Us at Silent Faces love to make and see theatre that reacts to the social and political world around it. Throughout Incoming Fest we are super excited to see a massive range of work that does just this, including The Coolidge Effect by Wonder Fools, which responds to the age of pornography and the rise of the internet. We spoke to Jack from the company about their upcoming show.
What drove you to make The Coolidge Effect?
As young adults, Robbie and I have grown up with the advent of the internet and at the beginnings of the mass consumption of pornography that this new media has allowed. In the UK alone, 10 million porn videos are consumed every day and the average age a young boy starts to watch porn now is 12 years old.
After watching a TED talk on youtube – Gary Wilson’s ‘The Great Porn Experiment’ – where we learned about the theory of the Coolidge Effect, we knew we had to combine our own experiences with this science and bring attention to this important topic on stage. Pornography and sex in general are massive taboos in this country, and with this performance we really wanted to challenge that in a fun and, hopefully, enlightening way.
Tell us a bit about Wonder Fools as a company
Wonder Fools are a theatre company that create contemporary work based on a diverse range of current and historical real-life stories. Using these stories, we have taken theatre productions, performance installations and creative learning workshops to over 4,500 people across Scotland. To date we have staged four full productions: ‘McNeill of Tranent: Fastest Man in the World’, an autobiographical show performed by retired athlete George McNeill, who in 1972 was the fastest man in the world despite never being allowed to compete in the Olympic or Commonwealth Games; ‘549: Scots of the Spanish Civil War’, a play with songs telling the story of the journeys of four miners from East Lothian who travelled among 549 Scots to fight against fascism in Spain; ‘Lampedusa’ by Anders Lustgarten, exploring the acts of human kindness behind the headlines of the migrant crisis and ‘The Coolidge Effect’, which we bring to Incoming, a one-man show that uses an interactive blend of storytelling, poetry and science to examine how pornography affects our mental health, relationships and sexual experiences. Wonder Fools were recently one of six Graduate Emerging Companies on attachment with the New Diorama Theatre.
There are so many ways to tell stories, tackle issues, explore ideas - why theatre?
Wonder Fools aims to create performance that has a social impact and leaves a lasting imprint our audiences. If we didn’t think the work we create could in some way create a space for discussion, or critical thought, I don’t think we would make the type of work we do. What theatre and performance is perfect for is to provide a platform for a shared experience and to present ideas, theories and provocations on stage that might not work as well through other art forms.
We end the performance with a moment where we say ‘if you want to talk, we’ll be in the bar – come chat’, and this felt important because what The Coolidge Effect aims to do is start a conversation about pornography, not be a closed book where what we present on stage can’t be discussed or challenged, even. Whether it’s in the bar afterwards, online a month later or even randomly in a coffee shop somewhere, it’s vital the conversations continue to happen.
What was the last show you saw that you think everyone should see?
Cardboard Citizens' "Cathy" by Ali Taylor was incredible when it toured to Glasgow last month. "Cathy" explores the housing crisis and its damaging personal repercussions for a single mother. It was a perfect example of political theatre done simply and directly through storytelling. Think I, Daniel Blake and take the emotional impact of that film combined with the immediacy that only theatre can provide and it was a devastatingly impactful piece. It used forum theatre to immediately spark a conversation between audience and company which I really admired, because as a company that's what Wonder Fools is striving towards.
Theatre making is hard and, although we try our best to work around them, it has it’s limits. If you had an unlimited budget, a unquestioningly devoted audience and all the time in the world, what show would you make?
A Robbie Williams musical...
What else in the Incoming Festival line-up are you excited to see?
We're naturally excited to see everything that's on at Incoming - there's such a diverse and interesting body of work that's been curated. If we had to pick one it would be Sex with Robots and Other Devices, which is on the same night as us at NDT and is looking at something that is topically very similar to The Coolidge Effect. It'll be interesting to discuss to both pieces in the bar afterwards!
The Coolidge Effect is on at New Diorama on the 30 June and HOME on 1 July!