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Pinchbeck, M., 2018.

Staging Landscapes, Turning Pages: The scenography of A Fortunate Man

Output Type:Conference paper
Presented at:TaPRA Conference 2018
Venue:University of Aberystwyth, Wales, United Kingdom
Dates:5/9/2018 - 7/9/2018

"To understand a landscape, we have to situate ourselves in it", John Berger, Ways of Seeing (1972) To mark its 50th anniversary, I have been commissioned by New Perspectives to write and devise a new show inspired by A Fortunate Man; the 1967 book by writer John Berger and photographer Jean Mohr. Offering an in-depth study of a country doctor who, after years of caring for people took his own life, the book has been widely hailed as one of the most influential texts ever written on the subject of medicine, treatment and care. Using archive film footage and contemporary reportage, the production is part slide show, part documentary, part adaptation. Text and images merge on screen to evoke the landscape of the book, and a sense of the time and place that it depicts: the Forest of Dean in the 1960s. A projection screen, stage right, shows shifting Black and White images taken by Jean Mohr, while at a table, stage left, two performers read a text colliding Berger?s words with those of doctors today. Beneath the table is a tree branch which is bandaged at one point and sawn in half at another. Later on, the table itself is taken apart. The stage is deconstructed like the life of the man who inspired the book. Its scenography aims to replicate turning the pages of the book, where images and text are in dialogue. There are two acts: Landscapes and Portraits. For TaPRA, I will present a paper exploring Berger?s concept of understanding landscapes by inhabiting them and reflect on the aesthetic, philosophical and ethical concerns of the show. I address the central research question: How do representations of landscape on stage relate to understandings of place? I suggest that our understanding of landscape is mediated by technology to create a virtual palimpsest of the rural and the urban, analogue and digital. As Berger wrote, "Landscapes can be deceptive" - John Berger, A Fortunate Man (1967).