Chris Thorpe: “I am not particularly interested in the skill of pretending to be someone else”

Author and performer, Chris Thorpe (UK) has collaborated with Unlimited Theatre, Third Angel and the BBC; he was invited to the Stückemarkt by Simon Stephens. This evening, he presents “There Has Possibly Been An Incident”, which premiered at the Latitude Festival in July of last year. We discussed on Skype about authorship, ego and responsibility.
Nathalie Frank: You write and you perform, how does that influence your writing?
Chris Thorpe: I come from working collaboratively with companies, with friends, I’m often working very immediately in the rehearsal room with them. That process influences the way that I write for the stage: I write more in a style of a text for performance rather than a play. It is a very specific relationship with the audience that I want, with the idea that the text is there in order to exist with the room and audience, not to create a sense of an alternative word. The text makes the performers have an odd relationship with the audience, not the same that actors would have, with the intention of a show rather than a group of actors creating a world.
NF: How was the process for “There has possibly been an accident”?
CT: I did write this text as a playwright feeling like a playwright, feeling that it’s my responsibility to create a text which is essentially an instruction manual for a performance, which is then worked, rehearsed and designed. The language of it is still very influenced by that devising collaborative background that I have, it doesn’t necessarily stick to the rules of playwriting, but it stick to the function of the text in playwriting. Another way these collaborative processes did influence the way I work is that I’m very open and flexible when the play is being rehearsed to changing the text, to refine that text in the rehearsal.
NF: How do the performers deal with this kind of text?
CT: All performers, including me, are reading the text. It’s a deliberate choice I use also a lot in my solo work. I am not particularly interested in the skill of pretending to be someone else. On the contrary, the actual act of reading destroys, hopefully, the weird impressive trick of knowing all those world, and that tendency to look at someone who has memorised a lot of text, instead of actually listening to the text. It’s great to work with actors who can switch off their acting.
NF: “There Has Possibly Been An Incident” deals with decision-making and heroism…
CT: The idea of heroism came from the idea that most of the time, most of the people think that they are right and I find that an astonishing thing about human being. Because it leads us to the worst of ourselves. It’s really rare to have someone do what they consider to be the wrong thing. And that leads to the very idea of heroism. If you act according to what you believe is right, then sometimes you’ll be a hero and sometimes the contrary. When you look at people in the situation where they have the choice to be heroic, is it always an iconic image, and sometimes people will find themselves making the mistake that they originally thought to eradicate, like attacking or killing human beings because they think they have no alternative.
NF: This year’s Stückemarkt focuses on “new models of authorship” – to what extend do you feel representative?
CT: Well I don’t sit down and say “I’m gonna be innovative”, I sit down and say “I’m gonna do what I feel appropriate”. In terms of the form of the work and the style of the language, I don’t think what I do is necessarily a new, radical form of authorship, I think if there is a way in which I relate to it, it’s in whether I feel ownership of that text, and I do feel responsibility for that text, because it is my responsibility to have found the words and the language for those ideas.
Authorship for me is responsibility for a part of process of having a conversation in a room and it is hard to separate the concept of authorship with ego. The concept makes me feel uncomfortable because it is bounded with the concept of wanting to be recognised. It would be interesting if all plays, just for a year, were anonymous. Theatre marketing departments would shit themselves, but it would be interesting. I think people would take more risk because they wouldn’t write what they think the world expect from them.
Read also the interview with Miet Warlop.
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Photo: Bruno Simao


Nathalie Frank

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