We had the chance to interview PhiIip Connaughton ahead of the new WHACK!! which is touring the country from Feb 20th. You can see the results below, along with tour dates and other information.
FIRKIN CRANE CORK | PROJECT ARTS CENTRE DUBLIN | TOWN HALL THEATRE GALWAY | DANCE LIMERICK | THE DOCK CARRICK-ON-SHANNON | THE MERMAID BRAY
20th February – 5th March 2016
How did you get to know Ashley?
I first met Ashley about 13 years ago in Barcelona where I lived at the time. He was there performing with Merce Cunningham Dance Company. My best mate was also dancing there so I was hanging out with him and one night I ended up at a party in a hotel room jammed full of people – the room was Ashley’s! I seem to remember we were all kicked out at some stage, lol.
Have you worked together before?
When we first worked together, we were performing a piece by American choreographer Sean Curran in Istanbul with Irish Modern Dance Theatre. At one stage in the piece I had to throw myself through the air and Ashley had to catch me – so I did… and he didn’t! It was the beginning of a long relationship.
What inspired you to choreograph this piece? Was it a joint effort?
It was a joint effort. I suppose we have a very good working relationship and enjoy performing together on stage. Also we were both interested by the idea of collaboration as choreographers, which is very different from making your own work. I suppose it requires a great deal of trust in the other persons artistic vision, and when so much compromise is involved this is extremely important.
Initially we were working with the idea of obstruction, and how one body can control, redirect or suppress another but we also wanted to inject it with something very personal and perhaps look at the dynamic that can exist between two people and how it might not always be quite as it seems.
How long would it take to put a production like this together, from start to finished product?
How long have you got??
I guess it depends on so many things. Space is a luxury, time is a luxury. It depends on how much money you have. We were very lucky to receive financial support from Project Arts Centre to research this piece, along with Studio le Regard du Cygne, Paris and CCN-Tours. We had several residencies in Ireland and France and worked on the piece for about a year and a half – on and off. I remember reading that Bertrand Russell said when he had a good idea he liked to think about it for a while then put it away and let it develop by itself before he came back to it. I really think that is the best way to approach new work – I hate the idea of throwing something together in one month – of course that’s not always a possibility but I find that even if the idea is developing in your head or you work on it in a studio by yourself, when you eventually get some money to do something, you’re better prepared.
This performance premiered in France. How do Irish audiences differ from French ones?
Well Whack!! seems to be doing very well in France. We’ve had a great response from the French public and we have several more performances of it over there in 2016/17. I find the French audience a little scarier than the Irish one cause when they don’t like something they really let you know. I’m talking “Boooooo!” They are very vocal in that way.
We recently performed at the Festival Pharenheit at the CCN- Le Havre and the night before, I saw this amazing piece. However, at the end of the piece, there was a stand-off in the audience between the Bravos and the Boos. That’s kind of incredible! They are beautifully passionate about their theatre. It does freak you out when you’re on next though, but we survived. In fact we were even offered another gig – that’s what you want.
On the other hand it’s sometimes harder to read the Irish dance audience. Especially those who are new to seeing contemporary dance. I always say stop worrying about trying to figure it and just follow your instinct. If you’re interested you’ll know it. It’s good to have questions. Of course it’s harder to walk out of something here… We tend to treat things we don’t like like haemorrhoids and suffer in silence lol.
That’s why I love kids… They are amazingly honest.
We did a short version of the piece here in October at Tipperary Dance Platform and there were a lot of kids in the audience. They had an absolute ball and really got the piece on a very particular level. It’s not the only way of understanding it but they certainly had a great time.
At the beginning of the piece Ashley pelts me with shoes as I run around the stage – it’s cruelly painful – and the only complaint I got from parents was the kids were re-enacting it on their little brothers and sisters or the cat! I love that they took it with them.
You cracked a bone once performing this, how did it come about?
In the strangest way. We were performing in Paris and as I may have mentioned this is an extremely violent piece. We fling each other all over the place so it was a surprise when we gently bumped into each other and crack… My rib. I still had 15 minutes to go and I think the audience thought I was ‘acting’. I managed to keep it together and got to the end.
Not a lot you can do with a fractured rib. At least you can ask the dentist for a new filling – which also happened. I did break Ashley’s toe so I got him back!
Tell us about the scar Ashley gave you?
So getting back to the shoe thing. I should explain that it comes from something we created in a studio in Brussels about 8 years ago and in this piece we perform it as a prologue. It’s a nice link for us. The shoes remain on stage for the main section of the work and are kind of like a bridge connecting past to present. Anyway, I’m normally in control of the shoes that are to be thrown but somehow a pair of Cheryl’s (Ashley’s wife) heeled boots got in there and well… I still have the scar. As I write this I’m thinking what the hell?! but that weird violence that exists between us on stage is the ‘fly on the wall’ element that helps to understand the real dynamic that is going on in Whack!!
Tour Dates Below –
FIRKIN CRANE THEATRE | SHANDON | CORK – SAT 20th FEB 8PM
€12/€10 Early Bird: €8. Handling fees may apply.
BOX OFFICE firkincrane.ie 021 450 7487
PROJECT ARTS CENTRE, SPACE UPSTAIRS | DUBLIN – THURS 25th – SAT 27th FEB 8PM
€16/€14/€10 Early Bird: Book before Thur 11th Feb and save 25%
BOX OFFICE projectartscentre.ie 01 881 9613
TOWN HALL THEATRE, STUDIO | GALWAY – TUES 1st MARCH 8.30PM – €12*/€10*
BOX OFFICE tht.ie 091 56 9777 *plus development fee
DANCE LIMERICK | LIMERICK – THURS 3rd MARCH 8PM – €12/10
BOX OFFICE dancelimerick.ie 061 467813
THE DOCK | CARRICK ON SHANNON – FRI 4th MARCH 8.30PM – €16/14
BOX OFFICE thedock.ie 071 9650828
MERMAID ARTS CENTRE | BRAY – SAT 5th MARCH 8PM – €16/14
BOX OFFICE mermaidartscentre.ie 01 2724030