Propeller’s writing

On Friday February 27th, I drove with my small daughter down to Coombe Farm Studios, some 9 miles out of Totnes in Devon. Here, the company Propeller have been writing. Propeller are: Emma Bush; Pete Harrison; Augusto Corrieri; Tim Vize-Martin; Neil Callaghan.

With the intention of creating an artists’ book, the company have created a series of works that consider substances – flesh, stone, copper, wood – and although they are written by different people and approach these themes in many different ways, there’s a remarkable coherency to the project and a sense in which each of the texts speak to each other. This despite the fact that they vary between a set of instructions for pruning fruit trees, a story about Fidel Castro and a fragment of meteorite and the formal intricacy of Corrieri’s text that moves around a road, a building, darkness and a passing figure.

I wondered, though, how the work would change on the page, since the experience of going into each of the private rooms, sitting at each desk and reading the work of that particular writer, is something rather different from confronting these texts in the anonymous location of the book. But no doubt the company will think about that.

I also wonder how they might take this experience back into their performance work.

I was drawn to this project through the sense that here was a performance company finding their own way to approach text without resorting to some of the usual playwriting models (inconceivable for this group, anyway). There’s something about approaching writing through a shared ‘retreat’ of this kind – as many writers have found, including playwrights of course. It makes something explicitly communal of what seems (erroneously, I think) a solitary activity.

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As a prelude to this residency, the company contributed Early Stories, a two-hour radio show of writing and music, to Soundart radio. For this recording, members of Propeller each wrote short stories, then wrote new stories in response to each others’ stories. This can be accessed online. To download, please go to http://www.propelleronline.org/writing.htm and follow the instructions. On the same page, you can also access writing for a Reader for first year students at Dartington College of Arts.

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