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Nottingham Castle


20 March 05 words: Jennie Syson
The characters on screen are actually here with us. They cast shadows with their limbs on the pools of light in the ceiling.

Clip at The Savoy Cinema Nottingham

I enter the empty cinema with a hoard of eager visitors. Looking at the screen, it appears to have been replaced by a mirror revealing rows and rows of unfilled luscious red seats. It soon becomes apparent that I am not looking at a reflection, just a mere freeze frame image of the venue.

By now the familiar cinema, where, as a child I came to see exciting flicks like ET and the Back to the Future Trilogy, is nearly full. The Savoy wasn’t nearly as cool and glamorous in the early ‘90’s as it feels now. Back then there was more Kudos to be gained in going to see a something with Bill Murray in it at the ultramodern Showcase… (Maybe go to ‘Rollers’ for a skate afterwards.) I soon guess that nostalgia is key here though. I feel like I am sitting in velvet, pausing for something and yet imbibing the stillness of the plush building as part of the work.

Three women clad in black appear on screen. They are wearing dresses with high polo necks that make them look like sophisticated boobahs or friendlier versions of the faceless characters that might feature in a Vanessa Beecroft work. They are anonymous. Expressionless. Blank. The auditorium is filled with the crackling sound synonymous with old films or dusty vinyl.

I realise that the characters on screen are actually here with us. They cast shadows with their limbs on the pools of light in the ceiling. Movements make the shapes of art deco sculptures, angularity executed with grace and efficiency. It’s almost like watching the highly choreographed ‘Aryan’ gym displays that were filmed by Leni Refenstahl at the 1933 Berlin Olympic games. The body looks functional. We are in the presence of automatons. Not the crazy robots of films such as Lost in Space or Short Circuit, but humans, moving as smoothly as machines do.

A leg, then an arm appears at the edge of the stage, hugging the next floor level like a creature emerging from the grave. Another film reference? An additional body appears to materialize from the screen itself, popping out, as if from that iconic Ah-ha video. There is more clicking and whirring of machines. Camera noises. There is a fantastic sequence where the three figures appear as six, dancing with their counterparts on screen, like the spools and cogs responsible for making the film turn so the images can be projected. Are these figures the film itself?

I begin to construct my own narrative for the abstracted movements taking place on stage. One minute they become the J. Arthur Rank golden ‘gong’ man, and the next moment the figures seem to pre-empt what happens on screen. Although the movements are still machine-like, they begin to take on the emotive settings of a slushy romantic scene or maybe the struggles from a scary horror movie.

The final sequence begins with a procession of torches held by the ladies in black. Like usherettes they weave in to the audience, guided by their pilot lights. The torches turn upward, creating a pool of limelight for each to perform in. As these spectres of the cinema create shadows on the ceiling, I am left wondering: are they what happens to a film when the audience has gone home? Have we stumbled into what was meant to be an empty space and observed the ghostly residues of filmic drama?

Before I am left too long to contemplate this, very bright floodlights are shone in the direction of the audience. Through the glare, I can just about make out the gurning ten year old boy that I saw hanging about in the foyer earlier and the fat woman with a bucket of popcorn as large as her head. It’s us, the audience… the lights are on. Time to go home. We have scared the spectres away.

Kerryn Wise performed Clip at The Savoy Cinema on Friday 11th March 2005 

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