Free Townswoman

cylindertête, Berlin 22-29 January (public viewing 27 January at 19.00-21.00).

“Free Townswoman” is the working title of a video tableau about the work and play of a pre-industrial greengrocer´s wife.

The starting point for the project is a sculpture object – a cylinder seal – which, when rolled over soft clay impresses a hunting relief: a hunter and a bird chasing each other, each representing the other´s driving force and motivation.


The traditional market square, such as the original Roman Macellum, is a place where this relationship can be observed as set into system by economy. There the greengrocer, farmer, butcher and baker interact with customers, official representatives and people living on the fringe of the social structure. Trade becomes a framework for the development of personal relationships and life stories shaped by human emotional drive, ambitions and coincidence. The project will be produced as live tableaux, staging different parts of the market as a way to explore the human level of the public space.



The first tableau in the series features the greengrocer, which will be produced at the Tete space in Berlin. The piece follows a day of activity on a family run vegetable stall, from the morning through the working day until a night of recreation and courtship.



The piece plays out between seven core characters. While the Husband is abroad sourcing exotic fruits, the Wife remains in charge of business. The sun rises as she descends from her sleeping quarters and starts setting up shop. At her front door the Vagabond wakes up and sets up for her day of busking and begging. The Farmer arrives with produce. A Gentleman strolls by, endows the Vagabond with spare change, and proceeds into the stall to shop. The Butcher drops in for a chat and strikes a chord with the farmer. The situation is punctuated by the Constable who ushers the Vagabond away. At the height of the afternoon a cue forms as people stop to shop for the evening. Night falls, and the Wife holds a party at her stall. Among the guests are the Farmer, the Gentleman, the Butcher and the Constable. The Vagabond is invited in to entertain. Drink and dance softens the formality of the roles, opening for chances to mix and connect, and perhaps start a new path on the social spectrum – the night ends as the Wife retires upstairs, followed by one of the guests.


The piece will be constructed and shot at Tete in Mitte, Berlin: during the week of 24-31 January, with both a closed shoot with 5-6 actors and an open day where the audience can take part to create the evening party scene. The Roman Macellum and medieval painting are important conceptual and visual references for the project.


Kirsty Roberts has produced costumes based on studies of the work of Breugel, while the 19th century revival architecture of Tete lends a classical atmosphere to the production. Yet, the the piece is conceived as a mix of old and new, as a way to relate the core idea of the work to a contemporary situation – an ongoing cycle of human interaction and survival in the context of the social stage.


The shoot took place at tête 28-30 January. Some stills:

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