Honour Bayes: Inside OutDate: 20 June 2012
They may have picked one of the wettest summers in history but the National Theatre’s Inside Out festival is tantalising nonetheless. It’s a chance for audience members to see behind the curtain, with exhibitions and performances taking place on the terraces and roof tops of the National.
As part of this exciting jamboree the National Theatre Studio is presenting two of its affiliate companies to an unsuspecting Southbank audience: Non Zero One and Made In China.
"Inside Out is about opening up and showing your hand and not keeping work close to your chest", says Tim Cowbury, one half of Made In China. He goes on: "I think the whole point to Inside Out is that they are suggesting to people that there are other territories they can go to apart from George Bernard Shaw and new straight plays."
"But there should be cross over too", says Jessica Latowicki, the company's other half. "I haven’t seen Antigone, but from what I’ve heard it’s extremely analytical about the current political climate. It would make sense for people who’ve gone to see Antigone to be encouraged to see our show and the other way around."
As their name cheekily suggests, a political agenda is often at the heart of Made In China’s work. Cowbury and Latowicki make bold pieces that fuse traditional forms of playwriting and live art and "aim to ask the audience difficult questions whilst giving them a really good time".
Their commission for Inside Out, Get Stuff Break Free (running from 25 June), will take place on a terrace overlooking the Thames. "We chose to have it so that the show was performed in front of the view of the city that we are very directly talking about: the way London is being made into a kind of vehicle this summer for all sorts of claims on what we should be doing and feeling", Cowbury explains.
Latowicki breaks in: “Shopping! And Sport! And the Olympics! And the Queen! And Weddings! And…errr!” She stops bouncing up and down, grins and adds: "It’s about large scale social public events that have taken place both over the past year and in London in general."
Made In China are using their space – a roof hitherto inaccessible to the public – to inform the piece and hope that the fireworks will draw the attention of passing crowds. "We’re having a roof party…and we’re saying 'Isn’t everything really great?' and, 'Look we’re at this lovely party sipping our drinks, we’re right on top, we’ve got a great view!'", Cowbury explains, excitedly. He raises an eyebrow. "Obviously we’re being a bit ironic about all that."
Made In China’s work often questions the voraciousness of Western consumer culture and the stranglehold of capitalism. So I wonder what they think of American Express's sponsorship of Inside Out? "We’ve had no censorship", Latowicki quickly says, adding that, “in the piece, we are engaging with a wider scale conversation about corporate sponsorship in the arts. The National know the kind of work we make, they know the kind of things we’re interested in..."
Cowbury picks up the thread. "We’re coming in as a company that wants to make work that criticises or scrutinises at least all these kinds of relationships. I don’t know, but I wonder if by having us as part of the programme the National are actually acknowledging that they want to open up that dialogue a bit more?"
The National’s flexibility and support is something that Non Zero One are also keen to acknowledge. “Even at the very beginning of the process the National didn’t say no to anything”, company member Sarah Butcher enthuses. “It was kind of amazing to feel that we could be that creative within an institution like this that does have its white card model box presentations months before the shows happen.”
Fran Miller, another company member, laughs. “It actually got quite funny at points, we’d be having ideas and we’d have to make ourselves not say it to them because they’d go off and get costings of stuff and it was only an idea in our brain that could change any second!”
Fluidity lies at the heart of Non Zero One’s devising process. John Hunter, Cat Harrison, Butcher, Alex Turner, Miller and [Iván González] met at Royal Holloway University in 2009 and have been making intimate interactive performances that play with space and technology ever since.
Their work often incorporates technology to allow the audience, or 'participants' as they call us, to engage in a public and private experience. As Turner explains: “We use the technology in our pieces to communicate with people. We’re interested in individual and collective experience so this is very much bringing 24 people around a table to share their experiences.”
In you’ll see me (sailing in antarctica) (running from 6 July), headphones will enable audience members to speak to one another around a table with a 3.9 metre diameter, hearing each other clearly without raising their voices above a whisper as they collectively and individually explore what they can see around them.
The piece will take place nestled in a rooftop location and utilising a set that sounds spectacular (though sadly secret for now) and aims to look at the way we see.
“How can I see what you see?” Harrison asks me. “We got this idea of envisioning and how your brain sees things, as well as about how you form memories and future ideas through envisioning. So many of our memories are like photos and videos...how does that actually feed into how you physically remember things anatomically?”
Unlike previous projects where their involvement has been pre-recorded, here Non Zero One will join as participants, or ‘performers’ themselves. In this way they are creating a safe environment in a more changeable outdoor context. “This isn’t the right show to have a removed voice heard through a pair of headphones like for this is where we got to when you came in”, says Turner, referring to the show the company staged at the Bush in 2011.
Miller continues: “We were doing a test and someone said, ‘I like the fact that there were five of you around the table because it felt safe. It felt that there were people who would be able to carry you through and let it happen.”
Non Zero One’s piece feels as though it is going to reveal some of the National’s hidden secrets, whilst Made In China’s is intending to explode some. But for both shows, Inside Out is giving these two companies a platform to reach a wider audience and showing what fantastic work the NT is doing in support of such vibrant new work.