Doppelgangster's TITANIC: A Sinking Feeling at COP21

 Image: Debbie Woodley Text: Asah Rehman, Friends of the Earth

Doppelgangster's flagship production TITANIC was recently performed in Paris as part of ArtCOP21, a global festival of cultural activity on climate change. It was presented with support from Wales Arts International and in partnership with Forever Swarm, Place to B and La Générale

TITANIC was first developed with support from Wales Lab in the summer of 2015 at one of NTW's annual Summer Camp residencies. Organised by Simon Coates, Summer Camp provides a supportive and collaborative environment in which artists are able to reflect upon their practice and explore new ways of working. This is where I first began collaborating with the Australian performance-maker Tobias Manderson-Galvin, with whom I set up Doppelgangster. This UK/Australia initiative is currently undertaking work that explores themes of climate change, forced migration and globalisation.

Doppelgangster's TITANIC at Experimentica15. Image: Warren Orchard. Left Hannah Van Den Bergh, right Tobias Manderson-Galvin

Doppelgangster's TITANIC seeks to be politically and culturally responsive and uses an in ear listening/speaking technique that enables the performers to work with a new text each time the show is staged. The script is primarily constructed by drawing upon the screenplay for James Cameron's 1997 Hollywood tearjerker; as well as fragments from other contemporary and historical sources, including social media reporting of global events associated with climate change and migration, and historical accounts of the sinking of the Titanic as they featured in the national press in 1912.

Toby and I are interested in what happens when these various elements come together in front of an audience, and also what meanings are produced when TITANIC is performed in politically charged places where the spoken word and stage pictures take on added significance. This was very much the case when we performed the show recently in Paris as part of ArtCOP21. In that context, the story of the Titanic was not only a powerful metaphor for climate change and the hubris of the global north, but it also spoke to the recent tragic events in Paris, the state of national emergency in France and institutional undermining of freedom of speech during the COP.

Doppelgangster's TITANIC at Experimentica15. Image: Warren Orchard. Left Tom Payne, Right Tobias Manderson-Galvin

Before going to Paris, Doppelgangster's TITANIC was commissioned for development by Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff, and in November 2015 Doppelgangster presented a run of shows in a shipping container outside the venue as part EXPERIMENTICA15. This is when we first worked with the wonderful Rachel Helena Walsh who came with us to Paris in December to reprise the role of Rose! You can read about her experience on her NTW blog.

We are very grateful to the Chapter team for helping us to develop the performance technically; to the very talented Australian musician Jules 'Crazy Legs' Pascoe, who wrote an original score for the piece; and to Jorge Lizalde and Warren Orchard, for their photographic work.

Doppelgangster's TITANIC at Experimentica15. Image: Warren Orchard. Left Tom Payne, Right Tobias Manderson-Galvin

After working on the show in Cardiff, we were funded by Wales Arts International to take TITANIC to Paris, where we adapted it for presentation inside La Generale, an old power substation that was used as a Nazi boot factory during the Second World War. This unique arts space is located close to the sites of the recent "Terror Attacks" and not far from where climate protestors were clashing with police during the COP. Working in this environment was a challenging and sobering experience and one in which I was reminded of the potency and immediacy of live performance as a means to engage with difficult and sometimes very uncomfortable issues. 

"It's a pensive time to be in Paris but it's evident that

there is much strength in this city and it's people"

Rachel Helena Walsh

In February 2016, Doppelgangster will be working on TITANIC in partnership with Aberystwyth Arts Centre (where DG is an Associate Company) before touring the UK and traveling to Melbourne.

You can find out more about Doppelgangster, TITANIC and the company's work at COP21 at doppelgangster.com, or in the Doppelgangster group on this community. 

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