The London-based, performance collective, Shunt, performs in bridge vaults, old warehouses, and various expansive spaces in and around the city. They are fierce, daring, and courageous and encourage similar traits from their audience members. Audience members are do not know before a performance what they are getting themselves into. Sometimes, participants are instructed to take off their shoes, other times they are given a key. Whatever the case, the audience must embrace the realm of spontaneity and the vast unknown. Heather Uprichard, one of the founders and current members of Shunt, said, “We wanted to make work…outside an established space, so we made it where we could. We all had the same financial streak, so it was rigorously democratic, perhaps too much sometimes, but also brilliant. It has all been a great accident really–probably driven by chips on the shoulders and sheer bloody mindedness as much as anything”.
The core group is made up of 10 people, “with about 6 associates and many, many, many others in a beautiful big extended family” says Heather, “…we just wanted to get on and make work that excited us… Because there were 10 of us with an equal…creative steak in the work, the method evolved out of that really. We made it up as we went along and changed it as we saw fit”. This “method” that Heather discusses is the all-encompassing, ever-experimental, site-specific, theater performances that Shunt has masterfully conducted throughout their long career.
Their methods of site-specific performance began by maintaining a hub in Shunt’s birth-place, London. “I love it. I love the enormity, the anonymity and the diversity” says Heather. The groups decision not to tour has allowed them to remain in the city and create a strong following. “This was unexpected genius that gave us strength in the start. It helped us grow slowly and with confidence, and it let us grow an audience. Other people told us we were very different- -but what we just made theatre we liked, where we could and how we liked.” A previous show, The Boy Who Climbed Out of His Face, was performed in a temporary space, where audience members and performers appeared and disappeared in and out of shipping containers. Another performance, Money, was presented in an old warehouse. Shunt built a temporary set in the center of the vacated building and audience members were invited inside to completely saturate themselves in the other worldly and puzzling landscape that is, Shunt.
Surrealistic, humorous, and often deranged, the collective’s impressive interaction with dilapidated buildings, hand-crafted sets, and vivacious audience members has created a long standing career for the Shunt collective. Heather Uprichard, as well as all of the Shunt members, work as individual artists as well. She has recently been working on playwriting over the past couple of years and will have her first reading of her newest piece as part of the Women Centre Stage Festival at the Sphinx Theatre Initiative. The Shunt collective is working on plans for the summer of 2015 which include “an installation more than a show, though anything can change at this point” which still supports the extemporaneous aura which Shunt so eloquently sustains.
For more information on Shut Collective please see their website.
S. Nicole Lane is a multidisciplinary artist and writer residing in Chicago, IL