Ockham’s Razor: ‘We’ve crawled through rafters thick with ancient dust’

Charlotte Mooney, one of the three artistic directors of aerial theatre company Ockham’s Razor, tells us more about the company’s work and its forthcoming debut at Latitude

A scene from Ockham's Razor's <i>Arc</i>
A scene from Ockham’s Razor’s Arc

Over ten years we have performed in theatres, churches, big tops, railway stations, gardens, castles, cinemas, town squares, and many a side street of a small Belgian town. When we started the logistics involved in rigging metal rafts and frames, pulleys and ropes in a hundred different buildings was eye-watering. We’ve crawled through rafters thick with ancient dust, drilled into the walls of some of the grandest establishments and spent long hours staring glumly at galleries and speakers not on the building’s plans.

Initially buildings were sites to be conquered. We would take the oddly dimensioned wooden beams, the pink walls and uneven floors and use dance floor, blacks and a truck full of rigging to painstakingly recreate our image: two bodies floating in the centre of a well lit void. Things went wrong. The time we realised we could not negotiate a low walkway through the middle of the stage and ended up doing the show outdoors, in the theatre car park. The time a glorious proscenium arch in a beautiful theatre meant that over a certain height the performer disappeared and the audience was treated to the view of a pair of dangling feet. But mostly we managed and as our touring became more successful we wisely invested in some aluminium truss so we could create our own support structure and place ourselves anywhere.

This truss enabled us to perform outdoors. As we toured to towns and festivals we were able to play with our environment. Over the last few summers we have experienced the joy of seeing how a location can enhance the way a piece is read. Our show The Mill looks at labour, industry and the systems that hold us together. We create a system of treadmills powered by the performers which collapses and falls apart. The show looks at whether we can, or will, rebuild it.

Indoors we stripped out wings and backdrops so you could see the working parts of the theatre, the brick back walls, docks and wings, using the building as part of the set. Outdoors, we often had little control over our backdrop. In a German market town we were booked to perform in the shadow of an elaborate, pink palace. This turned out to be a perfect backdrop as we sweated and laboured under the cornices and turrets. In 2010 we performed it in Paternoster Square, literally at the gates of the London Stock Exchange.

Over time, adapting has become the most exciting part of touring. In our show Not Until We are Lost the action happens around the audience who are on the stage. We have incorporated the spirit of each building into each show, lighting the dedication plaques and memorials in drill halls and churches; leaving bare technician’s graffiti, seeing how each place resonates with the material. Next we head out to Latitude, the first time at one of the great British music festivals. We’re excited to see what we discover.

Ockham’s Razor are performing ‘Arc’ at Latitude Festival, which takes place from 18-21 July at Henham Park in Southwold, Suffolk