With a duration of around 75 minutes, PUSH was performed at the People Show Theatre in June 2003 by Cathrin Long and Matthew Bowyer, with a specially composed sound track by John Eacott. Produced by Artsadmin.
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PUSH is a Multimedia performance devised and directed by Alexa Wright in collaboration with writers Diane Samuels and Sarah Woods and performer Cathrin Long. PUSH was developed during a four year research period with input from pain specialists Dr Charles Pither, Dr Anita Holdcroft and Dr Mick Serpell. Patrick Wall, whose research shattered traditional understanding of pain, died shortly after recording an interview which forms part of the work.
Using documentary footage in combination with metaphorical imagery of mountain climbing, PUSH charts the rational and irrational responses of people caught in a state of unexplained physical suffering. In the combination of manipulated imagery with live performance and documentary audio and video footage a world is created where everyday experiences are at once familiar and utterly strange. In this context Cathrin Long's candid and incisive reflections along with the recordings of leading scientist Patrick Wall and of Dr Charles Pither will perhaps change our understanding of what it means to live with long-term pain.
Funded by The Gulbenkian Foundation and a Wellcome Trust Science for Stage and Screen Award.
PUSH begins in darkness, with a single light catching the topmost branches of a live tree. The voice of the leading pain expert, Professor Patrick Wall is heard through the darkness questioning the nature of pain. A huge video projection of the head and shoulders of Cathrin Long recounting intimate details of her experience of living with chronic pain appears intermittently to one side of the space as a hooded figure is seen to shuffle around in the darkness.
A complex layering of fiction and reality is set up as performer Matthew Bowyer enters to present a slide talk on his experiences as a mountaineer. A dialogue evolves between the metaphorical figure of pain, the mountaineer, the very real presence of Cathrin on video, the projected face of Charles Pither speaking as a medical professional, and the disembodied voice of Patrick Wall. Images of mountains and gardens are used as metaphors to suggest the physicality of the pain experience. Words are projected as images and linked with broken audio clips to represent some of the social effects of chronic pain. The dialogue between fiction and reality is resolved at the end of the piece as we see that the hooded figure is, in fact, played by Cathrin whose reality we see documented on video.