#lovelowry guest curator – contra project present ‘a spectacle of herself’

We are Laura Murphy and Nicole A’Court Stuart, together we run ContraProject.

We tour Laura’s solo work, create work together and produce the work of other artists. You could describe the work that we make as circus, banging on the door of contemporary performance *steaming up the windows and tracing love hearts in the condensation* We’ll get in there one day.

We make interdisciplinary, critically engaged, virtuosic performance work and are inspired by artists and companies like Ursula Martinez, Rash Dash, Liz Aggiss, Lost Dog Dance, Bert and Nasi, Forced Entertainment and MyLaika!.  

We first met Steve Cowton (The Lowry’s head of theatre operations) at Edinburgh Fringe 2019 when we were presenting Contra in the Summerhall demonstration room. Among other things, the pandemic wrecked our plans to bring the show to Salford, but after a long wait we are excited to be presenting Contra at the Lowry Quays on the 19th & 20th October 2021! SEE YOU THERE!! 

Over the past eight months we have been working on developing Laura’s new solo show A Spectacle of Herself, which is currently a mash up of thoughts around virtuosity, autobiography, identity, privilege and the spectacularized body. Most recently we collaborated with Holly Black of Black Bark Films and Ursula Martinez to create a short film probing at some of the ideas for the show. Click here to watch that for FREE. (Available until Friday 25 June.)

Making a film gave us the opportunity to try out digital touring whilst we are still grounded, to push some of our thoughts to a sharing point and experiment with combining our episodic approach with cinematic aesthetics. It gave us the visual and conceptual freedom to really play and stretch our ideas about what could be possible on stage.

It was interesting to situate Laura and Ursula’s process within this new frame. In film you can build a non linear narrative aesthetically, creating continuity through disparate situations, in a way that is more of a challenge with theatre. But with film there are also so many additional variables, especially if you are outside. In Contra, everything on stage has earned its place there. In the process we had to question why things were there and how they served the work. In film everything that is in the frame also needs this rigorous conceptual interrogation, which isn’t easy on location or on a tight budget! It was a new game for us to find cohesion and focus in and across different scenes. 

One of the exciting things was that we got to play with perspective, zooming in close or from a distance, or moving the camera, so that you are totally in charge of what the spectator looks at and from what position. It implies relationship and status in a really strong way. We were really excited by the politics of being in charge of how something or someone is looked at. It reminded us of the Mike Nelson installation Coral Reef, which is like a maze of film sets all joined together that you walk through, and the way that you emerge into each one, behind or in front of a counter for example, has a profound effect on the narrative you imagine and the role you feel you take on in relation to that space.  We hope you enjoy the film and that we see you in a theatre again soon. 

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