One amazing product of the global lockdown this year is the outpouring of creativity that has made full use of the medium of online sharing – a guaranteed outlet for many of the fantastic minds that have been forced into isolation. It’s an incredibly inspiring trait, to be able to take a bad situation and use it to thrive, and one that theatre maker Carla Keen has in bundles.
// SEED is, as Keen describes it, an encounter that takes place between two people, the performer and the participant, through an online video chat. During the encounter the performer takes the participant on a conversational journey whilst planting seeds together, using a planting kit which is provided to the participant (free of charge) beforehand.
What // SEED does exceptionally well is to blur the lines between a prepared performance and a natural exploration between two people. Throughout the experience I find myself getting lost in the dialogue between myself and Carla, there is an ease with which we chat as if we have known each other for years. I am, however, always aware that there are conversation points that she has to hit at different points during the call. She takes me through stories of her life, as well as tales that she has selected relating to our planting of herbs together, and she probes me for stories about myself, often leaving me wondering why I feel so free to be open and honest.
The result of this encounter is a beautiful wooden trough of herbs that now lines my kitchen window, one which gives me not just a memory, but an emotional reaction each time I look at it. I feel as though I have been given a gift of responsibility to grow and care for these seeds. Furthermore, whilst I know that I am not the only participant of // SEED, my gift is unique as it has been produced from my personal encounter with Keen. For me, Keen’s performance brings to mind the methodology of theatre practitioner Mike Alfreds’s – Different Every Night.
Theatre, in its simplest form, is an artist exploring an idea whilst someone else witnesses that idea, therefore it must also follow that even if there is only one of each then it must still be theatre. // SEED goes a step further and flips the roles of artist and witness throughout the piece, often allowing the narrative to be led by the participant.
It is remarkable that something as everyday as having a conversation whilst planting some seeds can evoke ideas and challenge thoughts just as well as an hour of a traditional performance. I take with me a new perspective on theatre, and a thirst for more ideas which challenge the status quo.