Watson & Co.

Feature in Issue 5-3 | Autumn 1993

Watson & Co. is Jane Watson and Beatrice Pemberton. The company was founded when Jane was living in Japan in 1989. She had studied with Decroux, Lecoq, done some Butoh and dance, and was keen to fuse these styles. The theatre was to be direct and contact the audience, as well as be quiet and meditative to bring the audience in. After touring two shows (One Day May Be Tuesday with Liz Handover in Japan, and the solo piece Doris Jones’ Diary in Hong Kong), Jane returned to the UK and in 1990 joined up with Beatrice, who had also trained with Lecoq and was in search of a similar theatre experimenting with choreography and poetic text, with her own company, Glanceaskance. Music is an important element of the shows and the company also works on a regular basis with composer Andrew Lovett.

All the work is devised, and the themes are triggered by strong emotions, like grief, loneliness and love. With such themes, devising requires a more acute than usual sense of humour and self-criticism. The work draws on a formal, atmospheric structure and uses the Lecoq sense of play. The first collaboration between Jane and Beatrice was in the creation of Reflections where they worked instinctively, finding a clear, natural structure relatively easily.

Yet, realising the piece to be under threat of becoming ‘angsty’ and obscure, a vein of (to some) sick humour was injected to counterbalance the intensity.

1992 was a good year for the company. They travelled all over the world to Poland, Hong Kong, and even a couple of days in China with a Chinese pop group in Dire Bay Nuclear Power Station entertaining Communist Party officials. The great thing about touring can be the surprises around every corner.

During devising, what Watson & Co. find interesting is experimenting with narrative, seeing how little is needed to grasp the ‘story’. Their latest production is How Far Can You Go?, a collaboration with Adrian Norman, an Australian stand-up comedian, which they believe has made the piece more comical, confrontational and accessible. This year the company is taking the show to the Canada Fringe Festival. Sponsorship and funding has been provided by Southern Arts, North West Arts, The Scottish Arts Council, The Highlands and Islands Enterprise Scheme, Hampshire Dance Trust, Crabtree and Evelyn, and Lyons Coffee. Next year, Watson & Co. prepare for a new production based on the mother/daughter relationship, which will be a development in terms of design and script.

Jane is currently collaborating with, and being inspired by the Danish set designer Louise Beck and an entourage of international costume, lighting and graphic designers, on Displaced Spaces, recently seen at St Paul’s Church, Hammersmith, London.

Believing in the true process of devising, Jane is unashamedly in search of the perfect theatre piece. She is an optimist in her trust of today’s Theatre, inasmuch that a show will succeed if it is good, no matter the state of the system around it. Always conscious of unjust categorisation of their style (is it Dance? Theatre? Mime?) Watson & Co. treads for a poetic new theatre.

Referenced Artists

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Issue 5-3
p. 11