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 speak to Billy Barrett – freelance writer and the co-founder of fellow Warwick graduate company Breach – about what to expect. Here, Katherine Thorogood talks about her piece You Have To Learn How To Die Before You Die.
Hi Kate, how are you?
Hi Billy! I am very well thanks. Hope you too are in rude health and busy.
I’m rude and healthy as ever thanks! You and fellow company member Euan are both at Royal Welsh at the moment – what’s drama school like, and how does it compare to Warwick, where you founded Barrel Organ?
Bloody mad. There’s stuff which we’ve got a grip on, and then stuff which is completely new – which is both exciting and grounding as hell. Keeping your own fires going is vital alongside the intensity of group career study.
It’s a very different environment to Warwick, in that it’s a more vocational course. There’s a lot going on, but it’s different to the robustly rogue extra-curricular atmosphere which saw a lot of new work develop at Warwick. Plays are part of our timetable, so there’s an existing commercial framework for showcasing traditionally employable theatre acting. The MA also includes a “new work” assessment though, which requires us to develop a piece as artists/ theatre-makers/ writers, which I think is important.
Speaking of writing and making, what are you going to scratch during the takeover weekend?
It’s called You Have To Learn How To Die Before You Die (which I know is shit and years too long, but hurrah for works in progress). It’s a monologue about a young woman’s experience of death in her family, and the questions that arise when it becomes apparent her elderly grandfather’s death may have been suicide. I’ve been writing it for a while, and developing it with the talent and immense patience of Bryony Davies, fellow Barrel Organist.
This already sounds really touching. Where did the idea come from?
Lots of thought about family love, and how when people have to care for one another at a new point in life the panic of “getting it right” can be so demoralising. The idea of generational gaps in social expectation. That conflict between what someone else thinks is good for you compared to your own desires is so familiar to everyone in a million and one ways, and this story takes it to an extreme. I’m interested in how people administer love to one another, when more and more the capacities for expressing love and exercising autonomy are dictated by paralysing financial pressures.
The title sounds similar to This is How We Die, so I’m obviously picturing you with a Chris Brett Bailey-style quiff (which you could definitely pull off), growling down a microphone and intensely draining a glass of water – is this accurate?
Thanks for the quiff thing, I might print and frame that question. I absolutely fucking rage for CBB. This Is How We Die is one of the most significant things I’ve ever experienced in terms of realising what I want to see happening in theatre, but this project is not stylistically or formally similar at all. At this stage it’s a very simple play with nary a glass of water or mic in sight. I definitely need to change the title.
I like the title! So it sounds like you have further plans for it after the scratch?
At the moment I’ve just about got a first draft down, but I’m hoping to R&D the show next year with Bryony and develop a full piece.
I look forward to seeing it. I’m also excited for Nothing this weekend – if Barrel Organ were a band, this would be like you playing early tracks at a gig for the die-hard fans even though you also have a banging new album out. How are you feeling about revisiting it?
Thank you! We’re so pumped about doing it, and the fact people might be seeing it again who’ve been before is unreal. I can’t wait to revisit the mechanics of Nothing, to jump back into the multiple roles and gaming rules which were the origins of the Barrel Organ family for us as students – it’s going to be really special for us now as… non-students. As a rabble whose practices have developed widely and variously since we last touched the show, it’ll hopefully be a good ride.
Catch Kate’s scratch on Sat 5 December. FIND OUT MORE