Behind the Scenes: the making of Constellations

On Sun 29 May, interdisciplinary performance maker and practice-based researcher Sian Goldby brings Constellations to Exeter Phoenix, an intimate performance exploring landscapes of memory and humanity’s relationship with the earth. Through a re-imagining of the performance space in miniature, it investigates themes of nostalgia and memory in relation to the multiple scales of environmental crisis.

In this blog piece, Sian talks about the making of Constellations and how her personal experiences and memories have formed the foundations for the performance.

"Constellations is designed to bring about the sensation that history is repeating itself. The work is a constant manipulation, extraction and destruction of world, earth and planet, and asks – how do we construct our worlds?" - Sian Goldby, Writer

When I was a child, I used to go with my parents on trips to Bekonscot Model Village every year. It was my absolute favourite place to go. I remember having an overwhelming urge to get into the tiny scenes; not just to climb inside and touch the tiny houses and trains and market stalls with my hands, but to somehow embody how it felt to live in these tiny spaces. I wanted to be immersed in this world, not just stand by at a distance all giant and ungainly in my wrongscale body. I wanted to shrink myself down, get closer to it all.

Constellations is a performance which aims to capture this curious visceral sensation by inviting audiences to immerse themselves into a micro-world of the performance and experience a different sensation of scale. The piece taps into childhood nostalgia and explores the concept of memory as a kind of ever-shifting landscape, and remembering as a form of drawing and re-drawing of mental maps.

I made the work in 2019, the year that I turned 30. My birthday is at the end of August and I had planned a celebration in a pub in my hometown of Bristol with the hope that we might be able to use the lovely suntrap of a roof terrace. This was before I remembered that it always rained on my birthday now, and has done since I turned 18.

I remember every birthday until the day I turned 18 being in beautiful sunshine; picnics, garden parties, outdoor swimming, were always on the list of activities for birthday parties during my childhood without the need to be too optimistic about the weather. A hot, sunny, summer birthday was a good payoff for being the youngest out of my peers and being teased about having to ‘wait’ to be ‘finally’ the next age.

How could it be that the UK seasons have changed so much within such a short time-frame? How can it be that just 30 years out of billions is all it has taken to shift the weather? Was it really sunny on every birthday or did I just imagine it?

As I reached this milestone, I began to reflect on other changes to the climate that I have noticed within my short time on this earth. I also found out that 30 years is the time period which is used as a reference point by the World Meteorological Organisation to calculate climate normals, and therefore fluctuations. I started to build the piece using my stories and memories, and I wanted to invite audiences to reflect on their own timescales too.

Constellations is designed to bring about the sensation that history is repeating itself. The work is a constant manipulation, extraction and destruction of world, earth and planet, and asks – how do we construct our worlds?

CONSTELLATIONS comes to Exeter Phoenix on Sun 29 May. The performance is designed for small audiences of up to 6 people. For tickets and timings, tap here >>