Brief Encounter With ... Adam MeggidoDate: 2 October 2009
Adam Meggido, founder of The Sticking Place, is deep in the rehearsal process for the 2009 Annual Terror Fest, which opens on 7 October at the Southwark Playhouse.
The Terror Fest is a product of Meggido’s imagination, and has been produced annually for since 2004. This year, he seeks to revive the French tradition Grand Guignol, or horror theatre. In its prime, Grand Guignol pushed limits of fear, which is a personal pastime for Meggido when it comes to theatre.
What made you want to start a terror festival?
I’ve always been fascinated with the French Grand Guignol, and had this idea of sort of doing it for the 21st century. I brought the idea to a few friends, and asked if they would be interested in doing a modern one, and we all agreed that it would be interesting to try it out … I wanted audiences to have more than an emotional reaction, I wanted a physical one as well. In the days of Grand Guignol, audiences would faint and vomit and scream in reaction to the disturbing things they were seeing. Girls would ask their lovers to take them there as an excuse for them to cuddle and get close. Directors would sometimes measure success by how many people fainted. Some theatres even hired a doctor for that purpose. I wanted to bring that back and have a modern Grand Guignol.
How has the festival evolved since 2004?
We’ve got four plays, four terrific writers really exploring what horror is here and now in the twenty first century, but all being inspired by the Grand Guignol. In the past, we’ve done sort of a mix of horror. We had Edgar Allen Poe, right next to some modern play. This is all modern.
Have you ever thought that certain children’s books, like those by Roald Dahl for example, could be used as a basis for a horror production?
Children love to be spooked, we all know that. Every child hears spooky old stories and legends, and they love it. So I can see why a lot of those books could be used for that. But strictly no children will be allowed in this season. We have some very disturbing material, and I‘ve made it clear to everyone that we really can’t have children in the theatre.
Fear and terror seem to be a common theme with The Sticking Place, and you say that terror is now the enemy as opposed to something that’s inside all of us. Can you elaborate on that?
Anyone in the world of creation has to deal with fear all the time, because you have things can fail. Everything we admire is bold, and we admire people who take risks and don’t really care what people think of them. I think it’s behind everything that we do. We want to danger and fear into the heart of everything we do. Audiences take a risk to be a part of something, and I don’t want that risk to be ‘Well, I paid £35, so I hope it’s good.’ I want them to have a totally different understanding of what risk is. I want them to think ‘This is real. I could get hurt.’
Why do you prefer improvisation and guerilla theatre over more traditional forms?
It’s more alive. I walk out of 8 out of 10 plays because there is no live excitement, danger, or risk or connection between the performers there is no sense that anything is fresh any time. Improv is entirely alive, in the moment and of the moment and the kind of work that we’re doing, we’re trying to cross over as much as possible into the liveness of improve. What is live in the theatre is lost. Theatre is turning increasingly towards improve to provide its liveness again. That’s really the function of all the work we do, to put that liveness and danger in the heart of all the work we do. You’re alive and you’re at risk every moment you’re in the building.
So what do you hope to bring to the audience of this season’s festival?
With any kind of theatre, it’s more exposed and obvious when you’re talking about a terror season. You come from the understanding that the material can be disturbing in some way. It’s a psychological experience just by being there, and that’s what we try to deliver.
Terror 2009 is at the Southwark Playhouse until 24 October.