Friday, October 19, 2007

Chess, The Theatre, A Hospital - and, You.

You're lost in a hospital ward, paused at the crossroads between four long corridors, each receeding down toward its own dim middle distance. Which to risk, which to risk? But it's such a busy bustling hospital: someone will come along, you think, soon enough someone will come along & point you in the right direction. So, you wait.

Then instead there comes a burst of sun light, and - for a moment - the beam places you in the centre of two perfect squares of light. And just for that second, the scuttling sounds of the wards subside. Silence. You contemplate your sudden new situation like a chess position... The moment passes. Time begins again, the day swirls on... Later you pass the same spot. Again, it's the only spot in the whole hospital still, quiet, empty. Once again, your mind turns to chess.

Now, fast forward in time to today. The person who found this place for paused, chess-like contemplation in the hectic hustle of St George's Hospital in Tooting is Sarah Weatherall. She's one of the two Artistic Directors of Lightning Ensemble, "a theatre company and registered charity created in 1995 to develop new writing for theatre," - whose "aim is to bring innovative theatre to a wide and diverse audience in non-traditional theatre spaces."

And this moment has gone on to inspire Sarah to create The Chess Players: a chess-based theatre performance in the hospital that will run Thursday 1st, Friday 2nd & Saturday 3rd November of this year. And this is where you might come in.

Sarah writes that she:
would like to include two or three tables for chess players to play speed chess with patients, visitors and staff at the hospital. The actors will engage with the public and pass them onto the volunteer chess players. We imagine that the volunteer chess players will fill between 1 - 2 hours a day and we welcome anyone who would like to take part in this project. The volunteer chess players will need to interact with the public and should have an interest in working with all levels of chess skill. Lightning Ensemble can meet volunteers prior to the project if they wish to practice on novices or learn more about us face-to-face.
So, a creative project based in one of the local community's key institutions and centred on chess is looking for players. Are you interested? Then you can contact Sarah directly on 07970 626 636, or via email, to volunteer or to find out more...

(PS. As for the performance itself, it's equally intriguing. Sarah says that it aims "to slow down time in the busy environs of St George's Hospital, Tooting, one of Europe's largest teaching hospitals. A series of chess games will be played, set in 1855 between characters inspired by the acquisitive Lord Dalhousie in India and Muhammad Bahadur Shah Zafar 11, a poetry loving Mughal. Two talented actors, who are also committed chess players, will play and lose with high stakes - that of territory in India.")


ejh said...

That's not the same as in Ray's film The Chess Players is it? Because if it is, I believe they were playing Indian chess.

Tom Chivers said...

Indeed Sarah had told me the project was related to Satyajit Ray's film The Chess Players, but I neglected to mention that in the blog post.

Is Indian chess not the same as chess, then?!

ejh said...

It's an older version, I think, pawns only moving one square, no powerful queen, that sort of thing.

ejh said...

It's what Sultan Khan played before he came to Europe.

Anonymous said...

Indian chess chariots instead of Bishops and elephants instead of knights I think.

Anonymous said...

from alan hayward . I spoke to Sarah and said I would go on the Thursday & friday . She said Richard the Secretary was also interested . I think shes looking for 3 chess players .

Anonymous said...

Tom,just a thought, if there are juniors about I could bring Emma. She starts school on the 27th but I am sure if there are juniors wanting a game they will release her for a day. She would play adults anyway.
Best regards
David Bentley

{illyria} said...

oh, tom, how absolutely interesting! i'm going to email you over the weekend; i know i've been a horribly correspondent. xx.

Tom Chivers said...

David - I would think Emma would be more than welcome! But it's Sarah's project really - so you might be better off contacting her directly.

{i} my dear, lovely to hear from you. I look forward to more.

Unknown said...

if it's indian i expect they'll wantonly burn an effigy of you in the streets, if you lose. since it's chess you might get off with say, a lock of hair.

what an innovative idea!

Anonymous said...

Dear all

Let me know if you're interested or if you have any questions at all. Indian chess has some different moves and the queen is called a minister.... The project, is inspired by the film, The Chess Players. We've also been reading The Last Mughal by William Dalrymple which is a great and evocative book about the British ousting the last King of Delhi off his throne in 1856. A poet, he was recorded to have often played chess whilst 'enjoying the moonlight' and his situation has been likened to a chessboard king. I hope you will be able to come down and play.
We are looking for players, between these times :

Thurs 1 Nov 4-7pm
Fri 2 Nov 4-7 pm
Sat 3 Nov 2-5 pm

Sarah Weatherall
Mobile 07970 626 636