Velo Theatre’s object theatre piece centres around ideas of individuality, recognition, belonging, and what it means to be truly happy. C. DIAMOND found out more.

NEAR the end of the Brighton Festival, the Brighthelm Centre will be filled with artefacts of everyday life, along with recordings of people of all ages defining happiness.

The Velo company, led by Charlot Lemoine, invites audiences to step out of their typical role as spectators and take part in an active and refreshing dialogue. “Throughout the whole show,” Lemoine tells me, “the audience will be invited to reconfigure the space in different ways at different moments, trying to develop questions like, ‘what is happiness?’ and ‘where is my position in a group of people?’”

These are all especially pertinent questions in a time when governments and citizens are tasked with deciding who should make up bordered groups, with specific reference to those who have been forced, en masse, to leave their homes in search of safety and happiness. A Handful of People attempts to engage audience members by asking them to take themselves away from the groups they came with.

“We try and split the group so that we can make a new community, in a sense,” says Lemoine. “It’s very interesting to see what people do when they are given the opportunity to come back together. Will they take the chance of having this freedom to experience something in the same space, but not together?

“Often people want to find a source of support, and come together to feel safe, and so it’s interesting when they take the opportunity to develop this moment for themselves.” Lemoine and his team asked people of all ages “what their definition of happiness was, and where they felt they were in relation to happiness”. As often happens when people try and pin down what is truly important in life, it was the “little things” that bring people joy.

“I was quite surprised, because in a sense people are very modest and they realised that they are, in fact, quite happy. Most people are just asking to be recognised, to be considered by the other. And it’s nothing, it’s just someone looking at you and showing that they are able to actually see you; just that.”

A Handful of People, then, is asking a relatively simple question – can our humanity unite us, even through so much difference? Interestingly, although many of the recordings have been translated into English, some have been left in their original French. “What do you do when someone is talking to you and you don’t understand what they are saying, but you still want to relate to them?” asks Lemoine.

“Are we able to get over the fact that we are not always able to understand each other? Is it that important, or is the feeling of being recognised by the other the most important thing?”

Recognition certainly seems to be missing from many discussions being had by world leaders, and within our own communities today. Perhaps taking a little time to work out what is truly important – each other – and recognising our underlying unity would be just the trick.

A Handful of People, Brighthelm Centre, North Road, May 26, 27, 28, May 26: 6pm. May 27: 11am and 3pm. May 28: 11am. £12.50