Two years ago David Moore asked the subjects of his 1980s series to revisit his archive and produced a play based on their dialogue. Now, the script is published in a book, along with their selection of images
“I’d seen some of David’s other pictures from the 80s on the wall outside the old Royces factory on Nightingale Road and I contacted him on Twitter,” recalls Lisa, opening the second act of photographer David Moore’s 2017 play, The Lisa and John Slideshow. “He got in touch to see if we wanted to have a look at all of the work of our then family and pick our own favourites.”
The Lisa and John Slideshow traces the dialogue between two subjects of Moore’s 1987 series, Pictures from the Real World — a documentary series about families on a council estate in Moore’s home city of Derby, UK — as they select and react to images from the project’s archive. The 45-minute play, performed alongside a projection of Lisa and John’s chosen images, premiered at Derby’s Format festival in 2017 before travelling to Harrow, London, and Belfast. Now, the script is being published in a book, which includes Lisa and John’s selection of images, as well as an essay by writer and curator Val Williams.
The book echoes the design of a playscript in both its size and format. “It’s thrilling enough to see your words being performed by an actor, but I like the idea of it being reinterpreted,” says Moore. “The play is a vehicle now. It’s a body of work that exists to be reinterpreted”.
As Lisa and John talk through their selections, arguing about who is who, and what happened when, Moore not only addresses “the fallibility of family memory”, but challenges the authority of his own selection.
“The conflict that exists within the play is a conflict of their memory and their lack of communication over that time period,” says Moore, explaining how, at the time, Lisa and John had not communicated for 20 years, since they got divorced.
“Photographs are polysemic and have different meaning and context for different people,” he continues. “Going through the archive was emotionally and psychologically exhausting, and going through Lisa and John’s selection from the archive was equally hard work, but it’s necessary to distill it. One of the big things that I want to do with the project is to facilitate a view of the archive which challenges Pictures from the real world”.
Before this project, Moore had very little concrete experience in theatre, but he has always been interested in the performance of the subject within documentary photography, as well as the performance of the photographer. “Theatre is a fluid representation,” he says. “The play is now out there and can be put on by any director in any part of the world. I would be pleased to see it reproduced.”