Summerhall (Venue 26)
Aug 3, 5-14, 16-27 3.25pm
A dangerously unstable farce about growing old. 97 years go by in a flash. An afternoon lasts an eternity. In a care home lounge somewhere off the A1, 97 year old Marsha Hewitt begins the last day of her life. But she cannot go quietly. As the radiators burn and Jeremy Kyle blares, rivalries, relatives and murderous impulses jostle for space on the Axminster carpet. By teatime, a riot is brewing. The award-winning Inspector Sands (A High Street Odyssey, If That’s All There Is, Hysteria) shine a light on how we cope, or fail to cope, with ageing.
What was the inspiration for this performance?All three of us have been lucky enough to have relationships with our grandparents well into our adulthoods. As they aged we became acutely aware that their generation was fast disappearing and we began to think about the legacy they would leave and how much would remain, or not, of their extraordinary and also ordinary life stories. Together with an awareness of our fast ageing population and our new sense of our own mortality as we hit our late thirties, this led us to become interested in the fact that as a society our relationship to ageing seems to be very problematic.
How did you go about gathering the team for it?We have worked with associate artists Lu Kemp (director), Elena Peña (sound designer) and Yukiko Tsukamoto (costume designer) on previous shows, including the award-winning Hysteria and If That's All There Is. The wonderful designer Jamie Vartan also designed our last show, Mass Observation. Our collaboration with Jamie is still relatively new and we are very excited about working with him again on this project. Lighting designer Amy Mae is new to the project and came highly recommended. We actively seek to work with designers who are adaptable to change and who are interested in being involved from the earliest stages. Both lights and sound have evolved with the show.
How did you become interested in making performance?As individuals we have all had an interest in writing, performing and directing from school and University days. Ben and Giulia were part of an ensemble group at Edinburgh University which went on to play at the NSDF. Giulia and Lucinka trained at the Lecoq school in Paris and Ben at LAMDA. On finishing their studies, being at a loose end and feeling the need to do something of their own - the three came together to make Hysteria, which was a hit at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2006. Since then, they created the company and went on to make several more shows - it sort of just grew!
Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
Over the years we have honed in on what does and doesn't work in the rehearsal process so every time we make some changes to our methods. Ben Lewis took on more of a writing role during the lead up as we were keen to have a script/story board in place before rehearsals. We tend to spend a lot of time in the rehearsal room defining the story beats - so this was an attempt to allow ourselves more time to focus on the telling of the story rather than inventing the narrative on our feet. For The Lounge, we’ve been collaborating with a number of medical experts/researchers working in the fields of ageing, empathy and end of life care. Their involvement in the project has provided a depth and weight to the show that we would have struggled to realise without them.
What do you hope that the audience will experience?A comic tragedy that starts as slow motion farce and snowballs to reach a fever pitch delirium of one woman's confrontation with her mortality, the care system and herself. Performers in their 30s and 40s playing characters in their late 90s. The mini drama of mealtimes. We hope the audience will find it both funny and tragic. That they will laugh and at the same time feel uncomfortable about their laughter. It is the fine line between what is hilarious and what is painful to watch which we find fascinating. We hope the audience will come away thinking about their future as older people - and that debate will ensue over how we as a society can offer the best care to people at the end of their lives.
What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
The slow buildup of a farcical situation, played with intricate, painstaking detail by performers pretending to be in their late nineties. An unrelenting sound and lighting design which creates the heat and claustrophobia of the Lounge.
Direct contact with the audience at certain points in the show - allowing them to feel implicated in the story.
Do you see your work within any particular tradition?We have been inspired by the likes of Complicite, Jo Stromsen, Enda Walsh, Pina Bausch, Ottomeier among others.
Our work exists in the tradition of a more physical, playful and at times surreal theatre which uses text both naturalistically and in a heightened way. Hard to define! The Guardian once said of us: THEY HAVE TURNED ANXIETY INTO AN ART FORM.
... which we rather like!