Infirmary is a short dance film created entirely on location at the end of 2004 inside the abandoned Royal Infirmary in Worcester. It is a powerful and absorbing journey deep into the entrails of a place once responsible for so many lives - born, altered, saved and lost. Then, only the structural bare bones remained, ‘... a baggy empty shell’ with a whispered resonance of its former-self impacting on the hushed stillness within.
Infirmary responds to the building as it was at that time from the perspective of four dancers, the filmmaker, sound artist and poet – all local to the site – each with a personal reaction to their surroundings.
Infirmary fuses emotive dance, film and sound to reveal the fading spirit of a building in its deserted state of emptiness.
It evokes feelings born from real responses to the rawness of long-emptied corridors and vast, bedless hospital wards, soundlessly shedding their skins over intimate, concealed spaces whose tender and left-behind secrets trickle and drip...
Glimpsed movement, the fragility of memory, stolen time, refracted daylight and misshapen shadow, for brief moments, fill and distort these untenanted voids, before they settle again into eerie unconsciousness.
Quote courtesy of Stephen Murphy from his poem, The Ghost Of Castle Street.
I must admit to a small cloud of butterflies, a slight light
headedness, each time I turn out of Infirmary Walk,
and slip down Castle Street;
past the Ghormenghast sprawl of the old hospital’s dark,
coagulated sulk, overshadowing the empty
shops, like Finn McCool, nursing a thorn in his foot.
Its unseen acts and scenes are being lit by hidden foot
(surely extinguished for good when the last doctor emptied
his or her desk), scenes I don’t wish to see. Would you walk
those sweet, damp, chloroform-dark
corridors for any price? Not up your street?
Nor mine. But the faint pulse; the lights at dusk? Perhaps street
smart kids have a foot
in the door and do their stuff there, snug in the dark’s
tight fist; their first priority to isolate the working lights,
(not too near the outside, where someone might walk
by, but deep in the entrails: hermit crabs in a baggy, empty
shell). What is it about empty
places? Why should this particular street
acquire a new-mined seam of dread? Why walk
quickly past those spots where, from head to foot,
there is nothing? Is it the nothing itself, perhaps, the light
indifference with which our voices fade, leaving only dark,
oceanic, silence? I can’t help it; I picture miles of hallway; imagine dark
clothing appropriate to the interloper of the empty
rooms which blossom like clots from the kinking pink ropes; my torchlight
squashed and gnawed at the fringes. A blacked-out, bombed-out street:
the crisp sward of splintered glass makes me appear to sleepwalk.
You can’t get out of your own head and walk;
the doors have safety-catches. Here, x-rays grin at their own jokes: dark
meat, marbled with a square foot
of translucent fat. Curtains are drawn around the empty
beds; you can’t see what’s not within; and, from the street,
to a passer-by, my movements are barely a gleam; barely even light.
Pause at the foot of these stairs, where so many emptied
hearts have waited, walking off their grief, making light.
Inside, only we and the dark; outside, only street.
Stephen Murphy, 2004