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, Kieran Lucas talks about his piece Play For A White Male .
Hi Kieran! How are you?
Hi Billy! I’m good thanks, a little frazzled from getting ready for Some People Talk About Violence and planning ahead for the Takeover Weekend but otherwise very good.
Excellent. I keep seeing you doing useful techy things in different theatres. How do you juggle money-jobs around Barrel Organ stuff?
I started off working front of house at BAC and now work for their maintenance department, and I work front of house/bar for CPT. Because of the nature of both places I’ll often end up pitching in doing all sorts of things and generally making myself as useful as possible. I like hanging around in these places and it definitely makes it feel less like a ‘money-job’ when you spend your days and evenings working with inspiring, talented, creative people in brilliant, inspiring places.
I feel the same about my pub job. So what’s the show you’re scratching during the Takeover?
Play For A White Male is an attempt to ask how and why we tell stories and who these stories belong to. It’s an attempt disrupt the hegemony of the white male narrative perspective by a white male accompanied by an unprepared audience member.
Interesting – is this you #checkingyourprivilege and processing your straight white male guilt?
Sort of. Ish. Half of the show is about me, and by extension our company, making theatre from a privileged position – and my desire to interrogate that. I feel like art is often at it’s most boring when it gets complacent, and I’d hate for us to sleepwalk into a position where we are unable to challenge ourselves and ask difficult questions.
On the other hand, however, the show is very much about theatre, signifiers, and how the stage is an amazing place to ask questions about who is saying something and why they’re saying it, how their relationship to the narrative can create meaning for an audience. It’s me wrestling with authorial control as much as white, male guilt. But then they’re sort of the same thing anyway, right?
Defs. Working with an unprepared performer or audience member is quite a common conceit at the moment – Louise Orwin’s A Girl and a Gun, Duncan Macmillan’s Every Brilliant Thing obviously Tim Crouch’s An Oak Tree which has just toured again. It’s a thing, isn’t it?
I saw Tim Crouch talk about An Oak Tree at the National and he described how he originally wanted an audience member or someone completely unprepared to play the second part in the play but soon realised that An Oak Tree isn’t about that person on stage not knowing what they are doing, it is about the act of theatre as a transformation and it therefore stands to reason that an actor, a part of the act of theatre, is best placed to facilitate this; the fact that they are unprepared simply highlights this transformative act.
With this show however, I’m aiming for something slightly different in that the person sat opposite me is simply standing in for something that isn’t me. It is less about their relationship to their surroundings (i.e. The Theatre) and more their relationship to me and my narrative voice as the author. It isn’t necessarily important that they are “unprepared”, but that they are not me, that they are not speaking from my position, that they don’t have the script and that they aren’t cueing the dialogue. I’d also like the show, eventually, to test the limits of this idea of ‘not-me-ness’ and see how far it can go.
And how is White Male different, or similar, to the work you make with Barrel Organ?
I’ve always seen it as a kind of embryonic Barrel Organ show that I’ve started, and hopefully at whatever point in development this idea gets to it will be shaped by the group as a whole. I’ve already had help with the script and direction and dramaturgy from other Barrel Organ-ers, and will be seeking lots more help in the future. It uses a fair amount of tech elements which I guess is a departure from other Barrel Organ shows, but I think it uses the technology in order to ask the same sort of questions as our other work.
How developed is it at this point, and what’re its future plans?
At the Takeover Weekend I’ll be presenting the first third(ish) of the show – rather than trying to redux the whole content down to a 25 minute version – which will hopefully act as a ‘proof of concept’. If it does work hopefully we can take the time to interrogate and expand upon it and see where the idea can go. Then again, I might put in front of an audience and realise its just a shit version of An Oak Tree.
Thanks Kieran. I’ve edited this down slightly for length, and also to problematise your authorial control. See you on Saturday!
Catch Kieran’s Play For A White Male on Sat 5 Dec at 7.30pm. FIND OUT MORE.