AN A to Z of The Theatre of Mistakes

theatre-of-mistakes Going

For another view of the Theatre of Mistakes by Marie-Anne Mancio click here

And here is the link to her A to Z of The Theatre of Mistakes.

Mind you, there are several errors in her A to Z.  This “nameless” performer is in fact Deborah Howell, my mother, performing in full hunting-kit at the Artists Meeting Place in Covent Garden.  This was in 1974: The Ting at AMP – first performance by The Theatre of Mistakes, Artists Meeting Place, London. In those days we were known as The Ting: Theatre of Mistakes.

Deborah Howell

And under the heading Signe Lie Howell is a picture of Jane Clark chatting with me in a rehearsal for Birth Ballet Chorale. Here is a picture of my wife, Signe, who also performed in that first event at AMP:



Footage of Waterfall 12 at The Hayward

There is fleeting footage of Waterfall 12 in a BBC programme called Bricks

The Theatre of Mistakes performed A Waterfall at the Hayward Gallery  during the first Hayward Annual in 1977.
There was a different performance for each day of this 48 day exhibition.  The piece was originally based on a timing device for another performance.  On day 1, a single performer sat cross-legged between two buckets with a cup in each hand.  She scooped water out of the first pail into one cup, poured it into the other cup, then poured it out of the second cup into the second pail.  Each action lasted for twenty counts – so transference of water took 60 seconds per cupful.  There were sixty cups of water in the first pail – so to empty it took an hour.  Her last action was to pour all the water in the second pail back into the first pail.  On the second day a second performer was added as well as a chair and the second performer held the second bucket between his legs – now the last action of the first performer was to pour water from the second cup into the first cup of the second performer.  Thus a pouring chain was established.  On the third day a table was added and a third performer.  By the twelth day there were twelve performers arranged vertically above each other on a structure made of tables balanced on chairs balanced on top of other tables.  The synchronisation of arm-movements was achieved by the recitation of chants – known as “Koans” – and all these chants were based on weather reports from off-shore regions of the British Isles.  Each day’s performance culminated in the pouring of the water in the top bucket into the lower bucket, so at every stage the lower bucket had to be within range of the upper pouring position – this dictated the nature of the structure.  After twelve days, the performer cross-legged on the ground was removed and the lower bucket raised onto the first chair – so by the twenty-fourth day there was again only one performer, this time sitting at the height of the completed structure with a bucket on either side of him.  For the next twenty-four days, the entire sequence of performance was reversed, and so the structure was dismantled and the last day was a reflection of the first day.

The Street


The Street was performed by The Theatre of Mistakes in July, 1975.  It was devised by members of the company nucleus – Anthony Howell, Fiona Templeton, Michael Greenall and Patricia Murphy.  Drawing from “The Gymnasium” – a comprehensive collection of performance exercises devised by the company – a performance was created which required some nine weeks of rehearsal on the same London street – Ascham Street in Kentish Town.  This performance featured a chorus of performers in the first floor windows, and any passerby walking up the pavement on the left would trigger closure of the windows – which in turn caused most the performers in the street to fall to the ground.  A passerby walking up the pavement on the right would trigger the opening of the windows and the continuation of the chorus which in turn triggered the continuation of the performance.  The chorus itself was created out of snippets of conversation overheard from the street below.  These were repeated additively in instant, repetitive sonnet forms.  The performance also featured the externalisation of residents’ living rooms (their furniture including televisions placed on the pavements), an interior decorated skip, and slow motion children who followed a slow motion ice-cream van into the deepening twilight.