Friday, 1 April 2016

Unvisible Dramaturgy: Kirk King on reviving a cult classic comic

Following yesterday's press release for Unvisible, there has been considerable discussion about whether this is a hoax, or the kind of ambitious performance that will change Scottish theatre. Saturnalia productions have refused to reply to my emails all day - increasingly angry as I thought my desire to have an exclusive had led me to be fooled - until Kirk King agreed to some email questions. So, in the spirit of my dramaturgy database...

First of all, is this an April Fool's joke? 
Kirk King: First of all, have you read The Invisibles? One of the main points of the series is that reality is a consensual hallucination, a mad juggling act with the balls all kept in the air by faith. 

Then there was that time when Grant realised that DC were going to cancel the comic, and asked the readers to perform a ritual masturbation to save it. Chaos magic is a major theme through the books - fake it until you make it, honey. The membrane between prank and perception is thinner than you think. 

So you are serious?
The answer to that depends on which side you are on, doesn't it?

Okay. So, you have described five performances. How do these relate to the source series?
Well, these performances are happening now, and Barbelith landed in 2013. King Mob is the only character who is carried over from the comics, although Ragged Robin might be in the first play. You'll have to come and see to find out...

Basically, King Mob has spent the last three years trying to live a life in the aftermath of a phenomenal victory. He can't do it: he's addicted to danger. Like Coriolanus, off Shakespeare, he's a warrior who can't do peace. He tries to medicate himself, which is how he ends up in the pubic triangle. The heady cocktail of sex, performance and alcohol opens him up to a message from Barbelith, and he realises that, far from being over, the war is still going on.

Is it still the archons versus the invisible college?
Again, wait and see. We follow KM as he tries to get a cell back together in a world where some of Grant's predictions have come true, others, not so much. He realises that the real enemies are not the Conservative politicians who are doing their best to destroy civil society, but another set of archons, The Universals. They insist on purity rather than order. And Aristotle is involved, inevitably.

Hold on, the Greek philosopher?
Yes. In The Invisibles, Grant was dealing with queer theory and post-modernism. If you look at the themes - BDSM, alternative history - these things have become the mainstream now. It's possible to say that we are living in KM's world. What do you think all those YouTube videos are about?

So queer theory is busy getting The Scottish Government to recognise gender fluidity. That's great, only once you start talking to those people, your revolutionary potential is out the window. Grant is taking on the people who started it - Plato, Aristotle. This is a classical take on The Invisibles' mythos.

Plus there's a mad finale on Arthur's Seat, where massed ranks of Bollywood dancers use subliminal bass to attack The Universals.

Can I be one of the people giving lectures in the fourth episode, Flexin' Mentallo, please? 
I'm glad you've mentioned that, because that is the part that I'm most excited about. We realised that there were some heavy duty ideas floating about, and there was a book, a critical book, that accompanied the series. We have some wild ideas for that day - apart from the academics - to replicate the dynamism of the old Barbelith website.

Send me a CV.

Where does Bollywood fit into this?
Appropriation. It's a big theme in the whole thing. Bollywood has some of the least 'pure' music in the world. It can be like a history of sound in five minutes, everything gets chucked in there. Disco, metal, the lot. Who better to fight The Universals than the absolute opposite of their rigid purity? 

It looks as if the time of The Unvisible has come.
When Grant wrote The Invisibles, he was ten years ahead: The Matrix ripped off his plot and his interest in the esoteric. It's only fair that he gets a voice in the current debates around queerness, gender fluidity, sexual subversion and intersectionality. He's always been at the cutting edge, of comics and philosophy. 

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