Articles, Blog

Office Hours: Cathy Naden and Sebastián Calderón Bentin on Forced Entertainment

Sebastian Calderon Bentin: So I am Sebastian Calderon Bentin and I teach in the Drama Department here at Tisch. Cathy Naden: And I’m Cathy Naden and I’m a founder member of Forced Entertainment from CN: Sheffield in the UK.
SB: Well first I want to
say on behalf of all of us that we’re SB: very happy to have you and the group
here and sharing the work and I was at an SB: event with Tim where he talked a
little bit about some of the work in the SB: English Department this was I think the
the day before On The Thousandth Night and SB: so that was great so it’s also great to
have more time to talk and I first SB: encountered your work with Quizoola in 2003 and I was doing a semester SB: abroad in RADA and it was a time where there was this big exhibit at the Tate I SB: don’t know if it was Adrian Heathfield
who was curating it and I think the SB: piece was in the Tate… Guillermo Gómez-Peña was there as well and I didn’t even SB: know about Forced Entertainment I was just so enthralled by this question SB: session and it was only later that I put
together the name with that piece it was SB: years later that I came to know the work of the company and then I had seen also SB: in Chicago some years ago The Notebook at the NCAA which I know you were SB: presenting work there as well
and then now The Thousandth Night and then SB: Tabletop Shakespeare which I saw the
Pericles well so you know for me it’s a SB: huge honor to be able to meet
you and talk about the work and I mean SB: maybe we should pick up on what we were talking in the hallway which was about SB: Pericles and because it’s I mean for me it was a play I didn’t know about and SB: so it was also interesting to get
to know a play through its plot SB: structure so maybe if you can just we
can start with that with the experience SB: of working with that play in particular
and as opposed to I’m sure more like SB: Macbeth you know it’s nice
that there’s a completeness of SB: all the works in
Table Top Shakespeare–
CN: Yeah it’s CN: interesting because I think when,
just to sort of talk a bit generally CN: about some of the things you said there when people come and see the Complete CN: Works often they’ll come and see the ones they know, they’re sort of drawn to the ones CN: that are familiar so we try to persuade
them to come and see the ones they don’t CN: know, maybe come and see
a couple, see one you know and then see CN: one you don’t know so Pericles is
definitely down the end of the plays CN: that people don’t know very well because I think when you don’t know the story CN: you really see the kind of schematics of the plot and you really get the sense of CN: it as a storytelling project because
with Complete Works it’s really CN: true that it’s not about us doing
our versions of the Shakespeare play CN: it’s really about this sort of what
happens between the performer who’s kind CN: of part storyteller and part like
puppeteer arranging the objects around CN: on the table and the sort of this text
that each performer has prepared that CN: is in a way a response to the plays
that they’ve read so it’s not about CN: using the Shakespearean language,
it’s just about sort of retelling the CN: story so I think with Pericles the thing
that struck me about it was that it was CN: just this sort of this yarn as we were
saying you know this sort of a tale that CN: in a way just goes on and on it really
it’s not like, say, the Shakespeare CN: comedies and the ones that people might know very well like Twelfth Night or CN: A Midsummer Night’s Dream
now there’s a real shape and pattern to CN: those comedies where,
because it’s often about mistaken CN: identities and then you know the people are revealed to be who they really are CN: and everything you know sort of
everything is disordered and then it CN: kind of gets put back into an order but
Pericles just sort of rambles on and on CN: and on
and then I think the thing that struck CN: me about it was one it had this
character called CN: Gower in it
like a stage, a chorus I guess and CN: there is this sort of
interesting thing about Shakespeare CN: which we weren’t really expecting to
discover that all those centuries ago CN: that he was making the theatre there are little correspondences if you like CN: between the way that we make theatre now that this sort of talking directly to CN: the audience and you know this sort of
deconstruction of the the fiction I CN: suppose so this Gower character is bit like that he’s sort of speaking directly to CN: the audience about events so that was
sort of something that I was very CN: interested in and then this sort of like
the endless storms and shipwrecks sort CN: of being able to make something of that that repetition you know repetition is CN: always something that’s kind of
interested us in making and I think CN: because it’s quite it’s really quite
fairy tale like so they’re sort of these CN: very stock kind of good characters and
evil characters and in terms of casting CN: then it was sort of it was just sort of
fun to be quite literal about that and CN: to do you know sort of all the evil
characters as objects that are CN: sort of very dark or black this sort of sense of it being a dark and sinister sort of CN: place and then the sort of good
character are kind of white or sort CN: of silver colored objects, the first
scene in Pericles is sort of where CN: Pericles has this sort of riddle that he
has to solve and if he solves it he kind CN: of wins the beautiful princess in
marriage and if he fails the CN: challenge then its death
and that, so there’s sort of CN: just two characters in that scene but
it’s it was really nice using all the CN: different objects almost like scenery
so that you know just like an CN: umbrella and a little can of sort of
car oil, little plastic black sort of CN: flowerpots so you know kind of just
playing a game and it’s about sort of CN: color-coded and different heights of
objects so you’re kind of making a little CN: scene really so that that was the kind
of guiding principle in Pericles I think CN: was to really simplify
the plot and play with these repeating CN: features like the shipwreck to
sort of make these, because CN: it’s a lot of traveling and it made the
different countries that he’s traveling to CN: have these sort of
features like you know they’re all the CN: characters here is sort of silver
objects and all the characters here sort CN: of white or beige-y colored–
SB: well the threads also the king and queen SB: she’s the yarn–
CN: oh she’s like a ball of wool yeah–
SB: and he’s a scrub– CN: a scrubbing brush yes she’s
got, she’s like a beige color and he’s like, CN: it’s like white bristles and there’s a
beige-y colored plastic yeah–
SB: I think SB: there’s something because you’re right
there is this always this move in Pericles SB: where they all end up at the Harbor and he’s always leaving and I SB: think if one were to experience the
play as a full production one would get SB: that that’s a scene that is happening
but I think by having this abridgement SB: of the plot you get that repetition in a much more starker way so I think the way SB: you were playing with the choreography
of that already kind of you know we’re SB: listening to a story but it made it very
clear were seeing a structure at the SB: same time you know and I thought
that worked it was both a plot and a SB: comment on plot itself you know–
CN: yeah exactly CN: yeah yeah and I think that’s sort of, in
that sense we’ve all re-written some of CN: our plays here and there to do that sort
of job to them to make the structure CN: kind of more apparent you know so we’ve taken some liberties ourselves as CN: storytellers because it’s a sort of
about making it also fit into what we as CN: performers doing it now here in the 21st century can make work for a contemporary audience as well SB: – that make sense SB: in a way that there’s a kind of a
particular take on the plot–
CN: yes yeah CN: yeah and I think we all have slightly
different attitudes to what we’re doing CN: with it like some people and I think it
depends a lot play you’ve got as well CN: but some people stick more to the poetry and there’s a little bit of CN: paraphrasing but like in Pericles with
the whole harbor the scene I just kind of CN: invented because it’s about sort of
playing especially with the table like CN: if you take me to the edge at the table
and things like because it’s a bare CN: stage in a way and you can make it
look like they’ve come to the edge of CN: the country you know
there’s the sea out there sort of thing CN: that’s the sort of game that we
play with quite often if it’s not make CN: the characters go to the edge of the
table and they’re looking out the window CN: or they’re looking down at something or playing with you know sort of spatial CN: arrangements so all the characters are
kind of across the table this way and CN: that way if there’s a sort of dance
scene that they kind of be facing each CN: other and then they all go that way but it’s very simplified, it’s CN: diagrammatics–
SB: right exactly you have that
also in the scene where they’re doing a SB: kind of tournament the knights go by
you know these this SB: choreographic moments and what
I find it interesting I find myself and SB: also with the audience how quickly as
soon as the story is framed around an SB: object even though it’s not really
functioning at the level of puppetry in SB: the sense of you know they’re almost
like placeholders with mobility but SB: mostly placeholders at times there would be a gesture yeah like a servant who SB: looks but I was surprised how we
quickly endow an emotional SB: connection and a kind of sentience you know because then you SB: realize when a character dies there is a
people “oh” you know and they’re really SB: feeling for this object and so
I so I just wonder about that experience SB: how you how you feel
people start kind of projecting into the SB: object quite quickly–
CN: no that really
does happen and I think when we were CN: sort of first rehearsing it as a
kind of concept or was a thing that CN: was the aspect of it that really struck
us that you could put you know a CN: sort of jar of tomato ketchup in the
middle of the table say for Macbeth and CN: say you know Macbeth is thinking about what he’s just done and then you just CN: stop talking and let the attention be on
the object and you really start to CN: fill in the gaps as an audience
you’re looking at it what is that they CN: say they do you do really breathe life
into these kind of inanimate objects and CN: I think that’s sort of it’s part of a
strand of work that we do that’s really CN: about sort of letting the imagination
work in the audience and giving CN: that the audience space for their
imagination to bring its own sort of CN: picture making ability to what’s
happening or yeah or this idea of CN: filling in the gap so what you know you
were saying about Pericles going up to CN: the harbor no there’s no set there to
suggest that but the the audience sort CN:of fills in that picture and I think
it’s the same with giving these CN: characters sort of like the
humanizing them like these empty objects CN: can acquire these very sort of human
emotions or even sort of really big CN: dramatic sort of emotions–
SB: so there’s in a way there a pause and I SB: noticed a pause also when for example if someone sings a song and I don’t know if SB: it’s which of the characters you
must know who sings a song it’s a SB: woman and you say now she sings a
song and there’s a pause there and SB: again leaving the audience at time to
imagine the song or if you don’t imagine SB: just to wait for the song to happen
and it’s like you know very there’s SB: an intention there to
always give the audience that space for SB: them to enter–
CN: exactly yeah yeah yeah and
I suppose it’s allowing in that CN: you say with the song sort of that it’s
playing the time a bit isn’t it yes CN: allowing the elapse of time so a few
moments later, but just for CN: those moments nothing is happening
it does make the space feel different CN: for an audience–
SB: yes absolutely–
CN: I think that’s something CN: that we sort of play with a lot is how
to use time on stage CN: make an audience enter time differently
that like from moment to moment you CN: could suddenly change the way that
time is operating–
SB: and Tim had SB: mentioned how you know there is a kind of weight on British companies that are SB: well established and they would say
you know when are you gonna do SB: Shakespeare and you know your company’s
had a body of work for many years and SB: this is the first piece where you engage
with Shakespeare and you know it’s such SB: a heavy canon how has the experience
been now that you’ve toured the piece SB: and you know of that part that is
recognition and the canon but also part SB: in the way you’re stretching it
and in a way also is a bit of a send-up SB: also the canon as well–
CN: yeah yeah and I think that’s why we wanted to call it CN: the Complete Works I think we liked
the idea that people would say to us CN: why don’t you do a
Shakespeare play, why would we do Shakespeare CN: for God’s sake, you know but then when we
did come to do it we’ll do the whole CN: lot all of it and and I think you
know the way that we’re tackling it is CN: really important that it is this sort of
because I think the whole CN: project, each of the play speaks to
the bigger project which is this sort of CN: marathon of all of them that we’ve
divided each play down to a kind of 45 CN: minute in some cases an hour-long sort of CN: sentence if you like in the big sentence
that is the canon of Shakespeare CN: but the fact that everything is
performed by these little objects and CN: that the objects are there on display so
there’s shelves around the table in the CN: middle where each player gets performed
they know this like they’re the objects CN: as characters are always looking at the
empty stage in the middle so whenever an CN: audience comes and sees any individual
play they’re always aware that they’re CN: seeing this one but they could be seeing
that one or that one you know or that CN: they might have just missed that one and now they’re seeing this one so CN: it’s about making the parts no more
important than the whole I think but CN: I think in in terms of taking on
Shakespeare there, I think people do come CN: with expectations in a way that they
might not with other Forced CN: Entertainment shows that sort of
they might be getting a version of a CN: Shakespeare play rather than quite
grasping the whole concept in the first CN: place but it’s all of the place
together and each one, each is a unit CN: made up of different, you know in
different units of the plays so you CN: know so then you’re kind of dealing with
all of that baggage that Shakespeare CN: comes with about so it’s an
interpretation it’s this you know you’re CN: playing a character in a particular way
its stuff to do with kind of their CN: characters and sort of psychological
sort of playing of the events but CN: I think because it because we’ve made it,
make it, we try and make it clear that CN: it’s not the poetry and it’s not a version of Shakespeare that it’s CN: everyday language with everyday
household objects that people realize quite CN: quickly that they’re not coming to
see you know like the Royal Shakespeare CN: you know we’re imitating Royal Shakespeare in doing our Shakespeare that it CN: is quite a different take on that text
and it’s really like dealing with it CN: as a text and a job of storytelling I
SB: and for the, because I immediately SB: think also that when I saw Henry the
Fourth I didn’t notice so much the SB: almost like storage closet that was
all of the other plays and I think SB: it was because where I was seated and I arrived just shortly before it started SB: but in the in your piece, in Pericles
which I had more time to look around it SB: does almost feel like the, to think of
canons or literary canons or dramatic SB: canons as this kind of storage closets
and kitchens that one goes that is not SB: necessarily a place of reverence it’s
not a museum you know they’re SB: there and and it feels they can be
almost domestic in a way in the way that SB: family stories are passed on or told and
so I feel there was something also SB: about the piece that spoke to to what
canons are and how they can be treated SB: as material not bashed but also not you
know recanonized but just as a kind SB: of material that have the structure to
them you know and as you say SB: this question with canons of wholeness
and then what does it mean to then SB: partition or rearrange–
CN: I suppose its demystifying but it CN: sort of decanonizing
SB: right
CN: the canon I suppose it’s because I think it is very CN: domesticated this sense that it sort of
just storage and that the things on the CN: shelves are really what you would find
you know in your kitchen cupboard or CN: your bathroom cupboard and that’s
really how we started out making it you CN: know we had a sort of table in the
rehearsal room and we put up some CN: shelves and we just, people would just
bring in you know sort of stuff from CN: the kitchen cupboards like they’re like
little spice jars that they never CN: bothered using and so the sense also
that objects were old you know that CN: they were just there were, you know, a bit stained and all greasy or dusty from being in CN: the cupboard but we also you know went to the supermarkets and brought up stuff CN: because it was we liked the look of it
or the nice packaging and all that CN: kind of so we added back to the stuff on CN: the shelves then people were bringing in sort of little items that had some CN: sort of personal meaning like so because
at the time when we started making CN: it I was kind of clearing out my mom’s
flat so I was bringing in so Antony and CN: Cleopatra they all of the, all the
handmaidens and these little cotton CN: reels so I was bringing in like all that
stuff so they’re sort of like personal CN: items plus you know kind of branded stuff plus sort of every now and again you go CN: around the second-hand shops and you’d
sort of see I don’t know a jug or CN: something thing you know that’s a
perfect Falstaff and then bring that in CN: but it’s but this sense that nothing is CN: extraordinary I suppose they’re just and
it’s seeing them all on on mass together CN: isn’t it it’s this sort of celebration
of the domestic–
SB: yes absolutely and the SB: idea of the found object as opposed to the designed the puppet or designed SB: object because some are for
example some had brands that SB: audience brands are also context
specific so a brand known in England SB: might not be known here or or some are
brands that are having now expired yes SB: and so all of the kind of detail of the
object also starts coming into contact SB: with whatever character we’re projecting on it and making it, when you SB: mentioned that the space given to
the audience you know after the SB: character says something give them a
time to kind of process or think about SB: the object or the song is I saw similar
operation in And On the Thousandth Night SB: with these stories that don’t
end and that kind of space and SB: because one reaction was you know
why am I not getting the resolution but SB: of course there is the joy that one can
create one’s own resolution of the story SB: and also that another story is
about to start SB: and I wonder if you could just
talk a little bit about the process of SB: about how that performance the concept
behind that performance how it came SB: about–
CN: The sort of storytelling game CN: which is this basically the, somebody has to start a story in it it’s once upon a CN: time it has this kind of fairy tale
like beginning each one and then you CN: have to keep going until somebody else says stop and then the person that said CN: stop then has to start their own story
I think at the time we were sort of CN: looking for things that were really
clearly games like that and there that CN: storytelling game was originally part of
a 24 hour piece it was just one sort of CN: returning section so we started out
making durational pieces probably in the CN: mid 90s so Quizoola was kind of the
first text based sort of game that CN: first got a very clear game in it
and then we made sort of various other CN: durational pieces now I think we just
wanted to push at making them last CN: longer so like okay if we’ve done 6
hours why not do 24 so we did it at CN: the South Bank in London and we were
there was all sorts of costuming games CN: that we were exploring at that time so a lot of the show was about very simple CN: little acts and we had lots and lots
of animal costumes they were sort of CN: like the kinds of customers you get in
fancy dress shops so like at like a CN: pantomime cow or a pantomime horse or a sort
of teddy bear or a mouse or a lion these CN: kinds of things so there was a long game
about just putting on the animal costume CN: and then sort of being, we had
a little stage on top of the big stage CN: and sort of these creatures would stand
on the stage and somebody would write CN: alive on the blackboard and then the
creature would die and then they’d rub CN: out the person on the blackboard would rub out
alive and write dead then the creature CN: would sort of come back to life and then
they’d write alive again so these very CN: simple sort of games come act some magic
acts was a big interest of ours at that CN: time I suppose it’s
if when the kind of theater we make is CN: not a sort of narrative theater then we
have to look for other kinds of excuses CN: for being on stage and quite quite often
we’ve mined the territory of sort of CN: stand-up or magic acts and quite
often really crap magic acts these things CN: that are very sort of basic and have
been hopeless so this 24 hour piece was CN: full of stuff like that but every now
and again there were maybe even the CN: first time we did it about 18 performers
on stage there was the Forced CN: Entertainment company plus guest
performers so at CN: certain points over the 24 hour periods
and we probably did it about eight CN: times over the whole 24 hour period we
would form these lines with chairs and CN: do this storytelling game exactly like
it was in the kings but we quite CN: often had different costumes on
so sometimes we were dressed as these CN: animals but without the animal heads
on and the whole red cloaks and CN: cardboard crowns was one of the costumes
that we were playing with in that show CN: and I think we got asked to do a
festival in Beirut 2001 and we just CN: thought that storytelling game is a sort
of a piece in its own right so we kind CN: of picked the king and queen costumes
and then we just played CN: around with that storytelling game
seeing how far we could kind of push it CN: and that’s really something we do quite
a lot is sort of recycle ideas so you CN: might you might make a show that’s sort
of a bit, a bit messy and chaotic but CN: is quite rich and that you can sort of
pull things out of it for years CN: afterwards and say “ah that’s a show and that’s
a show” it doesn’t occur to you at the CN: time but you come you know you revisit
them and you can sort of pull material CN: out make something
kind of quite, it’s related but CN: it’s also quite new and a new thing in
its own right CN: so yeah we wanted to in a way push at
the game I think when we first started CN: doing the kings it was perhaps less that
we were less interested in the content CN: of the stories and much more interested
in the game of it so we kind of we went CN: down to 8 people so we usually, it’s us
usually plus 2 other people CN: it was 7 when we did it here
but yeah originally we sort of I think it CN: was about really playing with those
dynamics between performers on stage and CN: different energies and playing with the
energies of what you like when you start CN: and you’re quite fresh and what you like
after four hours where it’s sort of the CN: the effort of having to keep it up is
really making people tired and things CN: get very slow and then they also start
to get very silly and people get a bit CN: hysterical so this gives really nice
energy and also that all of the acting CN: goes out of it as well you stop thinking
about you know that you’re on the stage CN: and you stop trying to sort of censor
your own material or all your own sort CN: of behavior onstage in a way so that
that does very interesting things so a CN: lot of the dynamics we were playing with
were sort of like what happens when you CN: have everybody in the line all playing
all competing so you have the stops CN: coming in very quickly so you might have
once upon a time there was a king stop CN: once upon a time there was a queen
stop once upon a time there were three CN: kings stop once upon time there were
two queens and then you get this very CN: sort of competitive very high turnover
of sort of beginnings of stories being CN: carved up but it creates this very sort
of choppy energy out of which something CN: quite different can suddenly emerge
because it you know sort of as you’re CN: doing these games you sort of you start
to write the rules for them so to say CN: after you know five minutes of very
choppy stuff somebody has to then come CN: in with a bit of content you know so
that goes back to this idea of CN: structure again how you structure this
kind of work so again if you’ve got a CN: line of all people in play that’s a
different thing to suddenly going down CN: to two and you know if you’ve got two
people sitting next to each other in a CN: line they you know that what they do
might be quite supportive and in CN: agreement or maybe if one is at one
end and one’s at the other perhaps CN: they’re really competing with each other
perhaps they are sort of building you CN: know a more sensitive story that’s sort of
traveling the sense of distance between CN: them they’re trying to connect over that
distance so it’s those sorts of dynamics that CN: do with the kind of architecture of
time and the bodies in space and how CN: many people are in play and so all of
that’s happening without having to think CN: so much about content of what stories
actually are and we’ve now performed that show CN: many times and it’s interesting because
it starts to tip in the CN: other direction so these days
we’re more interested in the content of CN: the stories unless I don’t suppose
it was because you’ve got older it was CN: we can’t be as sort of like that’s
you know the, we’re not as energetic CN: with it anymore or you know I
think when you do shows for quite a long CN: time, you’re
looking back at the younger CN: versions of yourselves doing them and what
really made sense at that time sort of CN: stops making sense of the only sort of
thing we could get interested in CN: something else so we were talking a
lot the last few times we’ve done it CN: about actually sort of how the stories
have got a kind of quite often CN: coming out of as suppose to a white
middle class left-wing perspective you CN: know we’re sort of jokey about that but
what does it mean to sort of push CN: content the stories have come from
really somewhere other, so we’ve been talking CN: about that quite a lot but people
always have like a little collection of CN: stories that they can draw on as well
so some of those stories have been CN: around for a very long time so people
have a kind of pool of stories that CN: don’t always make it into the shows each
time because I think, because CN: the other thing is that you can be left
on your own so you know nobody can CN: stop you so this is the sense of you
let somebody, you leave somebody out CN: to dry what happens to them
and how do they start to invent CN: so people I think prepare stories for
for those moments in case you get left CN: alone see I’ve got something to say
but these you know these are very CN: interesting moments cause
something real is happening and that’s CN: again is something that we’re always
looking for when something can be CN: very sort of silly and playful but then
it sort of becomes real because CN: the situation has changed for the
performer and then they’re dealing with CN: the more sort of difficult
relationship to the audience or CN: something because now they’ve got to
perhaps deliver you know the pressures CN: on so the audience is watching
somebody you know struggle and they kind CN: of feel for them in that struggle you know how
are they gonna come up with something CN: are they just gonna be speaking nonsense– SB: and they’re left physically alone as well so it’s a temporal and also spacial kind SB: of condition that they’re left in,
we were talking in class also about how SB: you know at how it felt at times almost
like a jazz group you know SB: and storytelling became a way to kind of
improvise or provide a kind of SB: counterpoint to each other and
improvise with storytelling but in a way SB: that had this that the music was
obviously the content is there but the SB: music was more on the structure of interruption and variations on theme SB: like at times I noticed we would go
into kind of Shakespeare fairytale SB: narratives and then we, it would move
into domestic love stories and then into SB: horror and then into science
fiction and astronauts and then back to SB: a fairy tale but there were some you
know themes that would emerge and that SB: you know someone would subvert it but but still there was a kind of group SB: moves and just I think I imagined by
virtue of sharing the space and the way SB: you improvise you’re picking up energies
just at the same time as you’re trying SB: to do your own thing–
CN: yeah absolutely even when we, very original versions CN: of it you know the kind of the sort
of basic rules that we set up was CN: that everything would start with
once upon a time so this is when it was CN: part of the 24 hour piece because we
sort of liked the idea that you could CN: give it would have it very clearly says
it’s a story and it’s CN: gives it you know that it’s as if
it’s a fairytale but you know it CN: could be anything so you could work with
real stories in a sort of fairy tales or CN: Shakespeare’s or plots from novels or
plots from films or you could you know CN: turn a news story into a story so you
you know some kind of the story CN: about the football team that was
trapped in the cave that was was a so CN: big news–
SB: right in was it oh yes in
CN: in Thailand so that CN: came up at one point but you can
you know turn something that’s quite a CN:sort of unpleasant situation into a
fairy tale by giving you this kind of CN: once upon a time–
SB: this kind of pastiche moves–
CN: so yeah it could be CN: historical events things you know sort
of current events whatever but it you CN: know you turn it into this story by
starting with once upon a time and the CN: only sort of rule was that you could
never say real names or place names CN: because that sort of collapsed the game
somewhat because you know there is a CN: sort of pleasure in at some point the
story becoming recognizable so on CN: Saturday were quite a few Sci-Fi things they went through some CN: several film plots in there astronaut films so
there’s a kind of pleasure I think for CN: the people playing like can my colleagues
guess which story I’m doing but also for CN: the audience but so that you know that’s
one sort of thing that you get from not CN: saying any names but also I think if you
stopped listening in the same way if CN: it’s like you know once upon a time
there’s an awful president called Donald CN: Trump it’s the fact
that you have to be more sort of CN: inventive about
the thing it is that you’re sort of CN: trying to describe in that it becomes a
kind of task of language anyway so CN: there’s something else going on in that
and it’s not just simply telling stories CN: there’s some kind of work that
the brain has to do–
SB: that’s SB: interesting because what you’re saying
is a kind of restraint, the restraint SB: allows a kind of copiousness of the story–
CN: exactly yeah and we talked a lot CN: about building stacks you know so
there is a kind of agreement on a theme CN: so now all the stories are about sort of
couples who are in love and you keep CN: building that stack until the stack gets
so high it kind of topples over you know CN: so these are just what we call sort of
performance strategies
SB: and the order of SB: those themes is predetermined or not
CN: no I mean I think it’s it CN: you know it’s a sort of certain amount
of knowingness because we have performed CN: it so much so we sort of because yeah as
a group of eight people doing the job of CN: the storytelling you have to kind of
listen to what’s going on so you get a CN: sense of where something’s going
very quickly all right okay so we’re now CN: going to do sort of film plots about you
know sort of heist movies or about CN: robbers so and then
I think your analogy about music is CN: really true that’s because it is really
like how musicians improvise and it’s CN: sort of like you’re just feeling around
for the notes and then suddenly it comes CN: you know and something emerges and
you’re all singing from the same song CN: sheet or playing the same tune at that
moment then somebody goes off and takes CN: in a different
directions so it’s really creating live CN: in front of the audience’s own sort of
dramaturgy, its own structures and I think CN: you know what makes it very watchable
for an audience is you never quite know CN: when the next little you know
number comes from you know you’re CN: watching people try and find something
and that you’re sort of CN: almost outside of time when that’s
happening brining that sort of CN: relationship to the performance, it’s not quite working is CN: it what’s gonna happen next
you know and then suddenly it takes off CN: you know and then that mind that part of your brain CN: that’s kind of monitoring it stops you
know you’re just in the moment with the CN: performers enjoying the invention,
there was a lot of riffing on Saturday CN: night that you know the kind of wordplay a lot of punning–
SB: yes with fairly SB: successful, small, mid-sized dentist office- CN: I think that’s also it’s kind
of word association and sometimes it’s CN: sometimes it’s really it can be really
sharp and smart sometimes it’s just it’s CN: almost like you can’t stop yourself from saying the most stupid thing because CN: you’re kind of, the association is so
obvious but you’re saying something kind of stupid– SB: but that’s interesting what you mentioned
also what you mentioned earlier that you SB: know you say well at the end these
stories are coming from a kind of middle SB: class or white or an English background
and it’s interesting because SB: in a way because the piece opens
things up for this group of performers SB: to dive into their imaginary archives
and pull things out it does become a SB: kind of ethnography of whoever is on stage SB: whatever you know you’re you know were
your own cultural your own social SB: socialization your own history will
be coming up in those in those tales and SB: those stories
and so it’s interesting to think of it SB: also as a kind of ethnography of
imagination that tells us also SB: something about this group of people you
know I can imagine a different cast SB: you know from a different country
would you know in this but with the SB: same constraints so that’s quite
there’s a kind of sociological SB: imagination–
CN: and it just
reminded me there I mean what one of the CN: things we used to say about it was that
it should when it was part of the 24 CN: hour show was it should have this sense
of this it was keeping a vigil like you CN: know sort of because he comes from
originally the Arabian Nights that CN: Thousand Nights tales when Shahrazad
tells tales to keep herself alive and CN: they never sort of finished one tale
becomes another so this sense that you’re CN: sort of keeping vigil it’s the long
night that you’re kind of seeing through CN: and that stories could
have a slightly sort of scary or CN: dangerous element to them as well but after we did it in at this festival CN: in Beirut and it was at the time and
they were sort of having local elections CN: and it was quite an unstable time and–
SB: and when you did it in that SB: production was it six hours or twelve–
CN: six
SB: it was six
CN: yeah I think that we’ve only CN: ever done for six I don’t think we’ve
done it longer than six but somebody CN: had come to see it and then I think they got arrested sort of sometime after CN: the performance because it and they
ended up teaching the game to the people CN: that they were held in the cell with so
they were just so this CN: thing about it being a marker of
ethnography and you know CN: we would’ve loved to have seen the stories that
they came out with and when I teach do CN: workshops occasionally I sort of get
students to play that game it’s a CN: very different thing because of course
they’re coming out with their CN: stories-
SB: exactly exactly–in that way becomes more of creating a SB: situation rather than kind of narrating
a plot in this sense I was I SB: was also thinking that the show has
this almost like a wonderful example of SB: allegory where it basically
you know a metaphor in narrative because SB: at times you could see that you the
performers were speaking to each other SB: through the story it was not about the
content I mean the content of the SB: stories was merely a kind of a use of
allegory to really say please shut up or SB: you know can we change the story or you
know like when he said what there was SB: once was a king who banned the words fairly
and you know so it was this amazing way SB: to see also allegory work in a quite
literal way you know between the SB: performers–
CN: yeah it’s kind of
it’s a way of them sort of getting at CN: your fellow performers onstage as well
like, yeah it’s like saying shut up CN: but you have to do it through–
SB: and with the audience kind of in SB: their watching–
CN: yes yeah they’re sort of witnessing one person perhaps CN: being told is like transgressive isn’t
it one person is being told off by the others you’re CN: being too silly now or lighten up SB: I thought that was
that was that was really beautiful and SB: and yes and I guess one thing maybe to
finish up is how is this particular SB: performance here what you’ve already
mentioned some things that came up but SB: yeah how did you how did you feel I know
I saw some of the people SB: in the audience with pajamas I know
some people stay to the end people came SB: and went
how was the experience SB: for you–
CN: It was really good it was
it felt like they were really up for it CN: in the sense that sort of I think maybe
because it started at midnight because CN: normally it would be like 6:00 in the
evening till midnight so we would finish CN: at midnight rather than starting at midnight so
there’s a sense that people come knowing CN: that it they’re gonna it’s going to be a
bit of a night it has a sense of event CN: about it so yes people might bring
their pajamas in case they want to kind CN: of have a little nap or something so
that’s really that was a really CN: nice sort of aspect is I think at the
beginning where you know this the CN: auditorium seemed to be kind of flooded
with all the people coming in and then CN: you know gradually there’s a you know sort
of people do leave so you get the kind CN: of diehard audience left at the end but
it’s also quite difficult to tell whether CN: the people have just you know disappeared
behind the scenes to go for a sleep and CN: just not sort of woken up again or–
SB: like an airport terminal–
CN: yeah or whether they’ve gone home CN: and they were really up for CN: it and in the sense that they
were laughing a lot in it so I think CN: there’s a sense when you may get this
kind of an audience it feels very CN: present in that way that you want to
really sort of entertain them I guess so CN: that that can influence a little bit the
the direct CN: structures and the content goes in
sometimes you’re sort of looking for CN: sort of play things down the funny end
for the lot so it felt kind of CN: quite light and playful
which was actually felt really nice CN: when we first did it at the
South Bank in London as part of this 24 CN: hour piece people were kind of leaving
because they were tired wanted to go CN: home but we heard stories about
people who would sort of get on the bus CN: and then sort of nearly get home and
decide that they had to go back because CN: the performance was still going on they didn’t want to miss it really so little so then they would CN: come back to the theatre
so I think it’s that event-ness about it CN: that’s really pleasurable… CN: yes I think that sense that it was
happening between midnight and 6:00 in CN: the morning that everyone you really
feel like everyone is in the same room CN: and that the kind of line between us and CN: the people watching on Saturday night gets more and more blurry cause CN: people we all become in the same
state we’re all sort of equally tired CN: and people watching are investing
their time and energy in it for a long CN: period of time– SB: yeah I remember leaving for maybe 20
minutes and then coming back and I SBL thought oh I’ll leave for maybe an hour
I can nap and come back but as SBL soon as I got home I realized I know but I’m missing it SB: and then I told myself well there’s
nothing to miss the stories are just SB: being interrupted but for some
reason it still created this sense of I’m SB: missing even the interruptions
almost as if there is an SB: arc even for yourself a spectator
and the piece has this weird pull or SB: even though you know you know nothing
will be resolved and you know that you SB: still feel when you leave that even if
you leave to come back that you’re SB: missing something important you
know and I thought that was an SB: interesting reaction in relation to the
dramaturgy of the piece that it creates SB: that effect of you know of drawing you
in to the to the game to the situation– CN: yeah yeah well it’s sort of creating this
sense of resolution or importance where CN: it doesn’t where there is none isn’t it
out sort of nothing out of these endless interruptions there CN: is this sort of creation of that
something is really happening at the CN: same time and it you know it might be
that you hope that perhaps a story goes CN: on much longer that you’ve almost you
get some I think it’s the same when we CN: when we do it that somebody might one
day just tell the best story ever which has CN: never happened but there’s also that so it’s sort of failing in CN: its own game all the time it’s
at the limits of what our imaginations CN: can achieve isn’t it and I think it plays also with this CN: is it better to be telling stories
collectively can we get somewhere CN: more interesting by throwing in
multiple, multiple perspectives on CN: something or oh you know when it comes
down to maybe one person income one CN: person sort of deliver something
meaningful the answer to either of those is CN: no not not really but somehow it’s setting up this pull that you’re talking about CN: this pull towards something that
could be it’s what I suppose it’s CN: towards potential possibilities–
SB: yes and it also I think the other thing that it SB: that one starts missing is that and
some of my students mentioned this you SB: know inside jokes start to develop with
the audience and so you know that if you leave SB: you might be missing
later references yes to things that SB: happened and that creates a kind
of melancholy of knowing you know you SB: won’t be able to get that you know–CN: yeah it’s a little bit of kin to that’s sort CN: of you know I saw that band when they
were small I was part of CN: the in-crowd but now I think it’s yeah
there’s a kind of camaraderie that’s CN: built up with the audience the people who come in later what are they CN: laughing at you know they’re not sort of part of that in-crowd CN: it’s just a clever strategy to make
sure people stay there longer–
SB: and to SB: amuse each other also–
CN: yeah yeah you know when we play these game like CN: structures always in it is this what
what are the extremes to which you CN: can push the game
and those sort of or the edges of the CN: game we talked about and I think
that can exist in lots of different ways CN: you know sometimes
what might be the worst story you CN: could tell or the funniest story those
sorts of extremes but also think it’s CN: about you know how inclusive or not
inclusive can you be how much is for the CN: audience how much is for the people on
stage and it’s like by taking away stuff CN: from the audience like sort of
excluding them then just to be very CN: inclusive again really makes that
something you know so yes it’s just all CN: the time sort of testing I think what this
relationship is between the stage and CN: the audience you know and that we
kind of test things out on each other CN: that then the audience are sort of
watching and witnessing so sometimes CN: they’re witnessing us to be a bit mean
to each other a bit brutal with each other– SB: well I want to thank you so much
for giving this time to talk with us and SB: and also for coming and sharing your
work thank you very much–
CN: great to be CN: here thank you–
SB: thank you

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