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Brief Encounter With ... Translunar Paradise's George Mann

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George Mann wrote, co-devised (with Kim Heron and Deborah Pugh), directed and performs in Theatre Ad Infinitum’s new work Translunar Paradise, which will premiere at Edinburgh Fringe. Inspired by W B Yeats poem The Tower, Translunar Paradise uses masks to highlight themes of love, bereavement, shared memory and life after death.

How did you find both directing and playing in this production?

It was a real challenge, perhaps the most challenging project I’ve worked on to date, because I spend over 50% of my time behind a mask. It meant we had to film and play-back what we devised bit by bit and then re-devise and re-film …. At first this method seemed chaotic and a little crazy, but we soon got used to it.

Can you give us a brief overview of the story?

It’s about an old widower who lost his wife and can’t let go. Instead of moving on he gets lost in past memories and stuck in a place where time just stands still.  His wife can’t leave him even in death, seeing that he is unable to let go, so she stays as a ghost and finds ways of helping him come to terms with his loss.

How do you feel about performing in a mask?

I love it. For me it underlines a truth about theatre – that it’s not about what we, the actors, feel on stage, it’s about what the audience feels and perceives. Masks are incredible, they are solid unmovable forms, yet by moving our body whilst we wear them, the audience sees the mask come alive, what they perceive to be the movement of the mask is actually the movement of the body.  It doesn’t matter what I feel, all that matters is what I do, and how I do it –this is what communicates and transmits feeling, action and sensation.

Does Translunar Paradise make audiences cry?

Yes. But we never shed a tear as performers (though we did in rehearsals!). We have worked to create an emotional space, a place for our audience to emote and feel. The discovery and creation of the work was always emotional for us for this piece. But then we had to create a distance between us and the story we were telling. I believe that this creates a third space in which an audience can feel and experience the piece. It’s here that Translunar comes to life.

Why did you choose this subject matter?

Death and Cancer have been a part of my life for over fifteen years.  But it’s my father’s death just recently and that of my best friend some years before that have shaped where I’m coming from here.   These experiences made me think about death and moving on.  And it was reading WB Yeats’ The Tower that hardened my resolve to actually go ahead and write the play.

Translunar Paradise is on at Pleasance King Dome between 3-29 August at 15.40 (excl 16 and 23 August).

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