Nic Chalmers is a writer, dramaturg, performer and visual artist based in London.
Nic is interested in the mechanisms of control employed in both public and private spheres, and in the individual’s quest for their most authentic self. With reference to the ancient Greek notion of Ekstasis (literally meaning to stand beside oneself) and Julia Kristeva’s essays on abjection, much of her work explores the idea that trauma of any kind is an event looking to be experienced, and that it can lead to the creation of a false self of which the afflicted may become an accomplished performer. She’s interested in how we attempt to modify our own and others’ behaviour; in the psychological concept of mirroring; and in the collapse of practiced behaviour – in our experiences of falling, catching, recovering, changing.
In terms of performance-making, Nic is interested in using the voice polyphonically to convey a plurality of self by means of artificially rendered ‘solo choruses’. She’s interested in counterpoint as a means of driving narrative – in how the composition of a musical fugue might be applied to text, such that meaning is revealed contrapuntally through the changing arrangements of words – and in theatricality as an apparatus.
Nic’s writing is deeply rooted in the body; she looks for ways in which to give tendons, muscles, joints, vessels and internal organs to the barely perceptible, inarticulable matters around us, and it’s partly by hijacking choreographic form, kinaesthetic description and anatomical detail that she attempts to do that. She’s interested in how we move in and out of states – never quite leaving, never quite arriving – and in what we can discover about a subject matter by inventing its materiality. By bringing hyper-awareness to automatic movement, she hopes to heighten sensory imagining in her audiences.
All her work is in some sense an exploration of the ways in which we internalise and struggle to control chaos, and what happens when that chaos ceases to be containable. Working to the principle that a subject will reveal its own form – opera, spoken word, experimental essay, moving image, collage etc. – she applies this idea not only to a work as a whole, but also to the structures within, so that a single piece might shift in form depending on the most appropriate (or inappropriate) mode of address. What she produces for performance is less a conventional script, therefore, and more a form of text-movement-sound notation: a ‘not-play’ play.
Following a period of R&D funded by the Royal Opera House, Nic was commissioned by Nordland Teater, Norway, to write a libretto on the subject of sex trafficking for composer Emma-Ruth Richards. In February 2017, they showcased this work at the ICA as part of Mahogany Opera Group’s Various Stages Festival 2017. On the same subject, she wrote the text for a vocal score by Emma-Ruth Richards for NOTES TO THE NEW GOVERNMENT, part of Southbank Centre’s 2015 Changing Britain festival.
Between 2013 and 2015, Nic was one half of performance duo Dickson & Chalmers. Pieces included DIRECTIONS FOR TAKING CONTROL and HOW TO MAKE TWO OUTFITS OUT OF ONE, with residencies at BAC and Q-O2, Brussels, and funding from PRS for Music Foundation. In 2011, she wrote, directed and performed in ALL ERASABLE, a SPILL National Platform commission, and between 2009 and 2010, she wrote and performed BETWEEN MY FACE AND THE WALL at Camden People’s Theatre and Tristan Bates Theatre festivals. From 2004 to 2006, Nic was an associate artist of InForm Theatre (now Rough Fiction), co-devising and performing in three of their shows, one of which was nominated for a Fringe First at the 2005 Edinburgh Fringe Festival and went on to open NSDF in 2006.
Nic is also a visiting practitioner on the MA Performance Design and Practice at Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design, and a visual artist. She is currently developing a theatre piece.
Education includes an MA in Performance Design and Practice (distinction) from Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design, and a BA in Drama and Theatre Studies (first) from Royal Holloway University of London.