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Re:Stage exhibition taking shape

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Dmitri presents a diagram of the exhibition.

Last week Charlie Levine, Curator of the Camden50 programme and I had the pleasure of meeting with Michalis Kokkoliadis, (a theatre designer based in South East London), Dmitri Galtizine (one of our Camden50 commissioned artists) and Pamela Butler (Camden Council’s Senior officer at Swiss Cottage Library to get an update on the planned exhibition at Swiss Cottage Gallery – Re:Stage, which will open on 1st June.

Re:Stage is an exhibition that looks back at the history of radical theatre in Camden after the 1968 Theatres Act ended theatre censorship. As an introduction to our meeting, Michalis explained how theatre became more political and aimed to respond to contemporary issues such as racism, sexism and prejudice towards people with disabilities, as well the debates around rent prices, unions and minor strikes. “Theatre changed at this moment. There was a need for performance to be more intimate and immediate - to leave the theatre and act in the public space.”

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As a set designer, Michalis is interested in how this change in performance style was reflected in the use of everyday objects as props. “Instead of elaborate theatre sets, performers used whatever they could find – ladders, chairs, shopping trollies etc.” Working with artist Dmitri Galitzine, Re:Stage exhibition will reconstruct radical theatre sets at Swiss Cottage Gallery and invite today’s audiences to embody the spirit of the original performances and sets.

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Dmitri and Michalis discuss views of the stage for those looking down from the library above.

After having a chat about the legacy of Camden’s radical theatre history in the creation of institutions such as the Roundhouse, Charlie Levine raised the inevitable question of how to bring late-20th century radical politics into a family friendly library?

Dmitri and Michalis exchanged knowing glances and proceeded to demonstrate their scale model (1:25) of the Swiss Cottage exhibition space. With excited, animated gestures Dmitri explained the plan to create a fixed set with costumes on a circular stage that slowly turns like a car in a show-room (“0.3 rotations per minute”). Visitors are then able to climb onto the stage and interact with the fixed scene. “It’s like a 3D version of those clip-on wardrobes for paper dolls” commented Charlie.

Dmitri went on to describe how the set will focus on different radical themes each week of the 6-week exhibition. The changing elements of these sets will be stored throughout the show in a mock ‘back-stage area’. In this space visitors will also be able to find out more about Camden’s history of radical theatre through photographs and interpretive text panels.

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View of the exhibition from the Children's library.
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View of the exhibition in Swiss Cottage atrium
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View of the gallery 'back-stage' area.

After much discussion on possible performances and readings to take place on the stage, Pamela touched on one significant point – “How are you going to get this stage into the gallery?!”

Michalis smiled, “It comes in sections. We’ll carry it up the stairs”. Dmitri clarified “It comes like pizza”

Re:Stage opens at Swiss Cottage Gallery on 1st June with an evening view on 10th June. More details will follow soon about the accompanying events programme. #Restage #Camden50

Article by Anna Lowe