We May Believe Or We May Never Know
27 April to 27 May 2018 at The White House, Dagenham
Curated by Sophie Chapman
We May Believe Or We May Never Know is a new film by Alice Theobald created as a result of her residency at The White House in the summer of 2017. During her time at the house Alice continued her long-term investigation into the spectrum of acting and performance present in our everyday lives. Her research explored how stereotype and cliché function in relationship to popular culture, and the demand for “authenticity”.
Devising role-play games, Theobald invited people she met and formed relationships with during her time in Dagenham to take part in recorded improvised music and acting sessions. Acting like someone behaving like something they are not involved group acting exercises based on the way we behave when trying to cover something up. Act like you’re fourteen now asked members of a the house’s poetry group (all aged 50+) to discuss their trials and tribulations as a fictional group of fourteen-year-olds living in the present day. Together they explored imagination as the most important tool for empathy, and the ways in which we reimagine other people’s stories by creating narratives around their lives.
Through these constructed situations, the framework for which creates layers of negation (someone acting as someone acting as…), across age, gender and class roles, Theobald was interested in asking what provides the basis for, and construction of, our empathy. However accurate or inaccurate a portrayal of a fourteen-year- old girl is through a seventy-year-old man’s incarnation, it can reveal more about the actor than the subject. Is it then possible through acting and exploring these layers of removal to find a different insight and set of truisms about how we intuitively empathise and understand one another?
As part of this process, Theobald formed D.A.M.E (Dagenham Art and Music Ensemble). “On a hot summer's day, residents from Dagenham and around came together to improvise in a big white house on Becontree Estate. Some had never played an instrument before.” Theobald created a demo of seven arrangements out of the recordings with musician and music producer Jack Wyllie. Through improvisation and ambient sound the group experimented with the different ways in which tempo, rhythm and pitch makes us feel, how it can manipulate our emotions, how music and sound has the power to enhance a certain mood or to take us out of another. The music workshop allowed the group to test out what it is to truly listen to one another, so everyone can be heard and everyone plays a roll.
We May Believe Or We May Never Know is a poetic exploration of people coming together, and trying to understand that which they do not know. It is also a snapshot of the community that has begun to spend time at The White House and the relationships that have begun to grow there. As the film weaves these components together you are charmed by the humour and candor of adults truly playing together. The exploration of empathy, collaboration, improvising and rotating control played out in the film mirror the The White House as an endeavor in itself. As a place where identities are held, people make themselves vulnerable, try new things and support one another, in a constantly evolving and beautifully unresolved way.