What follows is an informal Q&A conducted for Pistols and Pollinators by Naomi Woddis with myself and Peader Kirk about our process when collaborating on a new longer show ‘No More Worries’. As a bit of background, Peader is an artist and director who creates immersive performance environments where the audience become a part of the work and encounter becomes possible. His work has recently been shown at the ICA, London, The National Theatre of Greece, Athens and the Academy of Fine Arts, Turin. He also directed my first solo show ‘Indiana Jones and the extra chair’…
N: The premise of the show has got me really interested – whose idea was it ? Or was that also a collaborative effort ? Can you tell me a little bit more about it ?
S: it was my idea.
P: I think the question of “whose idea” is really difficult to get at, what’s been interesting is that it’s been something that’s been batted back and forth. The initial seed of conception came from Simon, and was passed back and forth to the point that it’s almost impossible now to work out or remember which bit was whose idea, and that’s irrelevant anyway.
S: ok, it developed collaboratively – initially through chatting on breaks from rehearsing Indy, which is a totally different show. It was almost a release from the rehearsal process, which helped keep us fresh and creative.
P: Wasn’t it Dostoyevski who would work two novels at the same time – one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
S: so. a bit more about the show – here’s the copy we used for the scratch:
“Ever wanted to get away from it all? Kieran’s 27 and he’s never been on holiday. Paul’s pushing sixty and looking to pull off his final disappearing act. Sometimes, doing the right thing means you tell no-one, because if you did it would stop being the right thing. ‘No more worries’ is a road-trip to the edge, two strangers in Hawaiian shirts staring out the windscreen at the rain, until the land runs out.”
P: but we’re also still playing with the idea that it’s a road trip through austerity Britain too.
S: What we found from doing the scratch is that it’s almost about too much at the moment. I guess one thing about an ideas based process is that having a good idea is one thing, but then when you have to make them do stuff, actually get up and come to life there’s less room. So we had a lot of exciting chats linking many themes and threads in mind-blowing ways but/
P: ideas don’t perform.
N: Why did you decide to change the way you worked together? how did the process work and who did what when especially when the boundaries of performer and director are blurred ?
P: we didn’t change the way we worked together, it evolved.
S: I think we’d had the plan to devise this show more than me writing it and then being directed to perform it, which was our process before, but maybe the idea of you performing in it too was something that happened more naturally.
P: i have no idea what point i agreed to it. But someone did ask for my acting CV at the scratch.
S: yeah. That didn’t happen for me. It was kind of mad showing some spoken word story telling stuff, which I’m much more comfortable with and more known for, and then also some other stuff that really pushed the idea of what spoken word can be within theatre.
P: its a difficult thing as artist – people always want you to do your thing, while you want to find a new thing. We’d already made one show that was successful in one way. We wanted to keep that partnership that worked, but discover what else was possible with it.
S: It felt like one show of me talking to myself was enough for now. Also, its knowing that while that show is something I’m really proud of, I’m not really a character performer
P: i think you’re a great character performer. It doesn’t mean you’re acting a character, but you are a great character performer. For me it’s more that there’s a certain dynamic bounce that you can’t get delivering lines to yourself and us wanting to explore that.
S: and wanting to honour the full dramatic potential of the story idea, and really bring it to life in a different way to how we had before, not to be restricted by knowing that two people talking in a scene would actually only be me.
P: and a bit like the American writers room model in that they start to act out bits roughly as writing , we did that and then somehow that bled into being those characters consistently in the show and ended up with the director being a performer in the piece…
N: What were the advantages and what were the challenges of how you worked this time round ?
S: Peader, you having a role in the writing process was great in terms of sounding board and ideas and sometimes crystallising what would have been a 2 hr write around something down to a 20 minute chat which left me much clearer around what I wanted to write. Conversely it did make it harder in some ways because I felt a bit like stuff had to be signed off, similarly for you directing I guess, in that I had a say in certain elements I might not have done before.
P: collaboration is like co-habitation, you have to learn to live together
S: and i think that learning takes space and time within a process, some days it was just flying along because we could throw ideas back and forth. I think another challenge of writing collaboratively was that we didn’t have as much time to look at performance
P: My mind naturally sees structure and even when i’m inside it I can still sense that structure for an audience but it’s really hard to tweak it from within it, to find that flow and shape that i would if I was just the director. Again just a time thing but would have been great to video every rehearsal to get around that – in a way though the process was building the piece this time…
S: and knowing there would be another phase of development in which we could work on performance. Which did though leave us out of our comfort zones for the scratch
P: yeah. But that’s a good thing
S: and i think we learnt more because of that. It was a scary experience in some ways, but made a lot of things clearer much quicker than would have happened otherwise.
P: if you’re going to show something in progress, then you have to be risking something – if you’re totally sure in the material why are you sharing it in that format? No point bungee jumping off a chair.
S: no. Not to mention that would probably really hurt. Ha ha! Sorry to end on a cheap joke. Thanks for asking the questions Naomi!