Photo: Manu Valarce Photography 2017 Photo: Adam Levy Photo: Adam Levy Photo: Adam Levy Photo: Adam Levy Photo: Manu Valarce Photography 2017 Photo: Adam Levy work-in-progress, Chelsea Theatre, Nov 2010 work-in-progress, Chelsea Theatre, Nov 2010 Photo: Manu Valarce Photography 2017

So Below

Gerard Bell & Karen Christopher

lighting design by Martin Langthorne

Buckets of water, mounds of earth, gravel, the time it takes a tree to wrap around a gaggle of grave stones, a stutter holding us in place. Two performers learn the dance steps, tidy the graves, fail to determine the difference between pain and itch, and tremble in the face of a world made small. Combining composed and appropriated movement with spoken word, and focussing on the texture and sound of materials, the performance strives to express the completeness of a single moment.

We walk on the wrong side, we fail to progress, we run from the dance, we light the match, we define happiness, we have a cup of tea. We can’t find the horizon. We tremble in the face of death. We tend the garden. We attempt to present our findings on the quality of distance. Somewhere between heartbeats we are confronted with the time it takes a tree to grow around a circle of dislocated gravestones. We make way for progress.

This duet explores a moment of pause, the space between two stutters—stopped in our tracks, we can’t move on—and as time stops and the world grows small around us we find a multitude encased in this interval. With a combination of gravity and lightness two people inhabit a carefully constructed twilight of mounding earth and the sound of water intermingled with the comic grace of a time between world wars.

Gerard Bell is an actor who has worked in conventional and experimental performance (theatre, film, video, dance and installation work) in Europe and the UK. He has worked with Pina Bausch, Graeme Miller, David Gale, Athina Vahla, Lucy Cash, Improbable and Stan’s Café.

The creation of So Below was supported by Chelsea Theatre’s Associate Artist scheme. So Below is available for touring 2012/13.

So Below forms part of The Difference Between Home and Poem: a duet series. Each project in the series is jointly made, directed and performed by Karen Christopher and another artist.

Performance History

9 March 2017, Chisenhale Dance Space, London (as part of TWOFOLD)

Spring 2013
18 May 2013 as part of symposium On Collaboration II (Middlesex University, London)

Autumn 2012
7 November, 2012
, Performing House in York
2 November, 2012, Performance Centre in Falmouth
19 & 20 October, 2012, Chelsea Theatre SACRED 

November 20, 2010, Chelsea Theatre, SACRED (work-in-progress).


Video trailer from performance at Chelsea Theatre, 20 October 2012 (video by Susanne Dietz).

For full-length video documentation of the premiere performance of So Below at Chelsea Theatre, London, 20 October 2012 click here.


Early video taster for the live performance So Below composed and performed by Gerard Bell & Karen Christopher.
Video shot by Lucy Cash.

Written response

To read writer Joe Kelleher's response to So Below click here.

To read writer Mary Paterson's response to So Below click here.

The following is an excerpt from a written response by Sara Jane Bailes to a work-in-progress viewing of the work :

I am not sure of the moment when the activity in the room passes from pre-show to show, from not being the thing itself to becoming something that demands that I watch or imagine (to use Gerard’s word) in a different way. The openness of things – of doors leading to exterior spaces, of objects in space not entirely of the same world, of activities/tasks half in a state of incompletion or to-be-continued, under construction - contributes to this, and that threshold state is particularly useful as an overall “atmosphere” that circumscribes the piece.

Sara Jane Bailes is (a friend, theatre artist, author, director, Reader in Theatre and Performance Studies) the author of Performance Theatre and the Poetics of Failure