An interview given by Almost Human to FringeReview about their performance at Barnstaple FringeFest 2013.
What is the theme of the show?
Letters from another Island follows the thoughts, prayers and confessions from six 20-somethings; musing on their own first world problems and some problems that are very much of another world.
Not that it matters what I think; but to me, Letters from another Island describes the kind of anxiety and crisis that prefigures the creative act (or the destructive act). The letters are soliloquies of youth. Youth is what I know; it is beautiful (and very, very ugly), full of vitality (and dull, dull, dull) most importantly it is unfixed, it can make mistakes. The letters are written from the perspectives of 6 characters. These characters are constructions. They are the strongest of the strange, each with their own anxiety or crisis. And of course they’re young.
We switch between the texts of Erica and Herman, one who wants a cause or path and the other who has one but it’s based on paranoid fantasies. Next come Julian and Yvonne; one who wants perfect love of a woman but knows it doesn’t exist and the other who had perfect love but lost it because her purrfect love, a cat called Lawrence, was killed in a tragic accident. Lastly, Gabriel and Justine, one who wants to be thought about constantly and the other plagued by a god who will not leave him alone.
What is new and different about the show?
The performance itself works as a piece of live filmmaking. As an audience member entering the theatre, you enter an installation that is simultaneously a film set, sound recording studio, cinema and performance space. By using a green screen, six miniature sets, two cameras and a projector we create and deconstruct a piece of theatre and a film at the same time.
It all sounds very technical- I guess it is. For modern filmmaking, however, our technology is hopelessly outdated. This is where we found the biggest challenge in making (and staging!) our performance, but also where a large part of the excitement and energy lies in the performance lies: With just six performers and technology that’s on its last breath, we create some form of choreography of acting, filming, lighting, speaking and creating the film’s sound effects through the use of Foley art.
I think that our approach in producing a film in front of an audience is a very unique aspect of our production. Furthermore, our embracement of the lo-fi in a time where the hi-tech continues to prevail provides an aspect of nostalgia and simplicity.
Moreover, our production is a genuine attempt to produce a theatre that uses a language that is relevant to a generation that theatre fails to interest. Let’s face it- theatre can be incredibly uncool. When it tries to be cool it fails. We are not trying to be cool but we are trying to be youthful, we are trying to make mistakes. I believe if we can do this well; if we can do this intelligently, poetically and honestly, then at least, I won’t be quite so embarrassed when I tell people I work in theatre.
Take us into one of your rehearsals…
Our rehearsals are very relaxed. We slowly build up the production through discussions amongst the group members. One individual is elected to be the overall driving force, however everyone within the production has say on the direction. We are disciplined, but enjoy approaching our work with humour and fun.
One rehearsal stands out. The night before our preview last September we had a seven-hour intense rehearsal that lasted far into the wee hours of the morning. Although it was highly productive; it deteriorated into pizza crusts strewn around the performance space, accidental consumption of props and the institution of a points-based demerit system (which has remained to this day, I’m afraid…).
How did the show come into being?
The production comes from some work that three of the group members worked on with the group Pearson/Brookes during their M.A. at Aberystwyth University. When discussing the possibility of creating work together and some of our enjoyments from the project, we decided to explore and develop the methods we used further.
The letters themselves started out as letters of complaint. They morphed into letters of admission and finally into more internal and fragmented thoughts that paint portraits of the characters. Now they barely resemble letters at all.
Our appearance at Fringe Theatrefest in Barnstaple was through word of mouth. Mads Floor Andersen, a friend who will be performing his own production during the Barnstaple Fringe, recommended that we should apply, and here we are!
What are you favourite shows, and why?
Four group members, four answers.
It Is Like It Ought To Be: A Pastoral by Uninvited Guests. A too perfect imaginary village is brought to life before us, the utopia of the English Countryside constructed away from the world ‘out there’. In the performance at Dartington College of Arts, the piece referenced our impending closure, and poignantly addressed our attitudes to loss and re-invention, and continues to remind me of the perseverance of love and art throughout moments of change.
The Wooster Group’s LSD (….Just the High Points) because of its rigorous conceptual construction and uncompromising techniques of meaning creation.
A Gorey Story which was performed in Toronto in 2006. The production played out the poem ‘The Gashlycrumb Tinies’ by Edward Gorey, with humour, angst, and tragedy; through simple, but not simplistic, creative means – movement, technology and use of space. An example I like to remind myself of when working.
Way Out West, the Sea Whispered Me by Cupola Bobber. Minimal, absurd, resonant and charming; the duo presented one of the most poetic and imaginative pieces I have seen. The imagery, the echoes of the sea, the rhythm of their texts; it was an experience that will hopefully haunt me for a very long time.