GPS

The Performance of Covert Cultural Landscapes: A Theatre/Archaeology Analysis

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Stevens, Fraser. “The Performance of Covert Cultural Landscapes: A Theatre/Archaeology Analysis.” Global Performance Studies, vol. 3, no. 2, 2020, https://doi.org/10.33303/gpsv3n2a5

Fraser Stevens

University of Maryland

Finding the Hidden

On a slight bend on Durham Regional Road 52 in the town of Whitby, Canada, there is a non-descript green space, perhaps a park, behind the Liquor Control Board of Ontario Durham Regional Logistics Centre. In the middle of this patch of grass is a curved wall with a small plaque at its centre and four flags — The Canadian Red Ensign, The American Stars and Stripes, The British Union Jack, and The Contemporary Maple Leaf of Canada — flying behind. The plaque reads as follows:

CAMP X

1941 — 1946

ON THIS SITE BRITISH SECURITY

CO-ORDINATION OPERATED SPECIAL

TRAINING SCHOOL NO. 103 AND HYDRA.

S.T.S. 103 TRAINED ALLIED AGENTS

IN THE TECHNIQUES OF SECRET

WARFARE FOR THE SPECIAL OPERATIONS

EXECUTIVE (SOE) BRANCH OF THE

BRITISH INTELLIGENCE SERVICE.

HYDRA NETWORK COMMUNICATED

VITAL MESSAGES BETWEEN CANADA, THE

UNITED STATES AND GREAT BRITAIN.

THIS COMMEMORATION IS DEDICATED

TO THE SERVICE OF THE MEN AND

WOMEN WHO TOOK PART IN THESE

OPERATIONS.

This little-known location is where many civilians from North America began their training for work as espionage agents in Europe and other locations during the Second World War. It is where agents of the Office of Strategic Services (the forerunner to the Central Intelligence Agency) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation began their initial training. It has been a major part of the development of contemporary spy agencies globally and yet it is virtually unknown to the wider public.

In September of 2017, I convinced a friend to join me on a drive to visit this small patch of land. It was a bright sunny day as we made our way out of the city, driving along with the traffic until we came to Stephenson drive and exited the highway. Our search for the park was more challenging than we first thought it would be and the lack of signage was noticeable. After a few wrong turns and consulting maps on our cellphones we finally arrived. There was no parking available so we decided to leave our vehicle in a vacant space outside of the rough looking office building that hosts the local trade union chapter for Unifor. We began our walk and made our way towards a sign upon which was a map, listing several parks in the area and a brief explanation of the location and its historical significance. The sign read “In 1941, a spy training camp was established on this site by Sir William Stephenson (1896-1989) ‘the Man Called Intrepid’, the Director of British Security Coordination. Many secret agents were trained at the camp for spy missions in Europe during the Second World War. Among those was Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond spy novels.” Clearly there is, or at least was, an interest in elevating the status and memory of this place while capitalizing on people’s knowledge of James Bond. Yet, the lack of historical recognition was very apparent. Our difficulty in finding this place, the spotty signage, the inability to park, seemed intentional. It is as if an attempt has been made to prevent people from finding this location. The park itself and its associated history seemed almost erased.

A view of the park map. A field in the park landscape.

Over the past two years I have been occupied with the question of how theatre and performance intersect with landscape. More specifically, my interests lie in the world of espionage, the subversive and the covert as it relates to theatre and performance practice. How do places disappear? How are they hidden? Why is this the case?  Throughout this paper I consider these questions alongside more broad queries of how a landscape might perform, and what insight theatre and performance studies methodologies offer researchers in respect to covert practices.

The training base that is the focus of this article was subsequently demolished by the Canadian Government around 1969. In simple terms, the reason that such places are destroyed is to prevent their analysis. Such action imbues the landscape with a covert context due to its association with secretive government efforts. I intend to show that a performance reading of what I term “covert landscapes,” ones which are hidden and/or destroyed, enables a viewer to infer substantial information from an otherwise unseen place. Furthermore, I intend to demonstrate that this undertaking can occur through a theatre/archaeology analysis. By employing such an approach, we may gain insight into covert practices of the past and present.

In the first half of this paper I will work through the intersection of landscape with theatre and performance and follow this with an analysis of covert performance in an effort to clarify what constitutes a “covert landscape.” In the second half of this article I will apply these terms to an analysis of the landscape in question and conclude with speculation on what sort of information can be gleaned through a performance reading of “covert landscapes.”

Haptic and Optic Interaction

Though at first it may seem intuitive, the definition of landscape is slippery, as Una Chaudhuri explains in the introduction to her co-edited volume, Land/Scape/Theater. For many people a landscape often implies a vista or view point, a stationary and aesthetic painting or drawing; all rooted in visual perception. My suggestion is that this is not the only formulation worth considering, that landscapes are not a stationary place or locale but are dynamic. Indeed, I would suggest that they are performing in a multitude of capacities. This may seem contradictory. If a traditional understanding of landscape is reliant on optic qualities how might they have anything to do with practices rooted in physicality? Scholars such as Richard Stein have demonstrated that landscapes, both as phenomena and representation, are not stationary single-units but are in fact dynamic compositions that are in a state of flux. This liquid quality is an integral aspect of landscapes and covert landscapes in particular.

A relationship between theatre, performance and landscape is not a new area of inquiry, nor is it exclusive to scholarship from theatre and performance studies departments. Chadhuri notes that John Brinckerhoff Jackson — the founder of studies of “cultural landscape” — established a theory of landscapes that gestures toward the idea of theatrum mundi and the world stage. She explains that, “Landscape, then, was the framing, or staging of geography” (15). This is an intriguing departure point when thinking through landscape as performance. If we follow Jackson’s idea of framing further, as it is described by Chadhuri, what emerges is a phenomenon that is affected by both humans and nature, fluid and shifting, while layered and affected by a multitude of intersecting events. This begins to sound much like the idea of a palimpsest or painting — perhaps even more than a performance — an idea I will return to later in this article.

Within the fields of theatre and performance the term “landscape” has helped generate a number of theoretical and practical perspectives that range from artistic strategies to scholarly composition, as is evidenced in the collection, Land/Scape/Theater, edited by Elinor Fuchs and Una Chaudhuri. Through his own meditation on the subject, which is consolidated in the publication In Comes I, Mike Pearson traces through theories of this challenging term. As a part of his dramaturgical musings he argues for “a shift from the optic to the haptic” (11) when considering performances as landscapes. Pearson makes the case for an appreciation of the dynamism of landscapes in order to broaden the composition of performances. Such dramaturgical technique is not only important in the consideration of performance as landscape but also when thinking through landscape as performance. The physicality of a landscape, its movement, along with the changes it goes through and the ability to interact with it, are critical elements when considering the alteration of such landscapes in an effort to hide them or their past. Not only can a landscape be an act of framing, intersection, or a layering but a device, technique, or even theoretical formulation.

However, unlike Pearson I do not believe that a shift from optic to haptic should be exclusive. While haptic considerations are necessary in the understanding of landscapes, ignoring optic qualities limits the sensorial experience of such places to those of touch and bodily movement. In many ways, I believe that we should be embracing Gertrude Stein’s position on the relational quality in landscapes. That “the landscape has its formation […] not moving but being always in relation, the trees to the hills the hills to the fields the trees to each other any piece of it to any sky and then any detail to any other detail” (125). The richness in this formation is that it can include history, bodies, intentions, and more. In short, the dynamism of such a place must be considered when thinking through the concept of landscape. More specifically to the paper, “covert landscapes” are as much about their optic qualities as they are haptic. Bodies moved (and continue to move) through these spaces, while the secret training bases on whole were/are viewed by outsiders and often are alternate spaces such as farms, manor houses, or any other iteration meant to camouflage the intention of these places. They have their natural environment and their built facilities, yet they have been altered by people, nature, and time.

With the ideas of Chaudhuri, Jackson, Pearson, and Stein in mind, I would suggest that a landscape, and more specifically a performance landscape, is most certainly not fixed. It is a composition of relations between a multitude of environmental elements including, but not limited to, humans, plants, animals, and objects. They are not time-bound and can exist within the past, the present, and the future. Such landscapes can be constructed through accident or deliberate action, as well as discovered. They are all-encompassing and un-exclusive, allowing for multiple landscapes to be brought together to create a new landscape for analysis, or might exist as a singularity. For example, the training base of Camp X can be considered singularly as the contemporary park, the former base, the nature reserve, and/or all of these together. One important aspect of my proposed definition, which is intrinsic to the case study I employ, is that a landscape can never be terminated entirely. Once it is recognized and/or established, it is no longer time- or physically-bound, as it does not rely solely on its physical manifestation for its status. It can possess both tangible and intangible qualities and is not governed by the rules of scientific evidence. Finally, and perhaps most important to this paper, landscapes can both be representative and actual. What is meant by this is that one landscape can be a substitution for another, while at the same time existing as a distinct entity. Camp X, as it was intended, was both its own landscape of agent training while also substituting as the lowlands.

As I introduced earlier, this paper is, among other things, an exercise in theatre/archaeology towards the performance qualities of “covert landscapes.” An exploration of how studying covert landscape can produce knowledge of the performance might have occurred in this location. It is concerned with the reading of landscapes as a performance event. Moreover, the purpose of this paper is to explore how covert practices disrupt traditional ideas of landscapes and that the analysis of covert events can take place by reading landscapes as performance. In order to do so it is important to define what the idea of “covert” is.

The Hidden and Concealed

A cursory internet search for a definition of the term “covert” will result in numerous perspectives, most of which will allude to the notion of “the hidden” or “the concealed.” All are important ideas to keep in mind. But the idea of “covert” addressed in this piece hinges on the context of institutional secrets — and more specifically government ones. These types of secrets are not new phenomena; they are a central part of the process of organizing information within an administration. In her book, Secrets, Sissela Bok defines secrecy as “intentional concealment” (9) and explains that secrecy has been employed by governments since ancient periods, with varying degrees of political success. Intentionality, and government intentions in particular, are a critical aspect within an analysis of covert practice. In certain regards we might define the idea of covert as the byproduct of intentional concealment by institutions.

As Bok explains, secrecy is often caught in an ethical quagmire. Such ethical dilemmas should be considered thoroughly at points. The question of whether a location should stay concealed, or the historical actions remain undocumented are not irrelevant queries. However, the ethics of secrecy are another issue altogether and outside the prevue of thinking through “covert landscapes.” The reason I suggest this is because secrecy is often employed to distract from an analysis or deeper investigation. To engage with the dilemma of secrecy is to be distracted from the analysis of covert actions and landscapes as phenomena. What is more integral to this particular investigation is how covert action manifests. More specifically, it is how the idea of covert practice intersects with the study of theatre and performance.

A notable and defining aspect of the covert is the ability to remain undetected. In my own work on espionage, I am interested in the ability to train performers to remain undetected. A shared concern within both the world of espionage and the destroyed training facility is the ability to blend in and remain camouflaged. This is a central subject addressed by Laura Levin, who suggests that we might think through camouflage as a “form of art-making uniquely concerned with the ways that subjects negotiate the terms of their appearance in relation to a larger world picture” (31). This particular conceptualization of camouflage and by association “the covert” aligns well with the idea of landscape, both in the traditional compositional/pictorial sense, and within the theatre and performance-oriented construct. Arguably, the act of blending in is to achieve an appearance so seamlessly a part of the larger world picture as to not allow for any detection. This is, in essence, an employment of theatrical make-believe in a manner that is often a one-way transaction. Acts of camouflage lead the unwitting audience believe in a falsity, which they are perceiving to be true — an idea I will return to momentarily.

Another way in which the idea of “covert” might be thought of is through the notion of “undercover.” Like the terms “camouflage” and “covert” the word “undercover” has a seemingly intuitive quality about it. It conjures up the great spy thrillers that so many people are familiar with and evokes a narrative of deception. Sara K. Schneider refers to the work of undercover operators as “not-not identities” in which a performance takes place “not in the self, but in the scene” (4). I would argue that this idea should be extended to landscapes. In the case of Camp X, we are presented with a place that is not-not a park in the contemporary setting, and was not-not a farmstead during the Second World War. The composition of the scene in which these places are situated is an integral aspect of how they are viewed. However, it is important to identify that neither camouflage nor undercover work is accidental.

Returning to Bok’s notion of secrecy, in each of these instances it is critical to consider the intentionality behind the actions. Such intentionality would suggest that there is an act of deception taking place. “Deception,” like “landscape” and “covert,” is a tricky idea to pin down. This is, in many ways, due to the fact that to many people it connotes a moral and/or ethical quandary.  Bearing this in mind, what is quite clear is that it is reliant on at least one actor misdirecting the perception of another. Thomas L. Carson provides a well-thought and reasoned definition of deception, which he describes as follows: “in order for there to be deception it is necessary that the deceiver believes what she causes the other person(s) to believe is false” (48). Following this, “the covert” is tied to the act of deception by the fact that those performing the covert act/action know that what a perceiver thinks of their act/action is false. This includes information, physicality, and optical subject-matter. Much like the act of camouflage, the deceiver is making others believe in a false presentation. And like camouflage, it is an employment of theatrical make-believe.

It is important to re-affirm that the perspective being taken in this article and with the terms “covert” and “camouflage” is that they are imbued with intentionality — one must choose to enact them. This is within the confines of the idea of “intentional deception” put forward by James Harding in his chapter “Closet Grammars of Intentional Deception.” In this piece, Harding addresses “intentional deception” in respect to the “right-to-know.” He is concerned with the application of covert practice as it relates to theatre in relation to government secrets. What Harding identifies is that lies and deception are the bedrock of state security and intelligence efforts (199). In the case of Camp X, the “right-to-know” is a contested aspect of the contemporary park. By turning the former spy training facility into a public park, the Government of Canada has moved the geography out of the protective sphere of military secrecy and into the public sphere of recreational park space.

Arguably, any intentional alteration and concealment made to the training space in order to transform it into the public park is a part of the act of deception. It is the process of camouflaging and rendering a scene that possesses an appearance compatible with the surrounding world picture. It is an extension of government secrecy beyond the war-time effort. The contemporary park, a landscape of haptic and optic qualities is an iteration of covert process — a “covert landscape.” This not only applies to the current geography. Indeed, the former training facility during the Second World War is contextualized by these very same actions and ideas. The effort to disguise the base as an operating farm is an intentional act of deception that likewise attempts to render a scene that appears compatible with the surrounding landscape and world — a farm on Lake Ontario. Yet, unlike the contemporary public park where there is an assumed right-to-know, the historical training base was inaccessible and off limits. In the context of military activity, the public did not have a right to know. The issue here is that the idea of military secrecy has not ended with the transformation of the base into a park. There is a legacy of concealment still in action since the destruction of the base was meant to eradicate the site and transform it into a space that now blends with the surrounding world picture. The act of destruction is an act of covert deception. Following this, access to the site is being denied. This is where a theatre/archaeology analysis can provide insight and help shed light on covert practices.

Palimpsests and Excavations

Understanding that this contemporary park was once a training base conjures up an image of a layered geography, a sort of past-present dichotomy. The idea of layering is a central aspect of a theatre/archaeology which is evidenced by Pearson and Shanks regular reference to the landscape as a palimpsest. As Geoff Bailey explains, palimpsests “are shown to be a universal phenomenon of the material world, and to form a series of overlapping categories, which vary according to their geographical scale, temporal resolution and completeness of preservation” (Bailey 2).  A palimpsest-understanding of the landscape is an access point into the analysis of its performativity. The landscapes-as-performance exist individually while also simultaneously in a holistic composition. On the one hand, we might think of the contemporary park and on the other the past training base. The contemporary layered overtop of the past.  This, to be clear, is inclusive of both haptic and optic qualities of landscape.

Such a framing also allows for considerations of time and its effect on the landscape under analysis. Bailey further explains that “archaeological examples are used to show how different types of palimpsest can be analyzed to address different sorts of questions about the time dimension of human experience, and the relationship between different types of processes and different scales of phenomena” (2). In respect to Camp X, this location was a training place for agents, one that was secretive, which is the reason for why the contents have been destroyed or removed. Now at present it exists as an alternative space with very little recognition of its past state of existence. When this location is thought of as a landscape palimpsest, an outsider, one who was not part of the training process, is able to enter the landscape in the present to analyze, learn, and embrace different possibilities of its cultural and performative significance in the past. This conceptualization is directly in line with Pearson and Shanks performance theory.

In reading landscape as performance, Pearson and Shanks put forward the position that Theatre and Archaeology should be considered as complimentary disciplines that can enable such an undertaking providing “an integrated approach to recording, writing, and illustrating the material past” (131). As they explain, archaeology is a performance practice sculpting the past, while theatre and performance is a process of building work from cultural fragments. As Michael Shanks writes “Archaeology is to regard itself as a practice of cultural production, a contemporary material practice which works on and with the traces of the past and within which the archaeologist is implicated as an active agent of interpretation. What archaeologists do is work with material traces, with evidence, in order to create something — a meaning, a narrative, an image — which stands for the past in the present” (11). My position is that “covert landscapes” are much like a destroyed landscape and archeological remains. In some instances, there may be no distinction. The geography has been altered, eroded, affected, and shifted. Things have come and gone. If we consider what Shanks says to be true, then we are presented with a process for investigating a “covert landscape” as performance. The question is, how should one go about doing this?

The Perfect Base

In order to conduct an analysis of the former Camp X it is important to have some historical grounding. Understanding the entire history of the location is a challenge in itself, due to the secretive and destructive nature of government action. From what is known, the formal opening of the base occurred in December 1941. The total size of the land purchased and used was approximately 260 acres which included a portion of the waterfront of Lake Ontario. As David Stafford explains in Camp X: SOE School for Spies, “The old eight-room farmhouse and the few outdated buildings were still usable in 1941, and served as storehouses for equipment and supplies once the Camp was built. Most of the site, however, consisted of a combination of flat, open field; rough cut woodland containing oak, chestnut, and pine; and, down by Corbett’s Creek on the western edge of the site, swamp — ideal for SOE training requirements” (22). As Stafford suggests, the choice of location was no accident. The place and landscape were critical in preparing agents for fieldwork.

The selection of the park was as much about deterring outsiders and concealing the true intention of the buildings as it was an exercise in landscape substitution. Denis Rigden explains that “Corbett’s Creek and its associated marsh, the rolling rugged hills in the Kawartha Highlands nearby, and the surrounding farmland, all emulated possible locales where agents might find themselves” (12). Of particular interest was the ability to train agents for the likelihood of entering the European lowlands. Rigden notes that the low-lying flat lakeshore of Lake Ontario stood in quite well for this alternate place (13). The landscape of southern Ontario was performing as the landscape of the Europe, while the camp within the landscape was performing as a working farm as a part of the agent-training process — a sort of play-within-a-play scenario. To put it in the terms of Sara K. Schneider, it is another not-not performance. Both Rigden and Stafford allude to the secrecy of the camp as being so significant that even the Canadian government was unaware of its true purpose.

In respect to the contemporary setting of Camp X there are at least two landscapes in question, that of the contemporary park and the former training ground. This does not include the perceived cover of the base as well as the landscape in which it existed. If we might view the contemporary park as performing as the destroyed base, or vice versa, we are provided insight into the goals of contemporary government and espionage agencies. If we take the position that landscapes can and are performing then it is also possible to view the past performance of landscape substitutions — the shore of Lake Ontario is performing as the European lowlands and the North Sea coastline. This, like the earlier, is another instance of palimpsestuous performance. A layering of performances and landscapes all intended to be hidden. With this in mind, it is then possible to engage in a theatre/archaeology analysis of the “covert landscape.”

Walking as Theatre/Archaeology

As my friend and I continued our journey along the path, walking through the long grass which covers most of the park, we admired the explosion of Monarch butterflies on their migratory route. There is very little cover from trees. Most are either too young or too far away to offer any respite from the sun. The path is short and we quickly arrived at the lakeshore and walked along to the creek taking our shoes off to cross the quickly flowing cold water. The shoreline is rocky, while the land from where the creek flows is swampy. In either direction along the shore there were distantly visible buildings, docks, along with people, but for the most part we were isolated. This might not be the same sort of secretive place that it once was but the lack of distinction allows the geography to still carry with it a sort of hidden feeling. Clearly, efforts to eradicate all easily found identifiers of the past training base were successful. We wandered the shoreline skipping rocks jumping back across the creek that was used to train agents for entry through swampland.

Lake Ontario shoreline looking southwest.  Creek used for training agents.

We put our shoes back on, walked along the path taking more pauses to admire the surrounding nature, and then made our way to the car. What was interesting about this experience was the understanding of what sort of impact there had been in the world from events that took place here. Yet the absence of people, save one man who was taking his infant son and dog for a walk, made the experience of knowing the history that much more impactful.

This is the landscape performing. The signage, the altered geography, even if imperceptible, is communicating. It is a totalizing articulation of Richard Schechner’s environmental theatre and is concerned with the “whole space” (2). In the words of Sally Ann Ness, these are “mediating nonrepresentational sign performances in the environment” (23) and, I might add, the landscape. They are the remnants of actions that were meant to erase; layers of history affecting one another. While some are only known to the public through anecdote, obscure reference, historical display, or television series, they are remnants which cannot be ignored — the landscape is signifying meaning and performing as a memory.

This experience requires significant reflection. While I am interested in the training base that used to exist here, I cannot forget the deceptive intention behind the destruction of the base. With this in mind, each of the qualities I describe above is governed by this sense of deception. I am suspicious of it all. Why are there so few trees? Were they destroyed alongside the buildings that used to be here? Why are there so few people? Do they, like me and my friend, find it challenging to find this place? What would I find if I spent enough time here? If I waded through the water of the creek and swamp? Are there remnants of the past that were missed in the destruction of the training base? To complicate matters further, what is the reading that each visitor brings to this location? Do they know about the past history of this park? Are they there to investigate? Or are they passing through oblivious to it all? As Pearson and Shanks put it: “intimate to this concept of the archaeological are the personal identities (always socially and culturally mediated) and their location in the material of our bodies, things owned, found, lost, lived amongst” (157). This is a significant hitch when archaeologically analyzing the performance of “covert landscapes.” It requires the performance reader to be aware that imbued in this landscape is a deceptive act that they are themselves interpreting in relation to the individual perspective they bring.

By putting theatre/archaeology into practice and analyzing the “covert landscape” of Camp X, we are provided with a snapshot of what may have been the practices of the training base over seventy years ago. A lack of people and the remoteness of the park at present is similar to the remoteness of the camp when it was being used, with little risk of foot traffic. Vegetation of deciduous and coniferous trees along with the fauna of insects, small rodents and birds, evokes the natural wilderness that surrounded this location — there is a distinct feeling of isolation. The cold water running across my feet when I walk through the creek reminds me that this was not a spot for recreation, and the soft slope of the shoreline into the lake tells me that any incoming boat traffic or people would need to be careful when arriving onshore due to the shallow water.

But the analysis doesn’t end with an observation of the surrounding area. In the case of “covert landscapes,” there is a required component of imagining which events would have taken place when considering this information. In this sense, it is convenient that we know of why this specific landscape was chosen for the training base — because it resembled the shorelines and wilderness of northern Europe, was located near a major urban center, and was also far away from prying eyes. With the long sloping shoreline, we know that agents would have to work hard to arrive undetected from the water. The density of brush indicates that they would need to learn techniques in navigation, which is explained by Rigden in his introduction to How to be a Spy. With Toronto and Oshawa close by, the agents would be able to train in close-quarters espionage practice. The next step would be to put these observations and speculations to a test. How long does it take to walk from the boundaries of 1940’s Toronto and Oshawa? What is it like to swim in from Lake Ontario without being detected? Much like a forensic analysis pieces together the events of a crime, each instance would be an aspect of (re)creating the performance that would mirror the actions of the agents, as informed by the archaeology. Even if imperceptible, the landscape provides clues to the performances and rehearsals that were taking place when agents were being trained. As has been alluded to, even the destruction and removal of objects is indicative of past performances. The absence of buildings, the young growth of tress, suggests that this is a place that was modified by human action.

Exorcising the Covert Landscape

The suggestion that a theatre/archaeology analysis can aid in the investigation of a deliberately destroyed and hidden landscape echoes a significant idea in contemporary theatre and performance theory. As Rebecca Schneider suggests, “no performance completely disappears, it is in a state of remaining and reappearance” (102-103). Such ghosting is also addressed by Marvin Carlson in The Haunted Stage where he explains that it behooves us to consider the ghostly remnants of the historical past in any theatrical space or production (11). While this is a paraphrasing of a particularly critical and complex concept, the message follows the same logic as the others, that we must be mindful of past performances while considering the present ones — they affect each other. Indeed, they are a part of the dynamic interplay that constitutes landscapes, much like the idea put forward by Stein. However, in the case of “covert landscapes” we are presented with a ghostliness that does not rely on the consciousness of the audience, which Carlson refers to in his conclusion. Instead the haunting is linked to the experience of those traversing the landscape. In many ways, they are an audience for a performance that they might not recognize is occurring. This does, though, pose a significant issue. With “covert landscapes” we are challenged to recognize the haunting when we are unaware of the deception. Following the metaphor of ghostliness and haunting, it is difficult for both performance practitioners and audience to exorcise the spirit of the original base wrapped up in the “covert landscape” of the contemporary park.

Employing such an analysis does not limit the reading of a performance to a recreation of events. It also provides a view on the disparate quality of destroyed entities. As Pearson and Shanks explain, and I am paraphrasing, theatre/archaeology not only assists us in piecing together past performance events but also embraces the fragmentary and incomplete qualities of performance documents (13). My suggestion is that the performing “covert landscape” is the fragmentary document, a sort of dramatic text that Pearson and Shanks equate archeological documentation to. Part of the challenge in analysing these places is that they are not whole and undoubtedly will never be fully accessible.

“Covert landscapes” are an unusual phenomenon that push forward theories of landscape, theatre, and performance. Challenging notions of spectatorship, access, and participation, they exist irrespective of the awareness of the audience and are contextualized by the intentional actions of deception undertaken by institutions, such as governments. “Covert landscapes” also complicate Jackson’s idea of “landscapes as theatre.” There is no singular framing. In fact, “covert landscapes” present a multitude of iterations and intersections of performance events — the contemporary park and the former training base, the former training base substituting for the European coastline, the training base performance as farmstead, and so on — one occupying the space of another, the remnants still visible at points, and the ghosts ever-present and still performing. They are examples of deliberate actions undertaken by governments and agencies to create, physically, a location that are not-not performances, attempting to blend in to the surrounding world picture through concealment. A theatre and performance methodology, and, more specifically, a theatre/archaeology analysis, helps both performers and audience see this multivalent reality.

Works Cited

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Schneider, Sara K. Art of Darkness: Ingenious Performances by Undercover Operators, Con Men, and Other. Cuneiform Books, 2008

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Williams, Raymond. The Long Revolution. Greenwood Press, 1975.

 

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