In 1845, the American writer and philosopher Henry Thoreau, horrified by what he perceived as materialist consumerists’ destruction of and distance from nature, was driven to relocate to a hut in the woods with a mere 27 possessions, the first step on a voyage of artistic and self discovery.
‘The resulting book, Walden or Life in the Woods, feels incredibly ahead of its time,’ says Nicholas Bone, director of this challenging adaptation. ‘What he writes about people finding a way to live more simply and being more careful about reusing things seems pertinent to us now.’
Bone is the first to admit he faced an intimidating task, as the book is part how-to manual on living a self-sufficient life, part philosophical discussion about being happy with yourself and your own company. ‘There’s this rich series of textures I had to try to distil,’ he says. ‘I wanted to find a performance style that matched what Thoreau was trying to do.’
Setting the piece in an art gallery, also allows the production to incorporate the work of environmental artists, Sans Façon. ‘In a neutral space like Stills, I could create the most direct form of connection between actor and audience,’ says Bone. ‘If this piece makes people think slightly differently about how they relate to each other and everything around them then that would be a bonus.’