Hesitate and Demonstrate 1979-1982

Geraldine Pilgrim (2013):

‘I was now with Artsadmin who were my Administrators and it was brilliant, having somebody to talk to, but I had lost Janet. It meant that my work would change because I was alone. I missed my colleague, my friend. … I realised that the people that were working with me, I was employing, and it was different, I was their boss and I didn’t like it. I knew that I couldn’t stop doing it, but I was always looking potentially for another Janet, somebody that I wouldn’t be employing, but who would be my colleague and I suppose my friend … I carried on with my normal way of working with people that didn’t really understand the way I worked, why should they? They hadn’t shared the same experiences, come from the same fine art performance background. Janet and I could put shows together in two weeks. With a whole group of people that didn’t understand the way I worked, I opened [Excuse Me] but we weren’t ready, it was a work in progress, all new, … and I was being experimental, I was an artist. That’s when I realised that in theatre you had to be ready on the night.’

‘My world had changed, literally, from December 1979 to January 1980. Hesitate and Demonstrate were not allowed to be genuinely experimental anymore, we weren’t allowed to develop the work, allow it to organically grow…It had to be ready. That’s when I realised the power of expectations … I hadn’t realized that Hesitate and Demonstrate had become a success and therefore there were expectations from other people about me… however after a lot of re working Excuse Me did eventually became a good show’.

‘After the success of No Regrets and finally Excuse Me in Europe, I was asked to do a residency at Chapter Arts Centre [Cardiff].’

‘With my political theatre links through working with members of Belt and Braces, I became involved with the Half Moon Theatre and there was a young actress called Lizza Aitken, … I asked her if she wanted to join Hesitate and Demonstrate. … Alex Mavrocordatus had been introduced to Didi Hopkins ( co- founder of Beryl and the Perils who was a member of the Hesitate and Demonstrate extended family and had performed in previous shows) and I by Mark Long …and by that point I was looking for a male performer to replace Jan Hardisty who had performed in Scars and been Lighting Designer of No Regrets and Excuse me…That’s when the second generation of Hesitate & Demonstrate happened: me, Alex, Liza and Tom Donnellan the lighting designer’.

‘With all of these people that I didn’t really know, we went to Chapter and created Do Not Disturb and I got to know them … because we were all staying together we were able to sit up until 4 o ‘clock talking…Liza understood my sensibility… the Englishness of what I was trying to create… I went back to Frozen Moments and to the idea of using very famous musical classics that had been used for British adverts …Do Not Disturb went really well, it got my confidence back… Liza was very good to work with. Between me, Liza and Alex we begun to form a new language, which was very different from the one I had with Janet, but it worked. Tom was a brilliant lighting designer and added extra energy. Do Not Disturb was seen by a lot of people who were now following us in Europe and went down brilliantly at a Festival at the Lantaren in Rotterdam. That was when our lives changed … We entered the European touring circuit which was funded and supported by the British Council. From that point on Hesitate and Demonstrate became a commodity, a business, [we] became vat registered and a charity, it had a Board, I was expected to do things, I got Arts Council grants that were rolling grants, I was allowed to put in for more than one grant at the time…I had to toughen up.’

‘Hesitate and Demonstrate was now a growing concern … I was caught in the funding trap because I had to do three shows a year… I was under incredible pressure. I had to come up with a new show, and I didn’t have one so I went back to the original Points of Departure that I had created with Janet and John Darlings tape as a source of inspiration and created Goodnight Ladies!, in a residency at the Jeannetta Cochrane theatre which was a huge success and was taken to the Inteatro Festival (Polverigi, Italy) in 1982. It was now the 80’s and the world had moved on, it was the era of Yuppies and money, money, money. Polverigi was almost like the last bastion of the ICA and experiment, it was a totally egalitarian venue; it felt like the best performance festival in the world. Artists and producers were treated equally; we all sat together audiences, artists’ producers, after shows with glasses of wine under the stars discussing theatre, life, everything. It felt like paradise.’

‘Goodnight Ladies! then toured non- stop, including all the major European theatre performance Festivals but I had to come up with a new show to enable my funding to continue, so Shangri La was created during a residency at the Lantaren in Rotterdam and continued touring alongside Goodnight Ladies!. I had decided after Do Not Disturb to only direct Goodnight Ladies! and not perform in it at the same time as it felt too complex to always being wearing so many hats, but I performed again in the Italian touring version of Goodnight Ladies! with Chahine Yavroyan and realised that I really missed it.’


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