Sam Rees talks about the development of “Where is Ban Ki-Moon” and being part of We Talk Horses.
“Where is Ban Ki-Moon” is playing from Tue 6 – Sat 10 August 2019 at 9pm as part of Camden Fringe 2019. Click here for more information.
I wrote ‘Where is Ban Ki-moon?’ initially as a fifteen-minute piece under duress, because I had to for my degree. I still see forcing plays out of someone as a profound attack on their human rights, especially when they are, like me, a bit lazy when it comes to writing plays. It’s a form of discrimination, really.
I’m very happy that Pip, my co-artistic director at We Talk of Horses, has allowed to me to develop ‘Where is Ban Ki-moon?’ over the last three years into an hour long show, and that it has had a life at several venues already, but I must stress that if I hadn’t had that idea three years ago, I didn’t have a single other one to fall back on. It wasn’t like I had 17 detailed treatments for other plays hanging around. I literally got an email from someone claiming to be Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary General of The United Nations, asking me to pay a million dollars and thought it was funny and would make my piece about it.
Then, I started watching Andy Kaufman begging for money on Letterman, and something about that bedraggled, surreal, performance-art/standup touched me and it got all mixed-up. He was tragic, pathetic, but on another level completely in control, completely disturbing. The fundamental question became, ‘what if somebody was so lonely, so afraid, so in pain, that the only person they could talk to was a shyster on the internet? What kind of person would that be? What sort of trauma would cause that?’.
At the time, it also seemed like everyone around me was either sinking with the weight of their own mental health struggles, or else in love with someone who was. Those second group fascinated me; what’s it like to be on the outside, looking in? To be tapping on the frosted glass, but getting no reply, seeing the shape of a person you
know so well shifting and moving somewhere just out of sight, just out of reach? How angry would that make you? How unfair would that be? How much would you want to smash that glass into a million pieces?
And thus, our weird, wonky, sad, happy, angry, dancey show was born. It’s full of cheap jokes, stand-up, performance poetry, movement, music. It’s about depression, fundamentally, and what it’s like for the people left behind, for the people who don’t understand.
But I have also insisted from the start that it’s romantic. It’s full of hope, even in the face of certain doom, as a love story should be. It’s about that moment of ‘maybe’ when Orpheus is leading Eurydice out of the underworld and you think ‘MAYBE this time, MAYBE he won’t turn around’. It’s about that moment when Romeo’s mourning Juliet and the audience thinks ‘MAYBE this time, MAYBE she’ll wake up in time’. Of course, these things don’t happen. Because life rarely works out that way.
I had a little feeling that maybe this show would have value to someone other than me. I think, without being bombastic, that I’ve been proven right, so far. I can claim only a small chunk of credit for this; the team working on this show are all exceptional people and exceptional artists. To be doing it in the historic fringe venue of CPT feels like some sort of ley lines have converged for us, and we are honored and grateful to have this opportunity. Please come dance with us, laugh with us, maybe have a little cry with us. You are very much invited; we would love you to be there.