RADAR 2014: Q&A with Near Gone

Alister Lownie, writer & performer of Near Gone, on bringing a show involving two people, 400 flowers and some great gypsy music to RADAR.

Can you tell us about your show in one sentence?

Two people, 400 flowers and some great gypsy music come together for a touching story.

What questions lies at the heart of the show; what are you asking the audience?

There are questions of power and powerlessness, questions about what it is to perform, an exploration of not knowing …we are putting a deliberate barrier of a different language which also becomes an emotional driver and a language of gesture which becomes a language in its own right. Its a story with real urgency so we often leave the audience asking themselves- what will you do in that situation. There are other things too, but to say much would be a bit of a spoiler!

Tell us three things about yourself/selves, one of them must be a lie.

1. We are a real life couple.
2. Making the piece involved a research trip to see the flower growers.
3. We live in the countryside.
What sparked the original idea for this piece and how has it evolved?

It was inspired by a true story, but we started making a piece about death. It was surprisingly funny, and audience were enjoying it, but when we came to rehearse the piece properly, it wasn’t what we wanted to make. When we talked things through with Charlotte Vincent, our dramaturg, it became clear we needed to refocus and make the story we had begun with central. The actual story is only one aspect of the show, language is very important too so is the relationship between the two performers which unravels as the story progresses too.

What excites you about being part of RADAR 2014?

It’s exciting to be placing this piece in the context of new writing. It’s a devised piece, much of which is in a foreign language, so we’re pleased to be pushing at that boundary. Is great to be sharing our work in London again, as well: as artists who live and work in the southwest it’s important to be participating in the nation’s cultural centre too.

Do you feel your work is inspired by, responding to or reacting against any work from wider culture (films, art, music, etc)?

It’s because we love Charlotte’s work with Vincent Dance Theatre that we invited her to work with us – contemporary dance has been really influential on both of us as a field of performance which is free to explore all kinds of performative languages. We are quite eclectic in our tastes, enjoying lots of varied performance and music. We haven’t seen much cinema lately, so maybe best to cross that one off!

What direction do you feel yourself moving in creatively, and what comes next for you as an artist?

We are deep in the making of our next piece, Manpower, which will open at ICIA University of Bath’s brand new building next February. It’s very different, but still feels like it’s been made by us. And after that, we are working with some very old people to make a really intimate and powerful experience about Love.

We’re compiling a RADAR playlist to play in the bar throughout the festival – we’re asking the audience and our Twitter followers to nominate songs that feel ‘on the pulse’, music (from any era) that they feel is under the radar, and music that inspires them. What songs would you add to it and why?

Sharon Shannon’s Blackbird – folk music has a terrific energy and can be really contemporary. (Admittedly, Kat is sick of Alister playing it.)

OMFO’s The Sorcerer – for the same reasons but also because this one has an otherness which is difficult to place without being unfamiliar.

Stimmhorn are overlooked too, perhaps because yodeling just isn’t given the respect it deserves!

Near Gone is on at RADAR from 20 – 21 November.