Duet for the Small Hours

Duet for the Small Hours

Duet for the Small Hours


Commissioned by Brighton and Hove arts Commission as part of White Night – a series of arts events taking place through the night on Saturday 25th October in Brighton. This piece starts in three locations in central Brighton at 2am.


Devised under the direction of Charlie Morrissey with performers Guy Adams, Jason Keenan-Smith, Carrie Whitaker, Abi Mortimer, Cai Tomos and Annie Lok with sound by Scott Smith.


Three duets performed by 6 dancers through the streets of central Brighton in the middle of the night.


Two men

A woman and a man

Two women


The performance plays on the ambiguity of people’s exchanges glimpsed in passing late at night. Based on situations in which I’ve been wandering home at night, or looking out of my window and have seen people fighting, or arguing with someone, or drunkenly falling around the streets with their mates.


The questions that arise as we witness these events;


Are they lovers, enemies or friends? Are they fighting or playing? Are they drunk or are they hurt? Should I intervene or leave them to it?


So often our perspective of something we see is altered as events unfold to reveal that something very different is taking place.


This is an intriguing aspect of life in Brighton and of many towns in the small hours of the night, when people are returning home, or back to a party, or between one party and another, and these exchanges can sometimes reveal moving glimpses into the complexities of people’s relationships played out in the streets when people are tired or drunk and their guards are down.


These duets were performed through the streets in the town centre with the projections sited on buildings nearby. The projections represent a sort of imprint of all the exchanges of different couples through the years, played out in the streets, in alleyways and doorways – the ghosts of past and future relationships.





The duets were created by the performers working with a set of physical instructions which had to be strictly adhered to. The content of the duet was generated by the physical activity and how it affected the performers as they carried it out through the streets over the hour duration of the piece. The tasks required all the performers attention and so they were completely focussed on it and their partner.


The first instruction was that one person would remain passive with their eyes closed while their partner attempted to move them. The passive person retained enough tone in their body so that they didn’t simply collapse all the time, and the active partner tried to move them through space.


At a certain point the roles changed with an extended transition from being active to passive and vice versa. The transitions between each task became materials in themselves – a struggle between one place and another.


The second instruction involved each performer trying to push or pull the other while each resisting the other at the same time. This gradually arose out of the first instruction creating a physical dynamic of it’s own.


The next instruction was to dive or jump at your partner and the final one was about trying to push your partner in front of you.


The whole series of insructions would last about 20 minutes and then go back to the beginning – being performed on a loop which transformed as time passed through the sense of the performers tiredness, immersion and commitment.


Here’s what one of the performers, Abi Mortimer, had to say about performing the piece:


“What I found most inteesting about the performance of it is how the simple tasks transform into somehting so meaningful in the context – the streets.

Because the structure was so clear I found that I could not help but to really be moved by the quality and feeling by which I was able to perform these instructions. (when being watched and in the fresh air).


It was emotional.


Unquestionably emotional.


I did not think about the task and I did not call to mind any past rehearsal- I found the situation far too absorbing for “anecdotal” thought.

I wonder now if the hour further encouraged this state of mind.


The tiredness was a funny thing- I did not recognise it during the rehearsal but I know I was feeling it directly before and shortly after the performance so I think it was probably always there, and again that puts you in a different state of mind.


And it was trance- like.


I was totally absorbed and engaged in the performance- to the point where I could not even give you a ball park figure of how many people were following Carrie and I. I knew they were there- I felt a presence and I knew I was being watched but details? Nothing!


I remember quickly reaching a state where …. how do I put this…. where, yes this was a performance, but more so- a happening between Carrie and I  (and quite a private thing) which only because I was so “in It” was it ok to be watched. And that is what it was for me…. we were being watched- but the audience was in no way part of my happening- when I look back I dont remember them.


All this is true until a drunk pulls you out of it with a “check this out, this should be a fucking laugh”…. and suddenly… so suddenly I was immediately self conscious.


– But isn’t this true of real life? When you see an argument at 2.00am they dont notice you are watching and they dont care- they care only if you involve yourself.


It was also a funny thing just to be on the floor on the streets. It was imaginitive. Such a different thing to a studio floor. The pavement was cold, bit damp, grainy- and my contact with it was therefore Lasting… and this made it feel all the more real. Real dirt, real grazes, real wet- made it feel filmic!!! the experience was on your skin and was therefore believable, convincing.


This also transformed the tasks and the relationship.


It was exhilarating- when I finished I felt almost like I had survived something!”


When I watched the piece being performed through the streets, I found it really compelling. These people completely engaged in each other – clearly involved in some sort of physical conversation that resembled completely those people late at nigh – maybe drunk, maybe fighting, maybe friends, maybe lovers, and so on. The duets were followed by crowds of people and came into contact with people drunkenly wading into the situation trying to stop the fight or making comments. At one point, the Police showed up having been called by a resident to stop the fight. The combination of the performers, audience and passing public created such a fascinating spectacle. It was great following the performers who were so intensely involved in each other – it made me want really want to look at them, to wonder what they were doing because it was clear that were doing something which was generating its own momentum. I want to develop the piece further.