Where to start with the seven hour, four season, 50+ ensemble that was Quarantine’s Summer. Autumn. Winter. Spring.
First off, you cannot fault the buzz that was created around this show. Manchester was inundated with the talk of HOME’s associate company, and what their epic marathon of performances might entail, led by the answers, actions and experiences of non-actors.
Summer started with a flurry of activity and participants were given a set of instructions which led to a series of nice images being made, never replicated and always spontaneous. Nice moments popped up through chance and others perhaps more intentional. A participant named Michael, who after placing a number of his own personal objects of the performance floor with the other 40+ performers, answered a series of questions about his current living situation, his family, his ambition. As the rest of the participants left the stage with their objects, only Michael and his possessions were left on the floor, scattered after they were instructed to arrange objects by type. It was a very brief, and wonderfully quiet image that ended the first quarter.
Autumn was fully interactive and resulted in lots of conversation with other audience members and I found myself flitting between discussions on the history of the world, favourite books, six degrees of separation. A lot of the chatter however was lost in the surrounding noise and the high ceilings of the studios, and as a result lost a little bit of its charm. Terrible decisions resulted in joining the queue for Dr Tuheen Huda’s one on one conversations way too late and having to move on to other things. Mostly eating samosas next to the silent disco crowd.
Winter was a short documentary, giving a small insight into the life of a terminally ill women. It seemed to nicely sum up the life of a woman who talks frankly about her experiences, and her future as a diagnosed dying woman without talking directly about her illness.
Spring, for me, was the most frustrating part of the day – maybe due to fatigue and hunger, but the structure of it didn’t help either – for over an hour, nine pregnant women took turns in asking a series of questions to their babies, perhaps to ignite a stream of internal thought inside the audience. For me it felt like recent social events where the table talks weddings and babies, something I have nothing to contribute to or have any interest in and perhaps to others in my position, it made the piece fairly alienating. There is something very tender and warming about Spring, but there is only so much excitement I can express for another person’s unborn child. As an audience member, I am selfish. I am looking to find connections between those on stage and my own life experiences, and for a show that is about real people I had to ask myself, where is the real connection with the audience, especially if that was the intent for many aspects of the show. I left the show not feeling excited for Spring, but ready to hibernate.
Performance with real voices is often something really special – and can portray an overwhelming sense of authenticity. And whilst I appreciate all this, there was definitely a sense of it all dragging a little too much which perhaps (with the lack of narrative) insinuated that these themes could have been explored in a much smaller time frame.