Christopher.

The gingerbread man escapes from his baker’s oven and then from a whole series of predators. He gleefully outruns them all, until at last he is trapped by a river he cannot cross; in the end he is easy prey for the sly fox who offers to ferry him over to the other side.

Saint Christopher’s story also converges on a decisive river crossing. A proud giant of a man and renowned throughout the land, until he converts to Christianity he can find no challenge worthy of his strength and no master worthy of his service. He bides his time as a ferryman until one day a small child asks to be carried to the other bank. During the crossing, the child becomes so heavy that Christopher almost drowns. Once across, the child explains that he is the son of God and that Christopher had in fact been carrying the whole world on his shoulders; it was only his faith that had given him the strength to persevere.

The story of the gingerbread man shows how even the fastest and strongest individuals, if they rely only on their own strength and speed, will eventually encounter an obstacle they cannot cross. Their self-reliance will ultimately destroy them. On the other hand, beyond its immediately religious message, Christopher’s story demonstrates that there is a limit to strength, that genuine service is ‘stronger’ than strength. What really carries a person is something more powerful than themselves – a cause, a project, an idea, a commitment to others.

The performance

The narrative form is determined by the relationship, in real time, between two performers, one large man, one small woman. The woman tries to lift the dead weight of the man, and move him off the stage; initially unable even to drag him, the show ends when she succeeds. Along the way the two negotiate a series of unexpected obstacles, they recount personal anecdotes about feeling heavy or light (triggered by experiences of mourning, desire, despair, elation…), and their recollections prompt them to reflect on stories that exemplify two extremes – the stories of Christopher and the gingerbread man. One performer remembers episodes of her life (childhood desires, falling in love) as exhiliarating but ultimately fruitless experiences of evasion and flight; the second performer is absorbed by a moment at his father’s funeral where he was supported physically by his brothers because he was inconsolable, unable to carry his own weight. These personal stories blend with the allegorical implications of the classical tales, and by the end of the show it is no longer clear who, or what, is carrying whom.

The aesthetic

Carried Away reflects on the physical mechanics of carrying and by way of the language of structural engineering considers the human body as a structure that can withstand forces, bear loads and carry (or fail to carry) its own weight. We are drawing inspiration from the work of conceptual artists Fischli & Weiss, the mechanical/anatomical drawings of Leonardo da Vinci and the principles of structural engineering (lines of force, points of compression, stress, strain and tension).

Cast and creative team

Conception: Sinéad Rushe
Creation: Sinéad Rushe, Guy Dartnell, Frauke Franz and Martin Gent
Performance: Guy Dartnell and Sinéad Rushe
Direction: Martin Gent with Sinéad Rushe and Guy Dartnell
Design: Martin Gent
Dramaturgy: Frauke Franz
Movement direction: Sandra Harnisch-Lacey
Original music: David Benke