MA performance student fuses performance and psychology
Liam, whose background is in dance, was challenged by his tutors, Teresa Brayshaw and Alex Kelly, Principal- and Senior- Lecturer in Film, Music and Performing Arts respectively, to take himself out of his comfort zone of structured choreography and try a new style of performance. Liam said: “As a dancer I found myself trapped in the structure of learning choreography and using my body to present work. Living alongside artists whilst attending the Flare Festival in July, I was inspired by their creation processes and motivated to find my own voice and use it as performance tool rather than my body.”
‘I Hope You’re Sitting Comfortably’ is a satirical performance piece exploring the psychology, sociology and history of the act of watching. Liam commented: “The piece explores the act of viewing and tests the limits of focus within a performance setting. It reflects on the ways in which we allow our thoughts to wander, but try, often futilely, to bring them back to the present. It was only when I performed the piece live that the link to mindfulness was mentioned to me – in the beginning I had been purely looking at it from a performance angle.”
Dr Helen Fawkner, Senior lecturer in Social, Psychological and Communication Sciences and attendee, explained: “Mindfulness is an integrative, mind-body based approach that helps people to manage their thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness is becoming more aware of the present moment; of being more in tune with our thoughts, feelings and body sensations, and being able to manage them. If achieved, it can increase awareness, clarity and acceptance of our present-moment reality.
“Liam’s performance looks at the approaches of mindfulness within a performance environment. Watching his work made me reflect and think about how awkward openings can be and some of the rituals we engage in prior to commencing performances when we know we are on view and being judged or evaluated in some way, lectures in my case. It also made me think about how much of our lives we spend waiting.”
Leah Fountain, final year BSc (Hons) Psychology student, added: “It was really refreshing to have our opinion considered as training psychologists. Being questioned why, as an audience member, we sit as quietly as possible to avoid disrupting the performance, and how and why we keep our attention on the performance stimulated many conversations within our course group.”
The hour-long performance, which was held on Monday 16 November at House 14, Queens Square, incorporates autobiographical and biographical text and live participation. Liam added: “This whole experience has been really beneficial in teaching me more about mindfulness - having had little knowledge prior to meeting with the staff and students.
“As I say in the piece, the biggest slap in the face would be if the audience walked away feeling indifferent towards it. Whether they love it or hate it, I want it to cause a reaction. I want audiences to talk about what they saw, what they felt, and to keep the moment alive - audiences forget the power they have.
“Every time I have performed the piece the reactions have been varied, and this time was no different. It is great knowing that something I have created, that is so personal, can spark such interest and create such a buzz.
“It was an honour to be able to bring two departments within the university, who wouldn't ordinarily come together, to share their thoughts and expertise. The group have inspired me to research this area further.”
Liam is one of the founder members of the Limits Theatre Collective who will be touring ‘I Hope You’re Sitting Comfortably’ and other work in 2016. For further information go to www.facebook.com/limitstheatrecollective
Our University runs weekly mindfulness sessions for both staff and students. For more information email Cathy Theaker, Wellbeing Practitioner (Counselling), at C.Theaker@leedsbeckett.ac.uk.