Interview: Project O on Voodoo
Project O’s Voodoo premieres next week (17/11) at Chelsea Theatre – Book your slot and leave time behind!
We caught up with Alexandrina Hemsley to talk MESSAGE, LONDON & INFLUENCES.
What is Project O and what’s your message for the world?
A collaboration between Alexandrina Hemsley and Jamila Johnson-Small that works choreographically to consider our experiences of and responses to racism and misogyny in the UK today. Looking at this as a systemic problem of oppression that affects us all and asking how we might move on and what that might look like: do we try to heal? do we ignore? do we attempt to dismantle? do we just get on with it?
What makes Voodoo different to other Project O shows?
It’s long! Four hours!
The last work we made before this – SWAGGA – was as a duet for two other people, we learned a lot from the process and it was great not to have our bodies as the subject of the work but it began to feel necessary that we meet each other again in the studio, moving together, reconsidering our positions…It’s been three years since we finished our first duet O and a lot has happened since then, we wanted to make a work that could both reflect on this and conjure a different world.
Also, Francis from Chelsea Theatre called us up asking for a premiere…
Who or what inspired you to make Voodoo?
Bimwilli and the Zimwi is a book we were both given as kids, we’d been speaking about how the story haunted us. The plot in short – a little girl is kidnapped by a zimwi after he hears her singing and he puts her in his drum and takes her about to different villages, he ‘plays the drum’ (ie she sings) and receives great praise and many gifts from all the people, eventually he makes the mistake of playing in Bimwilli’s village, her mother recognises her voice and she is freed from the drum but the zimwi turns into a pumpkin and rolls down the hill, escaping punishment/responsibility. A disturbing tale of the exploitation of females for the benefit of men, and there being no justice in the world.
Blade Runner. The Matrix. Retro sci-fi. Science fiction and the question of how we might make such a world in dance – what the place/role of technology might be, an interest in creating something that is totally of the present but also refers back and imagines a future simultaneously.
Time. Thinking about how we might ‘be in the present’ both with our dancing and our selves in the world in general – when life is shitty and you don’t want to face it, when privacy is rare with constant surveillance, documentation and communication, when you have to work all the time to stay in a city that you don’t even know if you enjoy being in anymore, when your cultural references are largely circa. 1983-1997 but you are supposed to be living in 2015, when contemporary dance is stuck in the past, when racism is still a thing, when rape is still a thing….and on!
What should an audience expect to experience at Chelsea Theatre?
To leave time behind and get involved in a ritual celebration of the radical power of dance aka a dance party to shake out your demons.
Great sound including new compositions from the massively talented Verity Susman, plus Project O’s newly acquired DJ skillz/experiments..
What are your favourite places to go in London and beyond?
- Abney Park Cemetery in Stoke Newington on a rainy day with a bottle of wine, an umbrella and a friend. Or alone, writing poetry.
- Southwark Bridge – remembering the view of St Paul’s before developers and architects went crazy.
- Getting lost in Brooklyn whilst on Project O holiday in New York.
What are your favourite free or cheap things to do in London?
- Walk around Canary Wharf – what the fuck?
- Streaming TV shows from bed.
- Hatching plans at 1am to take over dance and then texting Jamila about them.