Scene with the Doctor

This video is the culmination of the workshop of The Real Health Center. It shows a play test of a scene with a doctor (Score for the ‘Scene with the Doctor’) that is taken from the original performance of The Real Health Center. This is where the workshop ended.

Suvi is in the position of the performer/doctor and Fredrika is visiting the workshop as articipant/patient. They didn’t know each other before meeting in the scene in the forest.

Originally it was planned that each workshop participant (performer) would test the scene with the doctor with a test person they didn’t know, but unfortunately the weather ruined this initial plan. However, we managed to have everyone try the scene even though some workshop participants (performers) had to try it with people they already knew.

This chosen video is an example of a close to ideal version of the play test in the sense that the performer and the articipant didn’t know each other before meeting in the scene and co-created a clear sense of meaning during the scene. Suvi and Fredrika were also comfortable enough with the GoPros so that I could claim that the cameras didn’t affect the content of the scene greatly in the sense that they would have f.e. started playing for the camera. The interaction seems for me to dominantly focus on the performer, the articipant and the environment and not on cameras. Of course the camera could affect the action on some level, but in terms of what we are focusing on in the action in this particular research I would say that we managed to capture action which works in a similar vein to other scenes we have done – not in terms of form, but in terms of the technique being developed.

This scene was also originally meant to be shot with both one external camera and two GoPros, but unfortunately one of the GoPros stopped working in the middle of recording and destroyed all its footage. Because of the small range of the app that controls the GoPro it’s only possible to make sure the recording has been saved after the scene has ended. This is the reason why in this clip you can only see the GoPro footage from the point of view of the performer in addition to a few shots taken with an external camera. External camera was by choice as far away from the scene as possible so it also wouldn’t make the performer and the articipant too conscious of being filmed.


The annotation below aims to break down the different phases seen in the exercise through line and how they connect with what happened in the play test with an articipant who doesn’t know the technique and in this particular case doesn’t have extensive experience from any technique of performing arts (personal communication). This is an important point to notice. Performers who train techniques train those between performers and so get used to the techniques to a certain degree. If f.e. you’re training Meisner technique, you get used to the way that specific technique works and where are the limits of what kind of impulses flow between the performers. This is in part the aim of any given technique – to condition impulses in a certain way. At the same time as techniques are taught in a purely physical level, training also includes knowledge about other things, f.e. what kind of impulses are acceptable. This is based on my own experience in training various techniques (f.e. Meisner technique, Chekhov technique, release technique, contemporary dance technique, contact improvisation) over 20 years of training in performing arts.

In contrast, when you play with an audience member whose background you don’t know, the situation is markedly different. I would claim that the impulses are more unpredictable. There is no common language in the sense of a shared technique. Of course that doesn’t mean there are no common languages at all. The instructions any participatory and/or immersive performance gives to the audience aim to create common ground which aims to define interactions, but also cultural assumptions and social habits play themselves out in participatory and immersive performances as does the cultural habits of how you’re supposed to behave in a performance.

However, as the layer of technique is not bridging the gap of unknown, it makes the situation different for the performer. I claim that they have to learn to sense in a different way, in a way that takes into account this particular kind of unpredictability. How to deal with this particular kind of unpredictability is what I’m trying to train the performers for through the structure of this workshop of The Real Health Center and especially in the playtest with unknown audience members.

Time code 00.15

The performer picks up some twigs from the ground. She picked these as she saw the articipant looking at the direction of them. This is the first phase of the scene: you look for where the focus of the articipant is going and work from that perception onwards.

Time code 00.30

The performer suggests an action – offering the twigs to the articipant – which is open-ended in the sense that it creates space for the articipant to join in on the action. The difficulty is in creating an action which is precise enough to trigger something in the articipant, but at the same time remains open enough for the articipant to join in. In this moment I feel the articipant is still unsure of what is expected of her. I interpret this being the result of the action not yet being quite precise enough. The action is a good, open invitation, but would still need to be more precise in order to trigger something in the articipant and to engage them more fully with the action. I think this can be seen in the facial expression and the use of eyes on the part of the articipant that seem to question what is going on at 00.35–00.46 and also in articipant’s question at 00.48.

This question is also the first spoken sentence in the scene. One of the tools for the performer in the scene is not to use words unless the articipant uses them. I wouldn’t make a general rule out of this, but we found both in the performance of The Real Health Center and in the workshop of The Real Health Center that the sensing gets markedly more dynamic when the words are taken out. However, we didn’t want to make a universal rule of this – as is the case f.e. with companies like Punchdrunk which ask for silence from the audience throughout a performance of their masked shows (f.e. in Sleep No More Shanghai where this is communicated clearly by a sign at the entrance, experienced in 6.7.2019).

Time code 01.21

At this point the performer makes a suggestion with her focus towards further in the forest. The articipant moves her focus in response and the performer makes a choice to move in that direction. She once again uses the twigs as an invitation. The articipant suggests the performer to lead the way, which might be a way of asking for more input from the performer as the articipant is still clearly unsure of what is the meaning or purpose of the action. The performer takes up the invitation and moves with the articipant further into the forest.

Time code 02.02

Because the camera on the head of the articipant didn’t work properly, we can’t see the dance of the foci in the video. Ideally we would have both points of view and by editing them side by side we could see how the moving of the foci of both the performer and the articipant affect each other. This would’ve shown how the performer uses the focus of the articipant to choose the foci which seem to be arising out of the articipant. Then the performer picks up those which seem the most meaningful – ideally in this case meaningful for the articipant, not the performer.

The performer and the articipant both arrive at a root ball of a fallen tree at 02.02. where it could be interpreted from the way the articipant first looks at the root ball (at 02.02.) that they have interest in this location. The performer then takes this focus and starts to create an action at this location. The performer keeps the action open in a good way, but at this point it again creates a common problem in open-ended work which is that the articipant is clearly not sure what they are supposed to be doing. This manifests in their body language and facial expressions at 02.26. and finally in the question ‘Are these going in there?’ at 02.51.

In the score for this scene in the performance of The Real Health Center the performer is allowed to speak after the articipant has first spoken so at this point (in 02.51. and also earlier at 00.48.) the performer would have had the possibility of also using words, which might have dissipated some of the tension in the scene that is arising from lack of clarity at this point. However, the openness regarding the action is still a good quality as there is also a sense of mutual exploration at this point. The openness is also the more important quality as it still leaves room to find the precise action later as opposed to an action where the articipant wouldn’t have room to contribute.

Time code 02.59

The performer uses words for the first time at this point, but their question is a reflection of a question from the articipant. Once again the openness here is good, but when it’s reflected in such an open way, it doesn’t give clear possibilities for the articipant to hold on to. It might have been better to make the question more precise so it would have given the articipant a clearer way to respond and make their choice. Now there are too many possibilities and the articipant seems lost in them.

Time code 03.06

Despite the difficulty in presenting such an open question, it succeeds in drawing a suggestion from the articipant. This is one of the aims in the scene: trying to invite proposals in any form – be it in words or purely physical ones – from the articipant and then help to develop those. The performer accepts the proposal at 03.11. after which they move towards the proposed action.

Time code 03.52

The articipant says something which is not captured on tape well enough to be decipherable. The performer answers with a small acknowledging sound.

Time code 04.14–4.29

Here are recorded some of the other activities that happened in the scene, but which didn’t seem the most relevant for the aim of the scene in terms of the technique. They create rapport between the performer and the articipant and so might play an important part in how the more confidential moments in the end of the scene emerge, but in order to map out the points which reveal aspects of the technique more directly I have left most of them out from this edited clip. You can see some of those in the unedited material Raw Material from GoPro Raw Material from Regular Camera.

Time code 04.30 What about your own roots?

At this point the performer asks the articipant about their own roots while they are sitting at a location which has a direct view to the roots of a big fallen tree. You can see the root ball in question at 04.50–05.12.

The roots shown in the video transform into a question about articipant’s own roots in 04.40 when the performer asks the articipant ‘What about your own roots?’. This way a meaning flows through impulses between the environment towards the performer and then towards the articipant. The performer dives into the flow in search for a meaning.

Time code 05.26 Do you like them?

At this point the articipant either doesn’t understand the reference or perhaps wants to evade a personal question. The performer gently clarifies. This is a clear choice to follow the path being opened into a more meaningful, more personal direction. Having asked a clear question about the roots, but still having left room for the articipant to offer their contribution, the discussion deepens into a more personal discussion about one’s own roots.

Time code 05.38 Partly

Here the discussion moves to a level of subtext where the metaphor of roots plays a part in the way that it allows the articipant to talk about personal things without addressing them directly. The performer supports by continuing to use the same metaphor.

Time code 05.55 Do you like your roots?

The articipant asks the performer about their roots. At this point the performer commits themselves and opens about their roots which encourages the articipant further. I would claim that if they wouldn’t have offered their own take on the questions, the articipant would have felt distanced. In terms of the technique this means that the answer is precise enough, it gives something the articipant can get a grip on and develop when their turn in the interplay emerges.

When the discussion focuses for a moment on the performer, it also gives the articipant breathing space, creates further trust and also give the articipant a possibility for initiating direction. The last one happens at 06.29. when the articipant asks ‘Is it Mother Earth or Father Earth?’. At this point the discussion once again deepens, because of this question and it’s important that it’s being offered by the articipant. This commits the articipant to the interplay as opposed to a situation where the topic would have been introduced by the performer from the start.

Time code 06.39 Probably in hell

The interplay comes to a revealing moment at 06.36. when the performer asks the articipant ‘Do you have Mother Heaven?’ and the articipant answers fairly quickly ‘Probably in hell.’ By the speed and the blunt delivery and – also by knowing from personal communication – I know this is a very personal topic for the articipant.

This blunt reply clearly takes the performer by surprise at 06.44. which creates a moment of shared emotion between them as they negotiate whether it’s okay to laugh at the utterance of ‘Mother Hell’ and its possible subtexts.

This is how deeply personal meanings often came about also in the performance of The Real Health Center. They are not underlined by the articipant, but often come by chance, given offhand – like it doesn’t really matter so much. The articipant doesn’t want to put a deeply personal thing into a spotlight. By giving it offhand, bluntly and through a metaphor supported here by the performer and especially the environment it’s possible to bring it into play. The aim of the technique is then to pick those up and develop them if the articipant is willing to take up the invitation to go further.

Time code 06.56 Do you have a problematic relationship with your mother?

This question takes the shared emotion further and also deepens the discussion. At this point I think it’s a good choice on the part of the performer to bring the subtext into the surface as it allows both to play with the framing which suggests a session with a therapeutist. The lightness and humour this choice brings about helps the articipant to continue playing with ease.

Time code 07.03–7.17 It depends who you’re calling a mother

In this version of a scene with a doctor if I would pick one moment where we have arrived at a clear meaning in the sense the concept ‘meaning’ is used in this particular research, it would be the moment between 07.03–07.10 where the articipant is questioning who do you call a mother: ‘the biological one or the one who raised you’ with the actor further offering, ‘or the hell’.

Generally in terms of the technique being developed, the meaning doesn’t need to be articulated into words or realized in a conscious manner. It can also be a meaning as affect, meaning as relationship or any other way the meaning is sensed. The key is a sense of meaning, a meaning sensed.

Raw Material from GoPro

Here is the original unedited GoPro recording from which the clip ’Scene with the Doctor’ in addition to recordings from a regular video camera has been edited from. The unedited material is here to give context to the video material and to give a glimpse as to what has been the editing process in creating the exposition.

Raw Material from Regular Camera

Here is the original unedited regular video camera recording from which the clip ‘Scene with the Doctor’ in addition to recordings from a GoPro camera has been edited from. The unedited material is here to give context to the video material and to give a glimpse as to what has been the editing process in creating the exposition.