Play. Playing, having fun. We’re dealing in this work with issues surrounding masculinity, mental health, suicide – troubling and highly personal issues. There’s a statistic released by the charity CALM revealing that the major cause of death for men aged under 45 is suicide; another is that 76% of suicides in the UK are men. These facts are not well known and we knew we had to raise awareness of this.
We have worked over the last year with a number of different men’s groups exploring these issues and we were so inspired by the intimate spaces that were fostered among us as we worked, played, and shared our most vulnerable selves through revealing stories.
How did you go about gathering the team for it?
The work began with a year’s research & development that culminated in a series of ensemble-based intensive workshop auditions. Our invitations to performers to collaborate with us were met with stunning warmth and enthusiasm.
What excited us the most was the eagerness of so many performers to share their intimate relationship to the subject of this work with us. For Duncan and me this work is intensely personal and real, so we looked for a level of engagement that would match our own. We were overwhelmed by the response, and from the talent pool that became available to us drew the titanic cast we have assembled here.
How did you become interested in making performance?
Ever since I was 6 years old I knew that performance was my path. I went through some intense and unusual experiences between the ages of 10 and 18, and came out the other side with a firm grasp of myself as an artist committed to creating raw, physical, engaging work on the most important issues in the only way I know how.
The desire to perform had evolved into an urge to shape and lead the crafting of a piece of work; I brought my first play, written, produced, directed, to the Edinburgh Fringe in 2008 when I was 16 and it was a rain-soaked, empty-bellied, back-breaking experience that convinced me – I have to do this for the rest of my life, no matter what the cost.
Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
What is typical of my process is that the process is dictated by the form of the work and the artists I’m working with, so in that sense it’s been pretty typical. Unpredictable in the extreme. To be collaborating with Duncan has been an entire education in ensemble forming and dynamic game playing.
What do you hope that the audience will experience?
Something unique. Perhaps just five seconds of introspection on their relationship to our subject and subjects around it. Maybe a recognition about someone they know but could never understand. The theatre is a rare medium because we simply come into a room and people already in the room make an experience for us there. I simply hope that the audience experience being truly met.
What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
Play; honest and open sharing; the development of the mind to truly communicate the complex ideas we’re dealing with, and the courage to look an audience member in the eye and simply speak to them.
Do you see your work within any particular tradition?
I can’t see our work as within another tradition, as there’s no aim here to be a part of a larger performance group or canon; we attempt with every piece to form something utterly unexpected, and entirely devoted to that particular audience joining us that night. We want to get close and engage.
Saying this, there’s a deep mixture of tradition that our work comes from and is inspired by – with training in German Expressionism and Russian performance techniques, our practice has developed from exposure to writers like Shakespeare, Kane and the metaphysical poets, practitioners such as Boal, Grotowski, Tadeusz Kantor and Brecht, the cinema of Italian neo-realism, German Expressionism, Kubrick and Tarkovsky. My biggest debt personally is to the East German playwright Heiner Müller, as well as to the work of Sînziana Koenig and Nico Vaccari at Teatrul Béznă.