This weekend’s Barrel Organ Takeover will feature scratch performances of brand new shows in development by four different company members, each night at 7.30pm. As the makers hone their material over the next few days, they’ll each talk to Billy Barrett – freelance writer and the co-founder of fellow Warwick graduate company Breach – about what to expect. First up, Dan Hutton on his piece Assembly.
Hi Dan, how are you?
Not bad thanks, Billy. Yourself?
I’m good thanks! So, you’ve taken a bit of a backseat with Some People Talk About Violence to focus on other projects. What have you been working on, and will you be returning to a more central company role soon?
Yep, I’ve been up and down the country assisting on a couple of touring productions with Headlong, curious directive and the Royal Exchange, among others. It’s been great – it’s fantastic being in the same room as these extraordinary artists and learning your craft from them. I’ve been saying for a while that I feel I know the kind of work I want to make, but that I’m still learning the best way of putting that all together, so working on these larger-scale shows is the best way of getting to grips with methods.
Though I’ve not been as present in the rehearsal room for Barrel Organ stuff over the past year, I still very much feel a part of the company; it’s my job to look after our finances and I feel very present in decisions being made on both an artistic and executive level. That’s sort of the joy of who we are – we come and go as we please, knowing that support system will always be there. And yes, I hope that I – that all of us at some point – get to take a lead on our own projects and see them through to completion.
You also gave up blogging and criticism last year to concentrate on theatre-making. I’ve recently done the same, and my current view is that thoughtful, non-star-rated or “consumer guide” criticism is doable if you’re making your own work, but anything formally resembling a review – and therefore, which you could be paid to write – risks complicating your credibility as both an artist and a critic. Since I’m increasingly reluctant to take on unpaid labour, I’ve pretty much stepped back. But I also don’t really feel like I’m missing out, because I’ve found that theatre-making can fulfil that same urge to partake in a “critical conversation” as your work is necessarily in dialogue with other practitioners and writers. Does any of this resonate with you?
Interesting you should say that as I was asked today why I wasn’t writing much at the moment, and I think my response would pretty much be word-for-word what yours is.
I initially “gave up” because I was too busy in rehearsals and touring to have the time to write anything. And even when I did have the time I needed to not think about theatre and engage with cinema or novels or TV or music or politics or food or wine or fuck all instead. But then I realised it was slightly more than that, that it was about the fact I felt my ‘voice’ was being heard in other ways, in the work I was making and in my professional networks and friendship groups. And we’re all – makers and critics – in constant dialogue with each other anyway, through the decisions we make, through the things we say or don’t say.
Exactly. Ok, and what are you scratching at the Takeover weekend?
My piece is called Assembly, which is basically what Untitled Project About Apathy has become. It’s an attempt to understand what coming together as a group might mean, and a questioning of consensus democracy.
Ah, this is the show you scratched in Bristol a year or two ago. How has it evolved since then, and has the changing political landscape (euphemism for “the fact that everything is even more fucked and terrifying”) influenced it?
Yeah, it’s a totally different show now. The ideas that me and Lulu and Kieran looked at for Apathy are still there, but the form is a very different beast. We realised towards the end of that process that we were more interested in what an audience does during a show, and how that action or inaction relates to our own relationship to politics and the world around us.
So I’ve taken that idea and run with it a bit, but I’m also interested in how ‘consensus’ decision making (in the style of Occupy and direct action groups) throws up loads of fascinating stuff about how we can (or can’t) collectively make decisions in an effective way. I think I want to ask some difficult questions with this one, because due to the nature of everything being pretty much totally fucked, we all need to think about what democracy is, how we interact with each other, and what the very act of being in a room together means.
This sounds properly interesting. I’ve always said the form of Nothing feels really influenced by consensus decision-making, which I think is a product of Lulu and Ali’s involvement in student occupations at Warwick. Any plans to take Assembly further after this weekend?
We’ll see how it goes down.
Speaking of Nothing, you’re doing it this weekend for the first time in ages! How are you feeling about performing it again?
Fucking pumped. I cannot wait. But also cacking myself.
Catch Dan’s scratch of Assembly at 7.30pm on Sun 6 December. FIND OUT MORE