The “Mantle” view in the Commission Model

Both “Mantles” and “commissions,” Dorothy observed, “need something to initiate the ‘Mantle’ view” - a sense of personal and collective responsibility. This is necessary, whether the children are in a fictional framework as an “expert” team, or receive a commission as themselves. 

In the Hexham Garden commission, Dorothy referred to the team members as “Commissioners.” The word itself endowed a sense of shared responsibility (the “Mantle” view).  She referred to the team as the “Queen Elizabeth High School Garden Commission,” as if it was an official organisation. But it was also not so different from a fictional Mantle team.

In the Commission Model, as in Mantle, there is a shift in point-of-view: working in a commission team, we are not simply ourselves, we take on a form of (social) role. We operate through the “frame” of “Commissioners.”

In Mantle, there is a fictional client and commission; but an agreement to treat the demands as if they are real.

In the Commission Model, the demands are real; but the team is set up and operates to some degree like a fictional (Mantle) team.

In this way, the Commission Model occupies a grey area between real and fiction. This is what makes it so interesting and important in terms of Dorothy’s work as a whole – and so revealing about it.

Imagined or projected clients

The “Client in the Head”

In Mantle, there is always a “client in the head”.  - the imagined client for whom the work is being done. This generates what Dorothy called a “productive tension”: an awareness of both the needs of the client, and the responsibility of the undertaking.

Dorothy stated that, throughout the work in the Commission Model, we also “carry our ‘client’ in our heads”: “the future audience to whom we must communicate and demonstrate clearly, and face their questions”. In the Hexham Hospital Garden commission, the team of “garden commissioners were constantly assessing, evaluating and developing their ideas for their clients in immediate time”.

But isn’t it different if the client is real, not imagined?

The answer is that the “client” is never simply the organisation or individual which directly commissions the work. This is shown in the example of the Hexham Garden commission. Dorothy stated: “We were commissioners fulfilling an accepted commission for the citizens of Hexham.” In other words: the “clients”, the “future audience” for the work, was much wider than simply the hospital which did the commissioning:

“‘Our’ garden would serve so long as the new hospital existed. We were aware that we might be patients in the hospital. Our babies may be born there and our relations might be visited during times of illness.” (Quotes from “A Vision Possible”)

These "future audiences" were imagined "clients in the head". This dimension of the work makes the Commission Model very different from, say, forms of business training, where the business needs of the client are primary.

There is a need, in any "commission," to define the imagined or projected clients.

In the "History at Home" project, for example, which MAT, Woodrow First School and other partners undertook with the Black Country Living Museum, classes looked at online educational resources aimed at young people. The actual client was BCLM; but the imagined or projected clients were the potential future users of these resources, and their needs. The imagined clients were also the ordinary working people of the Black Country - whose stories can be forgotten, unless we give them a "voice."

Drama strategies can and should be used to evoke these "others" - the imagined clients - and make them seem real to the participants. See the next page, Drama in the Commission Model.

(The cards on this page were made by Dorothy, to define core elements of her drama work.)

© MAT / WEST MIDLANDS MANTLE OF THE EXPERT NETWORK, 2020

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