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, Jack Perkins talks about his piece Anyone’s Guess How We Got Here.
Hi Jack! Shout out to still having a hotmail address in the age of Gmail. How are you?
Good thanks! I do have a Gmail for Youtube, so I have my spot reserved for when I transfer over. How are you doing?
I’m very well thanks. You studied abroad last year, meaning you’re now the last Barrel Organ-er still standing at Warwick. What’s it like being back?
Its nice – you don’t usually get a year-long pause in the middle of your degree. You can really figure out with that distance what you like about where you study, what makes you happy, what gets you stressed. So I’m going to have a very practical year concentrating on the things that make me happy.
That sounds delightful. Someone asked me the other day why so much successful theatre is coming out of Warwick, and I suggested that the shows that have done well recently have actually been a reaction against the (strong, but pretty conventional) “mainstream” work supported by the drama societies; they’re the exceptions, not the norm. Am I just a shady bitch?
No, there’s definitely something in that. For some theatre companies founded at universities, it’s exactly the nurturing of their course and their societies that build their skills. That’s true for Warwick too, but there’s a double-edged thing at work with the recent companies in also kicking against that, and asking questions in the process.
Limitation is the mother of invention and all that, but you have to ask the question of whether the limitations you have are the ones which breed creativity. Part of how we made our first show Nothing while still at university was in reaction to that. We wanted to make something that asked different things of its audience and was, ultimately, as generous a gesture to them as we could make.
Yeah. I think one of the huge strengths of Nothing is that it worked as a response to that context, but its lack of organisational structure and financial resources also produced a really interesting aesthetic and dramaturgy that had meaning outside of it. Did you see much performance in Berlin?
I saw a fair bit at the Schaubühne – Hamlet, Enemy of the People directed by Thomas Ostermeir, Lungs (with the bikes!), this amazing thing called The Civil Wars with a company of French and Belgian performers. It was asking massive questions about what holds Europe together and the future of the union, but through these small stories about lives, communities and remembering. They were sat in this living-room set, and did monologues straight down the lens of a camera. This was then blown up on a screen behind the set. Watching the process happen on stage reaffirmed for me the power of showing the mechanisms of a piece of theatre in its performance. The same with Katie Mitchell’s work with cameras or the performers riding bicycles hooked up to generators in Lungs – all factors of a performance can tie into the same meaning.
That sounds cool! So what’s the show you’re scratching at the Takeover Weekend?
Anyone’s Guess How We Got Here is a performance about owing money: the feeling of unpaid rent, debts, and utilities. Every knock at the door being like a bomb going off. Debt has been normalised as a solution, and pawning what you own as a deposit for cash. With the presence of Cash Convertors (now the largest second-hand chain in the world), money lenders on every high street, online loan companies, at any moment in time somebody somewhere is going to be dreaming about the wonga.com puppets.
That sounds brilliant – and terrifying, obviously. It reminds me of the food writer Jack Monroe’s vivid descriptions of being unable to answer their own front door because of the memories of bailiffs knocking. [http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/dec/10/poverty-unable-open-front-door-food-banks-parliamentary-inquiry]. Is the show based on your own experiences, research, or both?
Jack Monroe wasn’t on my mind, but their writing is exactly what this performance is reaching for. Sometimes reporting on the increasingly precarious standards of living doesn’t get at what these things mean to people and this performance, I hope, is about using the theatre as the place to feel.
The show is based on my own experiences and people around me. From going home after long stretches away, looking at my home-town, seeing the change of how people are organised and what’s on the high street. I was talking with a friend about Alistair McDowell’s Pomona the other week, and that line “everything bad is real” holds so much of the feeling of being under such rampant cuts, and properly frames what’s happening outside the theatre doors.
What are your plans with this project after the scratch?
To expand the voices in it. I’d like to develop it more in terms of research and include more experiences in the show. For now, it’s the start of a story.
Someone said yesterday “I think Jack’s taking his clothes off in his scratch performance. I don’t know why, but I’m just assuming he is.” Are you going to meet those expectations?
I’m really sorry, I don’t think I will.
Catch Jack’s new scratch, Anyone’s Guess How We Got Here, on Sun 6 Dec at 7.30pm. FIND OUT MORE