I was invited to the premiere of Bad Faith, a collaborative piece by by English poet, Jemima Foxtrot, Belgian choreographer, Tara D’Arquian and Icelandic designer Fridthjofur Thorsteinsson. They worked with poetry, lighting design and dance to explore Sartre’s concept of bad faith through themes of womanhood and loss.
This third instalment of D’Arquian’s In Situ trilogy, premiered at the Laban Theatre in London, was inspired by Nietzsche’s ‘three metamorphoses’, unearthed from Thus Spoke Zarathustra. It appeared to be collaborative on a number of different levels – while there were just three women on stage, there was an extensive backstage team. This illustrated an attention to detail from the onset, where light, white noise and dry ice gave an unsettling atmosphere as two bodies rolled in slow motion across the stage, and one was curled tightly into a ball, introducing the Discourse chapter of the production.
Interestingly, the environment provoked a kind of bad faith of my own, the dots of my background connecting to create a discomfort I couldn’t quite put my finger on.
Prior to this production, I knew little about the concept of bad faith, which is connected to the idea of self-deception, and a conflict between two minds within one. I found myself feeling out of place in the audience awaiting the show to start, where well-spoken camaraderie surrounded me, and inferiority bubbled up (despite being someone who’s been described as “posh” by others). Interestingly, the environment provoked a kind of bad faith of my own, the dots of my background connecting to create a discomfort I couldn’t quite put my finger on. As speech was introduced, the repeated phrase stuck with me: ‘not all bread will rise’. This metaphor made me question what makes this true, yet also brought in the idea of it as a false belief in itself.
The feeling of discomfort I felt in my own skin before the start was reinforced by the opening scenes, and transformed by different aspects of the production, including the costumes. The protagonist, Nora (played by Hannah Ringham), was dressed in a glittery gold dress, whilst the two other women (D’Arquian and Laura Doehle) embodied aspects of her, dressed in restrictive costumes. The white top layer reminded me of breast-binding, whilst the bottom layer could be seen to contrast, as a sexually provocative element made of a kind of tight black PVC material. Their movements added to this feeling of restriction and discomfort, along with the repetition of ‘I’m useless / I’m not useless’ representing the internal conflict of bad faith. Twenty years after her unexplained disappearance, Nora is lost in a land of emptiness, and the various elements come together – lighting, movement, words – to really give the feeling of complete solitude, as she comes face to face with herself.
There production progressed through two more chapters: Aliveness and Truth. My favourite moments of the show were when a cast of different women over 60 years old spoke in overlapped monologues, drawing parallels between their experiences of women, as an expression of womanhood. I would catch one woman beginning ‘I remember…’ and another asking ‘Do you remember…?’ The conversational tone of these monologues merged with the poetic throughout the main piece, including traditional jokes, in a style that is distinctive to Foxtrot’s writing. Another highlight was when mundane everyday conversations were repeated, along with movements in canon where music kicked in, the stage washed in purple.
The only element that offers us conclusion is the chorus from the audience that ‘we will grow and be a ring of trees together’
The same song used in these moments, is later whistled in the final chapter, and this connects to the role of memory in self-perception that runs throughout. One reference that stands out is the ‘gold-embossed enduring clumsy memory’ which is described as being ‘too much’, with negative memories reinforcing a negative self-perception, and positive memories causing us to question whether one has lived up to them.
A rocket-shaped object plays a role throughout the production, but its significance is ambiguous. In the third chapter, Nora is weighed down by it, as the soundscape makes it seem she is washed up upon some shore. She is eventually able to lift this and become unburdened, yet we return to many of the same elements from the beginning, such as ‘gold and glitter hides old and bitter’ as the song is again repeated, but played backwards. The only element that offers us conclusion is the chorus from the audience that ‘we will grow and be a ring of trees together’ – we may not be able to overcome bad faith, but womanhood and sisterhood are powerful forces.
Featured images by Floro Azqueta
with Hannah Ringham, Laura Doelher and Tara D’Arquian
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