D.A.M.E (Dagenham Art and Music Ensemble) - Alice Theobald

D.A.M.E (Dagenham Art and Music Ensemble) – Alice TheobaldD.A.M.E (Dagenham Art and Music Ensemble)
Alice Theobald

During her residency at The White House which took place over the summer of 2017, artist Alice Theobald continued on her long-term investigation into the spectrum of acting and performance present in our everyday lives, how certain stereotypes and cliché function in relationship to popular culture, and the demand for “authenticity”.

Through role-play and devising various situations, Theobald invited people she met and formed relationships with during her time in Dagenham to take part in recorded improvised music and acting sessions. One outcome of these sessions was to generate research and material for a new body of work. Acting like someone behaving like something they are not involved group acting exercises based on the way we behave when trying to cover something up and Act like you’re fourteen now asked members of a the house’ poetry group (all aged 50+) to discuss their trials and tribulations as a fictional group of 14-year-olds living in the present day. Together they explored the imagination as the most important tool for empathy, and the ways in which we reimagine other people’s stories by creating narratives around people’s lives.

Through these constructed situations, the framework for which creates layers of negation (someone acting as someone acting as…), across age, gender and class roles, Theobald was interested in asking what provides the basis for, and construction of, our empathy. However accurate or inaccurate a portrayal of a 14-year- old girl is through a seventy-year- old mans re-incarnation, it can reveal more of the actor than the subject; of their perceptions and imagination. Is it then possible through acting and exploring these layers of removal to find a different insight and set of truisms about how we intuitively empathise and understand each other?

As part of this process, Theobald formed D.A.M.E (Dagenham Art and Music Ensemble).

“On a hot summers day, residents from Dagenham and around came together to improvise in a big white house on Becontree Estate. Some had never played an instrument before.”

Theobald created a demo of seven arrangements out of the recordings with musician and music producer Jack Wyllie. Through improvisation and ambient sound the group experimented with the different ways in which tempo, rhythm and pitch makes us feel, how it can manipulate our emotions and how music and sound has the power to enhance a certain mood or to take us out of another.

Theobald will be drawing on this research and improvisations for future work.


Alice Theobald’s practice draws upon a mixture of pop cultural references to develop multifaceted installations that incorporate sculpture, music, performance, and video. During her residency at The White House, Alice will be drawing on her long-term research into how certain stereotypes and cliché function in relationship to popular culture and the spectrum of acting and performance present in our everyday lives to create a new artwork.

How have overlooked and accepted conventions, representations and an increasing demand for “authentic” display, as depicted through media and popular culture, affected our experience of living truthfully? In what ways can we, the public, re-gain agency over what moves us (both physically and emotionally) and how we feel, behave and subsequently lead our lives by better understanding the tools of mass-communication? How do we judge what constitutes genuine behaviour and why is it important to be discussing this now?


Alice Theobald (b.1985 Leicester) lives and works in Huntingdon and graduated from the Royal Academy Schools in 2014. Recent performances, exhibitions, and film screenings include: Weddings and Babies, Pilar Corrias Gallery, London (2017); The Next Step, Two Queens, Leicester (2016); Alice Theobald and Atomik Architecture, BALTIC Ryder Commission, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead (2016); You’ve got my back and I’m on your side, FRAC Champagne-Ardenne, Reims (2016); NEO-PAGAN BITCH-WITCH!, Evelyn Yard, London (2016); The Boys The Girls The Political, Lisson Gallery, London (2015); The Fifth Artist, Wysing Arts Centre, Cambridge (2015); Scene Four: Home, Flat Time House, London (2015); Open Source, Gillett Square, London (2015); Dear Luxembourg (yours, bucktoothed girl), Nosbaum Reding Projects, Luxembourg (2015); Marmalade Me, South London Gallery, London (2014); I’ve said yes now, that’s it., Outpost, Norwich (2014); I’ve said yes now, that’s it., Chisenhale Gallery, London (2014); AFTER/HOURS/DROP/BOX, Modern Art Oxford, Oxford (2013), Spike Island, Bristol (2014); Young London, V22, London (2013); They Keep Putting Words In My Mouth! An Operetta of Sorts, Pilar Corrias Gallery, London (2013); Situation|Event, Gasworks, London (2013); 6th Tropical Lab, ICA, Singapore (2012). She is currently working on an opera as a member of Ravioli Me Away ( w/ Siân Dorrer and Rosie Ridgway) at Wysing Arts Centre, touring to Nottingham Contemporary and BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in 2018. Supported by London Borough of Barking & Dagenham, Arts Council England and Genesis Foundation.