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The Desire Paths

Graeme Miller

© Mary Lemley
1993 – 2024

The Desire Paths was a stage work about walking in a city. The title derives from a term used in town planning – a desire path being the route that people choose to take, the path worn across a green by use that bears no correlation to the concrete one provided. These unpredictable routes make a hidden pattern marking human lives on the landscape.

The Desire Paths was not a portrait of a city even though it incorporated sound and text material gathered from the cityscape. Rather, its starting point was that a place does not exist until it is imagined and named and that all of the copses, knolls and paths that have been walked and named are the mark points of human experience and the markstones of lives lived. These real spaces have become ‘unnamed’ with the passing of time, becoming less plausible than the centralised reality of the media and the transitory, frantic nature of living today. The Desire Paths was a theatre work that re-named the city. The rhythmic state of walking was integral to the music score and physical choreography of the piece.

With Heather Ackroyd, Liz Kettle, Emma Bernard, Michael Sherin, Tyronne Higins and Mary Lemley (set design), Steve Rolfe (lighting) and John Smith (photographs & projection)

Funded by Arts Council of Great Britain, Barclays New Stages. Commissioned by London International Festival of Theatre 1993

“The Desire Paths is no ordinary play, working instead as a weave of texts, sound, music and action in which the performers become hypnotised by their own step and the paths they take are evoked by music threaded through with strings of words, so it is no ordinary A-Z of a city… the city is a metaphor for our memories, for the complexity of things we know, the vast amounts of material which we organise in our own heads and which, when exchanged with others, become part of a shared reality.”

The Guardian
© Mary Lemley