Research

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How the Evolution Project began….

In 2016, whilst experimenting with mask, Vicky Wright discovered how repeating patterns of movement would arise from a mask, when it was used across different people and workshop groups. It was clear that the shape of the mask holds the information, and this can be revealed when the mask is used and played. 

Looking across into palaeontology, we have vast amounts of information through fossils, skull data and reconstructions on the shape of species’ faces, and how they change along evolutionary pathways.

In science, there are ways to analyse the changing facial morphology of animals, but up until this point there has not been an interdisciplinary cross over to explore the change in face, through mask studies & theatre.

Inspired by the book “Your Inner Fish” by Professor Neil Shubin, Vicky focussed on the key species along the pathway from fish to man. 

Changing Facial Morphology

Using Larval Masks to study facial morphology

Larval mask is a style of white theatre mask. It is used to study the shape of a mask and its connected movement patterns. Applying this across to evolution, Vicky collaborated with palaeontologists, using 3D scans of the fossils to re-create the masks. For each species, she created an animal mask and a larval mask. 

Translating this exploration of movement across into our present day anatomy, it was important to align the masks with the spine. 


Research

Phase 1 – Exploring in the masks for the first time

6th & 7th November

Funded by the Arts Council England, 2 days of filmed movement research took place in London with a team of highly trained performers. Led by Vicky Wright, alongside Professor Christine Janis (Vertebrate Palaeontologist, Bristol University), the masks were used for the first time, exploring the patterns of movement to arise. 

Meet the R&D Team

Our initial approach focussed on the larval masks. Using movement analysis, improvisation and play, a number of key observations arose from the performers with each mask. At this stage, they were unaware as to the species and species characteristics the masks related to. This was purely an exploration of how shape effects movement. 

Using these observations, we integrated our findings from the larval masks across into the coloured & textured animal masks. Working with Professor Janis we were able to deepen this re-construction and integrate information  from fossil analysis across into the animal movement.


Phase 2 – Exploring repeated patterns

Collaborating with 5 Theatre & Movement Schools across the UK, 1-day workshops were carried out across November 2018 – January 2019, exploring the masks with theatre students from a broad range of movement backgrounds.

The aim was to identify the patterns of movement to arise from the masks, working with different groups of people. Was there information held in the mask that repeated across the collective? Is there a commonality of information that arises from a body knowledge in improvisation & mask-state rather than from projected stereotypes of the animals?

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We collaborated with 5 theatre schools:

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“Exploring the movement of these ancient creatures was unlike any other experience, seeing them come alive in the studio feels like a uniquely personal and sometimes spiritual happening. Discovering the lateral movement of the earlier creatures and how we can move our own bodies in accordance to this is digging into evolutionary memories that are hundreds of millions of years old.” – Performer, Briony O’Callaghan.