1.Please tell me about your piece and the inspiration behind it – what has provoked it, what questions are you asking?
The seeds of The Fairgound (umbrella name for three short pieces The Carousel, Fortune Teller and Man/Wall) lie in a conversation me and Oscar Toeman had on the way to the Bush Theatre for Theatre Delicatessen's open day. What, we wondered, is a human life worth in economic terms? How do people arrive at a value for life? These valuations are made all the time - economists regularly put price tags on our head. For example, the US army values the life of one soldier lost in Iraq/Afghnistan at $500,000. And some economists suggest that the value of human life can be determined by how much you earn and are worth as a person - i.e. how much you bring to the economy.
The Carousel is the story of a circus clown down on her luck. Illegally in the country and with a drink problem, she somehow has to convince the circus management and us as the audience to keep her on, to value her. How much, she asks us, is she worth? And can a well-timed fart joke save her job?
Fortune Teller turns that question on its head. For a fee, this modern-day fortune teller will give you a diagnosis: are you or are you not 'worth it'. But in doing so, she finds that she exposes herself to all the same questions, that she has to face up to her own insecurities about whether or not she's 'settling' and whether she'll 'make it'. Watch out: she's a sharer.
Man/Wall is a performance installation. A man with a cardboard box on his head, papers scattered at his feet (recalling the image of the Lehman Brothers employees leaving the office) stands in a perspex box. The idea is a simple: for your loose change, he will bang his head against the wall. Asking questions about what happens when we are no longer valued, even vilified, Man/Wall also looks at what we are willing to pay for as entertainment. (Plus, a man banging his head against a wall is funny, right?)
2.Please give me three words that sum up your piece
Absurd, touching, unsettling
3. Who is involved in your piece and what are their roles?
Me (Afsaneh Gray), writer
Oscar Toeman, director
Meg Witts, designer
Thea Foster and Emma Green, producers
Ade O'Brien, Declan Rodgers, Harriet Creelman, Merce Ribot, actors
Cosmo Cooper, stage manager
Ed Lewis, sound designer
4. What is the background to your company? How did you all meet? – or - what is your background as a performer?
Oscar approached me to see if I wanted to collaborate on this project. We meant to meet up before going down to the Theatre Delicatessen open day to have a chat about what we might want to explore - but in the event we didn't get round to it. Hence our last minute discussion on the Hammersmith & City line on our way to the Bush! Luckily it was a very productive discussion, and by the time we got to Shepherd's Bush Market we were buzzing with ideas, with the space then acting as a catalyst for further developing them...
I've worked on a few site-specific productions before, for example at the Market Estate Demolition event, where we created a performance inspired by the history of a 1960s estate on the brink of demolition. During the course of a day's worth of cyclical performances, that production ended up incorporating some of the estate kids into the cast. It was an amazing experience and it gave me the confidence to suggest doing something a bit more interactive. Oscar has worked in more 'traditional' theatre environments before. It's an adventure for both of us. And great to be working with Meg (Witts, the designer) to come up with a design concept for the pieces from the bottom up...
5. What space will you be performing in at the Bush? Do you know what you’re going to do with the space – do you have elaborate set plans?
The Carousel is taking place in a circus tent in the garden. We're going to need it to be waterproof - not just because of the rubbish weather, but also because our clown gets doused in a bucket of water! Meg is designing a rubber circular floor, which will be waterproof and provide a soft landing for all the prat falls...
Fortune Teller is taking place in the main space. We haven't finalised set plans for that - we want to feed into the village fete vibe, the idea being that our fortune teller has been put forward by her doting Mum, but is actually a completely inappropriate choice. We're working on it...
For Man/Wall we want to replicate a kind of sweet machine - you put your 20p in and out comes... a man banging his head against the wall. We're using some found materials from 35 Marylebone Gardens to make his box.
6. How does your rehearsal/devising process work?
I've scripted The Carousel and Fortune Teller and rehearsals have started. There are points of audience interaction in the scripts where I want the actors to feel free and confident about improvising and responding to the audience. Making sure that they get a lot of input into building their character and giving them opportunities to test out their responses will be key to this. Our fortune teller is going to be creating her very own Twitter account, as well as being bombarded with practice customers on Tuesday..