Archive for ‘Interviews’

2 December, 2010

Writer and performer Michael Laurence on Krapp, 39

Recorded for theatreVOICE at the Tristan Bates Theatre, 27 November 2010

Interview: Michael Laurence. After a brief extract from the work, the writer and performer talks to Matt Boothman about his new play, Krapp, 39 (Tristan Bates Theatre), which is an autobiographical piece in which Laurence, a Samuel Beckett fan and inspired by Krapp’s Last Tape (1958), creates a diary using video, a laptop and audio recording on his 39th birthday.

You can listen to this interview using the player below.

If you’d like to download the episode, right-click here and “Save As”.

You can also click here to subscribe to the podcast using iTunes.

2 November, 2010

The Print Room: the newest theatre in London

Recorded for theatreVOICE at The Print Room, 29 October 2010

Interview: Lucy Bailey and Anda Winters. The Co-Artistic Directors of The Print Room in Notting Hill, London’s newest theatre venue, talk to me about the venture, which launches with Fabrication by Italian writer Pier Paolo Pasolini. Recorded at The Print Room.

You can listen to this interview using the player below.

If you’d like to download the episode, right-click here and “Save As”.

You can also click here to subscribe to the podcast using iTunes.

14 September, 2010

Theatre Delicatessen and the site-specific Souk

Recorded for theatreVOICE at 3-4 Picton Place, London, 13 September 2010

Interview: Jessica Brewster. The Joint Artistic Director of Theatre Delicatessen talks to Matt Boothman about the company’s occupation of derelict spaces in affluent areas of London, and about Theatre Souk, a ‘theatre marketplace’ in which acts and audiences haggle over what each performance is worth. Recorded at 3-4 Picton Place, London.

You can listen to this interview using the player below.

If you’d like to download the episode, right-click here and “Save As”.

You can also click here to subscribe to the podcast using iTunes.

2 September, 2010

Edinburgh 2010 – David Leddy and Sub Rosa

Recorded for theatreVOICE at Underdogs, Hanover Street, Edinburgh, 24 August 2010

Edinburgh 2010: Writer and director David Leddy, of Fire Exit Ltd, talks to Matt Boothman about his critically acclaimed show, Sub Rosa (Hill Street Theatre), a Victorian gothic promenade through a dark world of secrets and revolt. Expletives not deleted.

You can listen to this interview using the player below.

If you’d like to download the episode, right-click here and “Save As”.

You can also click here to subscribe to the podcast using iTunes.

16 August, 2010

Marek Kohn

Written for The List (issue 664)

Think of Marek Kohn as the mouthpiece of the moderates in the climate change conversation. His new book, Turned Out Nice: How the British Isles will Change as the World Heats Up, strips the sensationalism from the story and projects a thoroughly researched vision of what we in Britain might be in for, should we continue as we’re going. ‘It’s not the end of the world,’ says Kohn, reassuringly. ‘It’s not Big Ben sinking below a rising River Thames. The climate change genre so far has been about awful apocalyptic warnings: if you say the world is ending, at least you’re giving a firm point of view. But if I’d been looking for disasters, I wouldn’t have enjoyed writing it nearly as much.’

He may not be prophesying unleavened doom and disaster, but like most of the mainstream scientific community, Kohn doesn’t dispute that climate change is taking place: a position likely to draw disdain, if not outright ire, from the denialist lobby. ‘I’m not saying there’s no point reading this book unless you believe mainstream scientific theory,’ he says. ‘But if you’re the least bit open-minded, you should be playing with it in your mind. I have been taken slightly aback by some of the responses when I tell people I’m writing a climate change book: like, “Oh, do you believe in that?” I find there’s a slight correlation between the degree of scepticism and the size of car the person’s driving.’

7 August, 2010

Laura Barton talks about Twenty-One Locks

Written for The List (issue 663)

Born and raised in Lancashire, Laura Barton migrated south a decade ago, and found gainful employment with The Guardian. ‘I started writing a music column [Hail, Hail, Rock ‘n’ Roll] in a style that was quite different to most journalism at the time,’ she recalls. ‘The response was, and is, amazing. I knew that if I wrote like that in a novel then it would find an audience somewhere.’ She describes that novel, Twenty-One Locks, as ‘a dreary northern love story’. The main character, Jeannie, lives in a small town in north-western England, having stumbled into her job and about to drift into wedlock, when an encounter at the train station sends her life off-course.

‘Not a great deal happens, in a lot of ways, but that was the kind of book I wanted to write,’ Barton says. ‘I wanted to write about the lives of people I knew, rather than something splendid and high-energy and fantastic.’ The result is a novel only a northerner could have written; ten years as an honorary southerner have done little to dull Barton’s sense of the place.

‘My family still lives in the north, so I do visit,’ she says. ‘But I also feel as if I’ve been storing up a lot of these things – observations about the railway station toilets, or the department store perfume counter, or bus journeys through the town, or whatever – for a long, long time.’

3 August, 2010

Helen Arney delivers Songs of Modern Loving on the ukulele

Written for The List (issue 662)

When comic musician Helen Arney debuted at the 2009 Fringe with 81/2 Songs About Love (and other myths), she’d already named her 2010 follow-up. ‘Songs for Modern Loving sounds like a lot of things,’ she says. ‘A David Bowie song, a Jonathan Richman band, a Blur album …’ Whatever it sounded like a year ago, that title sounds strangely prophetic to Arney now. ‘I could not be having a more modern relationship. He lives in Australia,’ she explains. ‘Ten years ago we wouldn’t have been able to talk to each other more than once a week: we Skype each other pretty much every day. Thirty years ago we wouldn’t have met. It just wouldn’t have happened.’

That awareness of how easily she could have missed out bothers Arney more than her bright, energetic attitude reveals. ‘This is a feeling I battle with all the time: that someone else is out there having more fun than me, getting more sex than me, being happier than me. But despite all that paranoia, I’m happier now than I think I would be if I was alive at any other time.’ And what better way to express that happiness than by playing the world’s most cheerful instrument? ‘A lot of people are pretty much allergic to the ukulele,’ Arney grins. ‘If anyone’s reading this thinking, “Oh, another ukulele, I wish they would just stop,” that person should come and see this show. They’ll see a different side to my four-stringed friend.’

But true to form, Arney is already looking beyond 2010’s ukulele-related innovations and is considering penning a musical. The title? Science: The Musical! And the tagline? ‘All of the excitement, all of the discoveries, none of the beards.’ Come 2011, remember where you read it first.

27 July, 2010

Belt Up

Written for The List (662)

Remember that unruly rabble that spent last August squatting in C Soco? The ones that kept partying and fighting the nights away with hordes of strangers? Well, they’re back, and this time they’re really making themselves at home.

The rabble in question could only be Belt Up, whose jam-packed programmes of audience-centric work at the last two Fringes converted critics and the public alike.

The company’s MO is to take over some remote corner of C Venues to serve as the setting for all their shows; this year, a section of C Soco becomes The House Above, a kitsch and cosy domicile complete with garden. It’s in the company’s interests to make the place feel like home. With an incredible nine shows on the bill, plus their usual array of secret late-night events, they’ll be near-permanent residents there.

‘We have a knack for casting people with superhuman strength and infinite energy,’ shrugs James Wilkes, one of Belt Up’s founding writer-director-performers, as if such übermensch are ten a penny on CastingCallPro. ‘And nothing’s more energising than a good audience.’

The audience is the backbone of every Belt Up show. Every day in The House Above, audiences will become figments of a narcissistic artist’s imagination (in Wilkes’ brand new Atrium), mourners at princess Antigone’s wake (in Alexander Wright’s adaptation of Sophocles’ Antigone), houseguests of the Samsa family (in an updated version of Metamorphosis, the production that launched the company at the NSDF in 2008) – and in Dominic J Allen’s Lorca Is Dead, the entire audience, as a collective, will become the Surrealist poet Federico Garcia Lorca.

If that sounds exhausting, take heart: Wilkes is prepared to reveal the true source of Belt Up’s superhuman endurance. He admits: ‘A lot of us consume a lot of Berocca…’

27 July, 2010

Operation Greenfield examines the complications of being a teenager

Written for The List (issue 662)

It may sound counter-intuitive, but in an environment like the Fringe, where envelopes are being pushed and boundaries broken in every second venue, a degree of restraint can be the best way to stand out. Little Bulb don’t claim that their folksy tales of tight-knit families and pastoral communities make for radical or risky theatre. But in the citywide shouting match that is Edinburgh in August, the soft-spoken few often, contrarily, command the most attention.

‘A lot of theatre can be too dark,’ muses Alex Scott, director of Little Bulb’s latest play, Operation Greenfield. ‘Especially experimental theatre. Sometimes it’s a bit too … full-on? I’m kind of … interested in darkness, but not just from having a really dark theme. We’re trying to do something else – we don’t want to say, “Oh, what a wonderful world, where nothing bad happens!” but we want to celebrate the good things that do happen, to give a context for the darkness.’

In the company’s previous work, this has meant exploring the ways young children react to death in the family – their parents in Crocosmia, and the family patriarch in Sporadical.

‘Crocosmia was about the memories of younger children,’ says Scott, ‘and Sporadical is about finding collective stories to keep a tradition going. Operation Greenfield is within that world and that ethos, but I would say it’s more complicated. More dark, in a way – more questioning.’

Development of the new play started a year ago, at the same time as the company began work on Sporadical. But while Sporadical came together in a matter of weeks, it’s taken until now to get Operation Greenfield ready for an audience – and Scott still isn’t entirely certain what it is they’ve created.

‘Because we’ve not performed it, really, apart from some incomplete scratch showings, it’s quite difficult to know exactly what we’re dealing with,’ he says. ‘It’s set in a fictional town in the mid-1990s, and it follows four Christian teenagers, who are in a band, as they enter a village talent competition. But there’s a lot of added weirdness around that. It’s probably the weirdest show I’ve ever worked on, in terms of the style.’

He elaborates: ‘Sporadical was kind of messy, kind of raucous. This one’s a bit more detailed, a bit more mathematical, much more precise; pretty much the whole show is musically choreographed. It could be a bit more unsettling, depending on where you’re coming from – what images you’re reading into it.’

If it’s hard to imagine being unsettled by a Little Bulb show, perhaps that’s because their work to date has focused on younger children, still in possession of their innocence. As the company matures, it seems, so do the central characters of the shows. ‘We’re looking at teenagers,’ Scott reiterates. ‘Being a teenager is more complicated. The world is more difficult to process. I think the show reflects that.’

Does this mean Operation Greenfield heralds the beginning of an angsty, rebellious new era for Little Bulb? It seems mercifully unlikely, at least as long everyone’s on the same artistic wavelength as Scott.

‘We like to celebrate things that go overlooked: the idea of being tremendous friends, or being in love with someone,’ he says, as if he’s never seen love portrayed on stage before. Perhaps he hasn’t – at least, not the way he wants to see it.

‘It’s probably because we’re very like a family, in the way that we relate to one another,’ he concludes. ‘There’s a lot of honesty, and trust, and rambunctious relationships – that’s how we operate.’

27 July, 2010

The Sum Of It All…

Written for The List (issue 662)

Anomic is a brand new company, never before seen at the Fringe – but the style of the company’s debut, The Sum Of It All…, will ring some bells for Zoo regulars. Dan Shorten, Anomic’s artistic director, was also a co-founder of Precarious, and the marriage of performance and multimedia that made that company so invigorating is still a vital part of his work.

Anomic, however, isn’t simply Precarious by another name. The backdrop to The Sum Of It All… is a mosaic of projections and 50-inch TV screens – but Shorten insists that, unlike in some of Precarious’ shows, storytelling will take precedence over visual ingenuity.

‘With Precarious we always approached the subject matter from a visual perspective,’ he says. ‘At times the work lacked focus and clarity. I’m trying to focus very clearly on one character’s emotional journey.’

That character is Stanley Ayers, whose humdrum existence drives him to contemplate taking an extreme and disturbing decision. The show promises to be melancholic and introspective, yet energetic and stimulating – which, where Shorten’s concerned, needn’t be a contradiction.

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