It's been so much fun putting together all the Face Meet.. Incoming interviews, not only having the chance to meet the people behind the new and exciting work, but to read all about their ideas surrounding theatre and the work they make. I interviewed Claire O'Reilly from Malaprop about their show LOVE+, and we got onto talking about live (and dead bodies) in a space, the riot/revolution franchise she wants to build, and the story that started the making of the show.
What drove you to make LOVE+?
A Time article I read told me the Turing Test had finally been passed, i.e. a computer tricked lots of humans into thinking it was one of them. Further research explained that is an often disputed claim in the world of robotics, though when I eventually discovered that it was too late. This robot was a simulated 13-year-old Ukrainian boy called Eugene Goostman, who had (conveniently) broken English and a (conveniently) bizarre sense of humour. The author of the Time article included a brief conversation he’d had with Eugene, during which the subject of Eugene’s pet guinea pig was raised. When asked what the guinea pig’s name was, Eugene said “Name of my guinea pig’s name is Bill. But I suspect he doesn’t go by it. Perhaps he is deaf and I should call him Beethoven”. I knew I wanted to explore this world further, though I’m unsure as to who was more inspiring initially, Eugene or Bill the guinea pig.
There are so many ways to tell stories, tackle issues, explore ideas - why theatre?
I think theatre is exciting because it’s a medium that in itself encompasses loads of the ways we tell stories. One of my most recent favourite theatre pieces is actually an ‘instruction-based video and sound installation’ made by Caroline Williams (see below). There are obviously loads of definitions of what theatre is, but for me it’s ultimately about live bodies* in space agreeing that there is theatre happening. And I guess adding liveness makes things instant and urgent, which can only ever be an interesting edge to apply to a story.
*haven’t tried this with dead bodies
What was the last show you saw that you think everyone should see?
I think everyone should see ‘Now is the Time to Say Nothing’ by Caroline Williams and Reem Karssli and ‘Palmyra’ by Bertrand Lesca and Nasi Voutsas. They weren’t an official double bill, but they were cleverly programmed back to back in the Arnolfini theatre by Mayfest, Bristol. They’re perfect companion pieces, the first is an immersive film experience, the second a choreographed clown show rooted in a weirdly recognisable reality. Both explored Syria and the experience of refugees. Visceral, innovative, important, all good things!
Theatre making is hard and, although we try our best to work around them, it has its limits. If you had an unlimited budget, an unquestioningly devoted audience and all the time in the world, what show would you make?
I’d love to make an immersive riot/revolution franchise. I’d lease it out to practitioners in cities around the world, where each maker could tailor the riot to their city, kind of as an attempt to demonstrate all cities need some kind of change, and there are people in every city willing to fight for it. To use actual theatre language, it’d be an immersive, promenade experience; I think it’d work best in an infrastructure with a courtyard, ideally with historical resonance. I’d do the Dublin one in the National Museum of Ireland in Collins Barracks, a site that was an army base for 200 years prior to its museum life. The idea would be that there’d be certain core beats, moments and branding, but the international artists can respond to the issues relevant to them. Franchise might be the wrong word; it’s more like a TV format. It’s Strictly Come Dancing, basically.
LOVE+ is on at New Diorama on 29 June and HOME on 30 June!