02 August 2019

Geraldine Pilgrim on the first year of Mountview’s MA in Site-Specific Theatre

We caught up with Geraldine Pilgrim, a leading practitioner in the creation of site-specific theatre and installations, to find out more about the first year of Mountview’s MA in Site-Specific Theatre, which has been based at Shoreditch Town Hall.

What has it been like working on the course at Shoreditch Town Hall?

It is a privilege to have the MA site- specific theatre practice studio base in Shoreditch Town Hall and to feel part of the family of this unique Art Centre.

How has working off the Mountview Site influenced your student’s work?

For the students, having their educational course be part of a working arts building immediately creates a practice based inspiring atmosphere in which to work. This unique opportunity for the MA to be based across multiple sites helps increase their understanding of working site – specifically.

Can you tell us about any of the exciting ideas your students have been working on?

At the beginning of their second term, each student created a short piece inspired by the architecture of a specific site. The two sites they chose to work in were the Brunel Museum in Rotherhithe and Chumleigh Gardens in Burgess Park, Peckham. Each student came up with imaginative takes on these sites, which included a contemporary slant on the Persephone myth in the shaft of the Brunel Museum, an Alice in Wonderland inspired performance responding to the multi – cultural garden design and plants of the innovative Chumleigh Gardens and another Brunel Museum response inspired by the challenges of the lack of infrastructure of Nigeria.

We then had a week’s residency with Inteatro in Villa Nappi, Polverigi Italy. The building is a 17th century Villa which is used for artists and educational residencies. The student’s exercises included responses to the Villa and park, and the beach at Ancona and ended with the group creating a collaborative performance in the medieval village of Polverigi inspired by its architecture and history.

What have you enjoyed most about working in the building?

I love working in Shoreditch Town Hall, it’s a genuine pleasure to enter that evocative foyer and be greeted by a smiling face. To have a specifically designed studio in the building as the MA Base, where each student has their own area in which they can work is a unique privilege for which I am truly grateful. It’s wonderful to be working in a building that acknowledges its rich history and that is so obviously cared for by the organisations that work within it. Also, the students have the chance to see the performances and events that happen there throughout the year and are always made to feel  part of the building.

What was your experience like working at Alexandra Palace?

Working in the basement was extremely challenging due to the condition of that part of the building and therefore the constraints that this caused.

We were only allowed to be down in the basement for an hour at a time and also any item moved stirred up dust, so dust masks had to be worn during the get in. Nevertheless, it was a valuable experience for the students to have to immediately come to terms with some extreme conditions that they might have to work with in the future, but they rose to all the challenges the space gave them and created a truly beautiful piece of work.

How did this differ to the work at Shoreditch Town Hall?

Shoreditch Town Hall offers the perfect environment for the students to experiment with their ideas within an atmospheric and sensitively renovated heritage building. The Ditch is a truly evocative space in which to work but has the added benefit of fulfilling all health and safety requirements and fire regulations. This means the students, whilst being aware of what those requirements are, can be liberated to spend time mainly on their creative ideas.

What are you looking forward to in relation to the course?

I’m looking forward to the students culminating this first year of the course by creating their individual final shows, which will take place in sites on the Aylesbury Estate in Peckham and in an empty shop window on Rye Lane.

I hope that their work will be informed and inspired by the seminars, workshops, salons, exercises and residencies of the MA alongside performances they have seen and sites they have visited throughout this year. It has been a really exciting journey for us all and has been made possible with the help and support of Shoreditch Town Hall.

I’m also looking forward to the next year and new students so that the MA site- specific theatre practice continues to grow.

The find out more about the course and apply, take a look at the Mountview website here.

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