Light, Ladd and Emberton speak about their famous production Caitlin
The Pickle Factory and the TATA Steel Kolkata Literary Meet recently brought to town, Caitlin, the famous dance production, based on the life of Caitlin Thomas, wife of Dylan Thomas and her turbulent life with the poet. Commissioned in 2014, to mark Dylan Thomas’ Centenary, the production brought together three leading dance artistes-Deborah Light, Eddie Ladd and Gwyn Emberton and went on to become highly successful, with as many as 100 performances till now. Deborah Light is an independent choreographer and an associate artist at Chapter, Eddie Ladd is a Welsh television presenter and a performance artiste, while Emberton is an associate artiste with Aberystwyth Arts Centre and has worked in several theatre productions.
Tell us about your journey with this production
Eddie: Caitlin was commissioned by the National Library of Wales but they wanted to make a dance piece on his wife, who was a dancer. And that is how we, I, Gwyn and Deborah came together. The production would have stopped but we carried on doing the show, as people wanted to see it.
How is your production different from normal theatre?
Eddie: The audience is less of a mass than you would normally expect in the theatre. There are 20 people and we see their faces.
Gwyn: It keeps the act very intimate and the audience very close.
What kind of movements have you used in Caitlin?
Gwyn: It’s very informed by the chairs that we use. Sometimes we use them as props but at times also metaphorically, as they become representative objects- people, things, devices and other elements of movements.
Eddie: Deborah encourages us not to act because you get caught up in emotion and the situation and very often, we also put our faces in the way of the action. Deborah tells us to stick to the task rather than us you trying to make an effect.
How many times have you performed this piece?
Eddie: Including the dress rehearsals and the performances, we have done till now, it must have been 310 runs.
So what are the insights that you have gathered, performing the same act several times?
Gwyn: One of the key things for us is the way we are together- because we are so in tune with each other, that the co-ordination between us is almost intuitive. It helps us play with the character or the situation and respond to it naturally.
Eddie: We don’t generally think of what’s coming next, because our bodies are leading us to the next step. We have done it so many times that our movements become reactions.
Gwyn: Sometimes Eddie could be coming out with a movement that takes me off in a completely different way, but we are able to respond to it, in a very automatic way, pretty much like life.
Does each performance differ from the previous one?
Eddie: yes, in terms of colour, definitely. It’s so structured that it’s almost freer to allow the changes to take place.
Is this your first trip to Calcutta? How do you like the city?
Eddie: We came about four days ago. We have been to Santiniketan, in Bolpur and now we are here for the past two days.
Gwyn: It’s so vibrant and alive.
Have you seen any Indian productions? Any Indian dance forms? What did you like about them?
Eddie: I had a student who performed Kathak. Through her dance you could see the hundreds of people who have passed that language to her. It was extremely precise, as she had been doing it since she was a child.
Gwyn: I worked with Akram Khan in Kathak, in a fusion between Kathak and contemporary. I learnt from him about the history and the richness of the language and its foundation, which is so vast, whereas contemporary is so new and very young, an art form which is still finding its beat.
What are your future projects?
Gwyn: We have Owain Glyndwr Silent Disco. Owain Glyndwr was the last Prince of Wales.
Deborah Light: We have the same group but we have additional performers. But it’s an entirely different aesthetic.
Eddie: It is for the public to perform rather than us performing, but we host it.
You plan to come to India with it?
Gwyn: Yes! It would be amazing!
Deborah Light: Basically, it is a collection of history of the last Welsh Prince of Wales with clubbed classics and silent disco.
Deborah Light: We have talked about the possibility of taking this model somewhere else. We intend to take the history from here and fuse with it the silent disco format.
When you started working on the project, what did you envision?
Deborah Light: The way I work, I envisage very little. We read the two key texts about Caitlin- Double Drink Story: My Life with Dylan Thomas by Caitlin and George Tremlett’s Caitlin: Life with Dylan Thomas. The first one was written by her after she started going for Alcoholics Anonymous –it’s a stream of consciousness book and the second one is a biography by George Tremlett, which is also in Caitlin’s voice.
We used these two books because they had a very mature voice coming through and were very rich in the quality and nature of the chaos and destruction and vitality of their lives. When Eddie, asked me to do it, she already had the idea of the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings as the frame. I started translating the information into physical tasks and from the physicality that appeared, I started to construct something. My process does not have a vision. I start with the information and see where it goes.
Photos by Jennifer Kishan