Stages & Scenes
Stages & Scenes
The invitation made in the Dark Mountain manifesto has been taken up by playwrights and directors, storytellers, comedians, choreographers and dancers.
Here we tell some of the stories of those who have taken the call to make ‘uncivilised art’ beyond the pages of the written word and into spaces of theatre, live art and ritualised performance.
The Kairos Collective
As the Glasgow to Fort William train curves across the wild landscape of Rannoch Moor, the passengers catch sight of a pack of creatures running across the hillside. Could they be… wolves? Or wolf people?
The Rannoch Wolf Pack grew out of an annual solo performance by Dougie Strang, a storyteller and performance maker who has been at the heart of the Dark Mountain Project from its early years. Whether as the organiser of the Carrying the Fire events, or through installations and one-to-one performances such as Charnel House for Roadkill first shown at the Uncivilisation festivals, Dougie’s work has taken us into the territory of folk theatre and ritualised performance.
In recent years, he has worked as part of the Kairos Collective, a performance laboratory and ‘uncivilised’ theatre troupe, gathering twice a year to deepen their exploration of immersive, physical theatre.
The group’s work is staged out of doors, embedded within the landscape and includes events such as The Night Breathes Us In, a lantern-lit procession through the streets of the city of Reading, leading to an island in the middle of the Thames and an evening of story, performance and fire.
In 2018 the Collective appeared for the launch of Dark Mountain: Issue 14 , held in a mill and barn in a wild and stormy Cumbria, with performance and interventions based alongside the river Sprint.
In 2019 the Collective’s Charlotte Du Cann and Dougie Strang took a performance double-bill and conversation called A Dance Down the Dark Mountain to two theatre festivals, Winterwerft in Germany and Unfix in Glasgow.
During times of the recent pandemic, much of what Dark Mountain does has gone online, and the group has diversified, running an uncivilised short film night The Picture Show at the End of the World and a storytelling event In the Company of Wolves with four different storytellers relating wild and mythic tales.
The choreographer Emelie ‘Empo’ Enlund was introduced to the Dark Mountain manifesto by the philosopher Per Johansson, presenter of a popular Swedish podcast series. Emelie took the manifesto’s call for ‘uncivilised art’ and started developing a practice of ‘uncivilised dance’ that has fed into productions such as We Love Holocene (Dansens Hus, Stockholm, 2017).
The Dark Mountain Workshop
The theatre director Måns Lagerlöf had been wrestling with the knowledge of climate change, reading book after book, wondering what use it was making theatre when the world is on fire. A chance encounter on a train with an old friend who was now working at the Stockholm Resilience Centre led him to the Dark Mountain manifesto. It was, he said, the first text that had given him a sense that what art knows might have some role in how we find our way through the mess the world is in.
A few years later, Måns was appointed artistic director of Riksteatern, Sweden’s touring national theatre – and just as he received this appointment, he discovered that one of the manifesto’s authors, Dougald Hine, was now living in Sweden. After a couple of meetings, they agreed that Dougald would come to work with Riksteatern for two years as leader of artistic and audience development.
This led to the creation of The Dark Mountain Workshop, a group of fourteen artists from within and beyond the performing arts in Sweden, who met for a day each month from October 2015 to May 2016. The group came together around the question: what do we do, as artists, living under the shadow of climate change?
Each month, the group was joined by a guest artist from the wider Dark Mountain network. These guests included Ansuman Biswas, Monique Besten, David Abram and Maddy Costa.
At the end of the day, the doors of the workshop space were opened and the public were invited to join us for The Village & The Forest: A Night with the Dark Mountain Workshop.
Off the page
Loss Soup by Nick Hunt (Issue 1)
This short story about a roll call of extinct species and languages was turned into a live performance at Uncivilisation 2012, directed by Caroline Hunt and performed by Adam Peck. It was also used as inspiration for The Liturgy of Loss at Uncivilisation 2013, performed by Nick Hunt, Laurell Turner, Chris Rusbridge and Ellie Rusbridge.
In 2017 ‘Loss Soup‘ was adapted for a youth theatre performance at the Barbican Theatre, Plymouth as part of their summer festival.
To the Bone by Nick Hunt (Issue 1)
Butterfly Man by Mike Edwards (Issue 4)
Twelve Characters in Search of an Apocalypse by Andrew Boyd (Issue 11)
Where the Words Run Out was a performance commissioned for AHA! Festival, Gothenburg in November 2017. On stage are two dancers (Alex Dam, pictured, and Sara Rousta) and a writer (Dougald Hine). There is no music. The three of them have agreed to inhabit the space where language reaches its limit, to wait at the point where a sentence tails off, until a gesture or a word arrives from the silence.
New stories, old stories
‘It is time to look for new paths and new stories,’ declares the Dark Mountain manifesto, but from early on in the life of this project, we have been reminded of the role of old stories – not least by the magnificent storytellers who have been drawn to this project.
‘The stories we need turned up, right on time, about 5000 years ago,’ writes Martin Shaw in Issue 7. And Martin’s tellings of old stories from near and far have been among the most memorable performances at Dark Mountain events. From the Arthurian wildness of Lady Ragnell at Uncivilisation to the Yakut tale of The Crow King and the Red Bead Woman at Base Camp, the stories show up with an urgency that bears out Martin’s insistence: ‘This is nothing to do with a long time ago!’
As well as performing regularly at our events, Martin has collaborated closely with members of the Dark Mountain team, running a series of weekend courses – Prophets of Rock and Wave – with Paul Kingsnorth, and touring Sweden together with Dougald Hine.
Other storytellers who have been good friends to Dark Mountain include Rachel Rose Reid – who brought her and Robin Grey’s show Three Acres and a Cow to the Base Camp gathering in 2016 – and Tom Hirons, whose late night tellings around the fire at Uncivilisation held hundreds of festival-goers in their spell, leading us into the worlds of Baba Yaga and Ivashko Medvedko (Little Ivan, Bear Child), accompanied by the music and images of Rima Staines.
In 2014, longtime Dark Mountain collaborators Tom Hirons and Rima Staines crowdfunded the creation of Hedgespoken, a travelling theatre on the back of a vintage Bedford truck. Here they are at Base Camp, the Dark Mountain gathering.
Read more about where to find Hedgespoken (and how you can support it) on the website. (Photo: Warren Draper)