Tenth Anniversary Short Films – Robin Deacon

Watch October's film

Robin Deacon presents 'The Performance Pack' to a group of undergraduate students by Robin Deacon

Film Description:

This video sees Robin Deacon present the lecture style performance 'The Performance Pack' to a group of his second-year undergradutaute students. The film depicts his students either disengaged from his performative lecture or engaged in studying more traditional aspects of theatre to humorous effect…


Notes by Robin Deacon:

This video was made with some second year students from the Drama and Performance Studies degree course that I have been running for the past five years. Played out here is that scenario of blank faces and wincing incredulity that often goes hand in hand with introducing undergraduates to more 'challenging' forms of performance practice as set out in The Performance Pack, which nonetheless always serves as a brilliant introduction to 'the field'. Especially because I'm in it.

However, despite years of trying to beat it out of them, many of my students still want to be 'proper' actors. For all the repetition of my dictum that to do something truly interesting with a medium, part of you has to hold it in utter contempt and disdain, the 'well made play' remains the totemic point of reference for the average English drama student. That said, a certain degree of cynicism from the students in this area can be useful, in that it makes me try harder. Not so much in terms of the justification of all things experimental, but rather as a means of reminding me that yes, perhaps the Emperor (or live artist) sometimes isn't wearing any clothes.

Perhaps one has to develop a stoic acceptance of the fact many students just don't 'get' this, which in turn serves as a mechanism to prevent slipping into vain and arrogant proselytising. But I certainly have a heightened awareness of the contradictions in the idea that traditional conceptions of theatre are things to be opposed or overcome when teaching about live art. For example, its strange how I can't account for my willingness to accept suspension of disbelief in the context of watching a movie in a way that I can't when watching manipulative 'fourth wall' approaches to theatre. And I think I've always said that I'd rather see a brilliantly staged piece of script based, character driven drama than a rubbish piece of performance art.

I do remember a student asking me what my performances were like. I replied by saying that essentially, it involves me sort of rambling on with some video projections going on in the background. She replied, 'so, a bit like your lectures, then?' The question is whether lecturing and conducting workshops becomes either a supplement or substitute for ones practice – whether one is an artist that teaches, or a teacher who does art (as and when he can), or a teacher who used to be an artist? In the film, I am chosen again by my students as the pant wearing artist in The Performance Pack, but in the real world, I am left wondering to what degree these vexed questions regarding my identity register with this captive audience.

Robin Deacon is an artist, writer and filmmaker based in the UK. Working since the early 1990’s, much of his work encompasses live performance with a body of works that have explored journalistic and documentary approaches to arts practice.


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Part of Tenth Anniversary Short Films

A special series of projects including ten short film commissions for the Agency’s tenth anniversary.

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