The world of work explored in Brighton Festival 12-hour showcase

How we spend our time – particularly in terms of work – is the subject of a remarkably innovative piece for this year’s Brighton Festival.

12 Last Songs - pic by David Lindsay... Brighton Festival
12 Last Songs - pic by David Lindsay... Brighton Festival

Richard Gregory is director of 12 Last Songs which takes place on May 22 at the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts (ACCA) running 12pm–12am.

The idea is that audiences can come and go as they please over the course of the afternoon and evening. But as Richard says some people will turn up intending spend an hour there and end up so transfixed that an hour becomes four. Making a living, finding your passion and watching the clock are all included. There are no actors. It’s a live exhibition of people, an epic performance that casts the steady rhythms of life on a carnival scale. Over 12 hours, workers will perform paid shifts, creating a fleeting portrait of society. A builder might build a wall, a hairdresser might cut someone’s hair, a chef might prepare a meal...

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Created with the people of Brighton, this durational production is the latest work by Manchester-based ensemble Quarantine – last in Brighton in 2018 with dance piece Wallflower. They are known for their imaginative explorations of daily life.

“For me the initial idea, which aligns with a lot of the work that we have made over the last 23 years, was to try to make a piece of work which brings people together in a room who would not normally occupy the same space as each other. We had an idea of inviting people in because of the work that they do and we were starting to explore that when the pandemic hit. And then with the pandemic the subject of work became a very hot topic for people. Certainly in my personal life there was a real shift in my working experience and I had a very different working relationship with my colleagues but also because of what was happening there was a feeling that certain jobs, like the NHS or people in supermarkets or people who are delivering things, weren't noticed as much as they should have been and so work became a very strong element in the piece. When we could we started experimenting by bringing in people. Our intention was to do a 90-minute show with three people but it is now 12 hours long. It starts at midday and finishes at midnight and over the course of those 12 hours we've invited 24 people to come in, working in shifts.

“Where possible they will do what they do for work and we have three performers on stage that will ask some questions. We have 600 questions that are cat projected onto a screen and we start with question one and we go through them until hopefully we get to finish with question 600. Some are about their work and some are about how they live their lives and how they see themselves in the world. We're trying to timetable it according to the work that they do. A child-minder might be earlier in the day and someone like a bouncer would be later.”

They is still looking for a bouncer, a plumber, a midwife and a postman/postwoman. Email [email protected]