» café reason

» butoh

» diary

» new work

» past work

»» dolls' house
»» the heart's desire
»» matrix
»» orpheus
»» precarious footing
»» the if path
»» guess-station
»» la table
»» erosion
»» echo
»» bona dea


» classes

» contacts

Dolls' House
Dolls' House publicity image
Photo: Paul Freestone

Pegasus performance (10 mins)
(Video/edit: Peter Glyn Jones)

Work-in-progress video (3 mins)
(Video: Peter Glyn Jones)

Dolls' House projection (5 mins)
(Video: Dariusz Działa)

Dolls' House, Butterfly, 19 Dec
Ana Barbour
Rehearsal December 2015

DH rehearsal, alex, 19 Dec
From 'Attic'
Rehearsal December 2015

DH rehearsal, ayala, 15 Jan
Rehearsal January 2016

DH rehearsal, crash, 19 Dec
Rehearsal December 2015

DH rehearsal, rememberment, 19 Dec
Rehearsal December 2015
Photos: Paul Freestone


"One need not be a Chamber – to be haunted –
One need not be a House –
The Brain has Corridors – surpassing
Material Place – "
(Emily Dickinson)

A dolls’ house appeared in our rehearsal space some time ago; we tried to trace its owner without success. Later, a bag of costumes appeared in another rehearsal space and people there assumed it belonged to us. It looked very similar to things we already own and things we might perhaps use, but it isn’t actually ours. The dolls’ house and the costumes have found us. They want to be brought into being. It is our duty to find out what they want to say …

The ‘House’ is an archetypal dream symbol, much explored in Jungian therapy. It can represent the dreamer’s entire psyche or personality, with its size, state, construction, furnishings, and occupants giving a clue to the dreamer’s hopes and fears. Its rooms can represent different aspects of the self, such as the subconscious or conscious mind, or of different states of being – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual – and their harmony or dysfunction.

“… I dreamed of a dining room and a table laid for a beautiful meal… I sat at the table with strangers. In the attic a cardboard box began to flap, as the bones inside it jumped in the earth I had buried them in. They were my bones; I had chopped myself up and hidden the evidence in the box. Suddenly the door of the room blew open and a terrific gale blew through, knocking the glasses and flowers flying. In the doorway stood a small dark woman, with long tangled hair and burning eyes full of fury. She stared at me, bursting with rage but unable to cross the threshold …” (Jeannie Donald-McKim, Director)

Between 2012 and 2015 we gradually began the process of teasing out and reinterpreting the tangle of meanings hidden within the walls of our Dolls’ House: location and dislocation, pattern and chaos, restriction and freedom, self, family, and the passage of time. We have worked in creative collaboration with musicians Malcolm Atkins, Bruno Guastalla, and Pete McPhail, and film-maker Dariusz Dziala. Our inspirations have been many and various, from Georges Perec’s classic novel Life A User’s Manual, which tells the story of a Parisian apartment building, to a contemporary Japanese doll-maker, who populated the landscape with her life-size creations. (See below for more, from Bruno, on the music-making.)

Our R&D programme included a visit to the V&A Museum of Childhood to see their dolls' house collection and a movement workshop with international puppeteer Stephen Mottram to investigate the nature of 'dollness'. We showed work-in-progress at Diamond Night performances, and as part of the Oxford Fringe Festival in May 2015, with more new material shown at the Old Fire Station Dance Scratch nights in July and November.

We were joined for this project by dancers Alex Donaghy, Alan Frank, and Andreia Morgado, who each brought a unique and beautiful movement quality and new enthusiasm to the work. We were also very grateful to have an excellent support team: Joanna Matthews (Production/Marketing), Josh Tomalin (Lighting), Dominic Hargreaves (Sound) and Fiona Sinclair (Stage Manager).

One of the performance highlights was a specially commissioned video projection by film-maker Dariusz Dziala, directed by Jeannie Donald-McKim, who describes it thus:

"A young girl plays with a dolls' house made years ago by her grandfather, a scale model of his own house. She places the doll babies, the picture frame, the furniture, rehearsing her life. A pregnant young woman waits patiently for her baby in a fine old house with many rooms. A mature woman moves through the ruins of a yet older, grander house, searching for meaning or pattern."

"…the elements' existence does not precede the existence of the whole, it comes neither before nor after it, for the parts do not determine the pattern, but the pattern determines the parts…"
(Georges Perec, Life A User's Manual)

Dolls' House was our latest full-scale theatre production, performed at the Pegasus Theatre, Oxford on 15 & 16 January, 2016. We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of Arts Council England and Oxford City Council, which has enabled us to do this.
Lottery logo
Oxford City Council funding logo

“Working in sound with dance (and light) brings out an imagination and an attitude quite different from ‘pure music’; it is fun, exciting, difficult, and rewarding. The multi-sensory aspect is quite close to what happens in ‘real’ everyday life, but just that little bit more intense!

I like formality, in a mathematical way, and how deliberate shapes played out in the ‘real’ world show its wondrous chaos all the more. For me, this is an essential aspect of Perec’s "La Vie Mode d’Emploi". Perec was part of the Oulipo group of writers, who in the 1970s sought new ways of organising texts (such as chessboard moves and palindromes). This sort of methodology has, of course, been an integral part of musical culture in Europe since the 13th century, so much so that it has been fought, ignored, espoused rigidly, mocked, built upon - often all in one piece of music! The dynamic, elastic, and multifarious expression which the (false) dichotomy form/content brings – the chaos of life will be in evidence soon enough, however formal the games – is for me where music resides.

The musical needs of the Doll’s House project are as multifaceted as the project itself: many shades are present between music for dance (music as a supporting accompaniment) and music and dance (where mutual dependence remains an open question).”
(Bruno Guastalla)