Rather than constructing detailed theatrical worlds in abandoned or ‘found’ spaces, Dante or Die makes theatre in already working spaces.
Having previously designed pieces for hotel rooms, and a ski-lift, the company’s latest show is set in the lonely corridors of a self-storage building.
Created in collaboration with acclaimed playwright Chloe Moss, Handle with Care follows the fictional Zoe on a 30-year journey, viewed through the prism of her belongings.
Two years ago, when she was storing some of her own stuff, co-artistic director Daphna Attias fell into conversation with the manager about exactly who uses self-storage.
“People come to these places at a crossroads in their lives, whether it’s death or separation, or a big move. It’s never a really calm moment of your life,” explains Attias.
“Lots of couples who break up go to these places to store their stuff, and then they never come back for it”, she says.
Priceless discoveries such as the entire oeuvre of US street photographer Vivian Maier are rare. “Almost always the value of people’s stuff that they keep isn’t what they paid for it,” she says.
But there is a huge emotional value harnessed in lock-ups like these, and people respond to different triggers in order to access their memories.
The show plays on this sensory experience to explore the power of memory as well as our modern relationship to the things we own.
“We don’t need tapes, or CDs, or records, and we don’t need photo albums because they’re all in a cloud,” says Attias. “But we buy a lot more now because of how easy it is to consume.”
She explains that in the modern world, the acquisition of property – housing and otherwise – can be seen as a measure of maturity, a milestone towards adulthood.
“Once you have stuff, like a flat and a sofa, it feels like you’re a person, that you’ve arrived, and it gives us some kind of comfort, but of course its not true.”
Part of the show’s development was conducted with professional hoarders, the V&A. One of the museum’s missions is to give young people a sense of responsibility over their own belongings, and to convince them to regard social media and other online spaces as their own personal archives.
And it is that space that will be the location for a forthcoming Dante or Die production. Site-specific in the intangible, hyper-public world that is the internet.
Handle with Care is at Urban Locker, Paterson Court, Peerless Street, EC1V 9EX until 25 June.