Friday, 14 September 2012

Harry Giles: What We Owe

Politics distresses me, especially since I know that I can't get away with blandly stating "all theatre is political" when there is supposed to be a boycott on Israeli art. I am going to try and stabilise my political opinions over the next year. Best way forward: ask the artist.

It's lucky that Harry Giles is so unapologetic about his work. "I'm an angry and a political person, and I think we ought to be having some kind of revolution right now already," he says. "I hate how alienated so many people are from politics, and how dis-empowered folk can be, how impossible political action seems to so many people."

What We Owe is part of Arches Live! No doubt inspired by Mr Criticulous' retreat into a dark room last year, Giles is offering a one-to-one debt counselling session. "What We Owe is intent on being totally serious and deadly playful at the same time," he continues.  "That's an aesthetic we're seeing a lot in performance now - something beyond the arch and ironic, something that allows for earnestness by being fun."

Giles observes that Arches Live! - a bastion for new and experimental work - is increasingly reflecting the politicised performance that has become more common. Theatre is either reflecting or leading public activity here: everything from having a riot, through standing outside theatres and shouting, picketing abortion clinics to joining a Facebook group is seen as political. 

"There's a lot of anger in the arts at the moment," Giles observes. "And that's coming out in the form and content of our work. Most of my performance is big-P Political -- I tend to chew into a big issue (like "class" or "riots") and then confront it frankly, try and talk about it honestly, try and make it fun for any punter to engage with. That's what What We Owe does with the subject of debt. And it's really nice to see it sitting in a programme of politically-engaged performance."

What We Owe doesn't just fit in with Arches Live! It continues themes from his earlier works. "Most of what I do in the theatre space is in some way about engaging people with political stuff, and about empowering people to take action," he says. "My last project, Class Act, ended with the option to make a pledge to participate in class war; before that, in This is not a Riot, I was training people to cope with riot situation through teddy bear role-play."

Like me, Giles is aware that theatre might not be the only way to experience life: unlike me, he is able to put his work into a broader context. "I deal with the anxiety that art is waste of time by making sure that my artistic work has non-artistic implications, has some effect in the world for those who aren't obsessed with art all the time," he concludes. In his short slots in The Arches, Giles is making the link between the aesthetic experience and the wider world.

Harry Giles: What We Owe as part of Arches LIVE 2012

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