Next up from Incoming Festival is Rory from Argonaut talking about their play, Action at a Distance. After being created in 2016, the year of devastation, Rory talks about what was going on in the world when the piece was conceived, tells us about Argonaut as a company and chats about the directness of theatre.
What drove you to write Action at a Distance?
The play started as my dissertation in my final year of university. My degree was in the American Studies department and I got to go on a study abroad year to Los Angeles. I was at a very left-leaning liberal arts college during the final year of Obama’s presidency. There were events and demonstrations during my time there that reflected a deep anger about American interventions overseas, particularly in the W. Bush and Obama years. This was a viewpoint that I channelled into the character of Josh. There were also a few moments of synchronicity that summer — I kept reading and listening to things about drone strikes and the coalition forces’ dishonesty about how many civilians were being killed, as well as about the dark web. So in the autumn of 2016, I assembled these elements, built a plot, and the characters followed soon after. I was writing it during the election campaign, Trump’s win, inauguration and first month in office, and the November 2016 offensives in Aleppo and Mosul, so it felt incredibly pertinent and fresh while I was initially working on it. It’s now become a bit of a period piece, I suppose.
Tell us a bit about Argonaut as a company
Nina Cavaliero, the show’s director and one of the performers, and I formed Argonaut in March 2017, after we had first performed the show with another company in Norwich. The first few months of the company’s existence were manic, full of last-minute Edinburgh admin and preparation. It was then that we brought in Rosa Caines and Dom Luck, who play Chris and Josh, and Molly-Rose Curran to help direct. We were recently lucky to be chosen as one of the New Diorama’s Graduate Emerging Companies for 2018/19, and we’re excited to use this platform and support to help build whatever our next show will be. Everyone currently involved with the company is a writer as well as a performer or director, so we’re all excited to see where our next show comes from.
There are so many ways to tell stories, tackle issues, explore ideas - why theatre?
Because of its directness, I think. It’s the only form through which I think we could engage with people about this issue. By doing this show live to an audience, we’ve been able to be directly connected with people who want to have these conversations and to be challenged. Also filmmaking is, like, really expensive.
What was the last show you saw that you think everyone should see?
Probably Misty by Arinze Kené at the Bush. It felt like something incredibly special in the room. I'm not usually into gig theatre, but it completely transcended that genre, and even made it look like a reductive categorisation. I just want to see lyricism and drumming like that every time I go to the theatre. But while being seriously funny and a visual spectacle, it also had very important things to say about the theatre world we work in, who it is designed to work for and who it is designed to oppress. I know Arinze is a busy man, but I really hope it has some kind of future life.
Theatre making is hard and, although we try our best to work around them, it has its limits. If you had an unlimited budget, a unquestioningly devoted audience and all the time in the world, what show would you make?
Something with lots of loud music and dance and stuff. A show that feels like being drunk, in a brilliant way. With the most talented performers in the world. I don't know. Something that would leave an indelible impression upon every single audience member, something that they would think about every day for the rest of their lives. I suppose. It would probably be awful, but if the audience is unquestioningly devoted then I guess that doesn't matter.
What else in the Incoming Festival line-up are you excited to see?
Very excited for 'The Search for the Black-browed Albatross' by The Backpack Ensemble and 'Lights Over Tesco Car-Park' by Poltergeist Theatre. Also very excited to be sharing the line up with ThisEgg's 'Me and My Bee' and Barrel Organ's 'Anyone's Guess How We Got Here', two of my favourite shows from last year's Fringe. The whole line up looks fab. I see myself rocking up to the New Diorama at 7pm on most of my nights off work during the festival and taking a punt on a show I haven't heard much about.
Action at a Distance is coming to Incoming Festival on 7pm 26 June at New Diorama and 7pm 3 July at HOME!