Matt Baram of Impromptu Splendour interviews Bronwyn Davies Glover of Old Peculiar
1 – WHAT SHOULD WE TALK ABOUT:
I think we, as artists performing here at Summerworks, should discuss both the similarities and extreme differences between the art forms our companies are presenting in the festival. Sometimes clown and physical theatre can be a form of improvisation and I believe that improvisation, like bouffon and clown, maintains an openness with the audience that keeps them engaged in the process of the artist. The breakdown of the fourth wall supports the possibility for spontaneous magic to happen for both sides of the experience: the artist’s and the audience’s. I think this is important to note for it is what draws me to the mediums I explore in my production ‘Old Peculiar.’
2 – WHAT IS YOUR SHOW ABOUT:
Our show ‘Old Peculiar’ is an absurdist black comedy that follows the presentation traditions of vaudevillian cabaret with short interspersed scenes and several complicated characters. It is about displacement, deviance and defiance. Something we can all relate to as individuals in contemporary society. We are all displaced. ‘Old Peculiar’ is a flamboyant exploration of human shame and happiness through the eyes of the transient hobo clown. There are three main characters that appear onstage between the narration pieces. These characters are each accompanied by the haunting of their alter egos and the provocation they elicit.
‘Old Peculiar’ pokes at the audience’s opinions of disorder, consumerism, addiction, poverty, and capitalism. The production is 100% recycled materials: the wigs, costumes, set pieces, props … it’s all been recycled or dumpstered – in true respect of the hobo, the hobo code of ethics.
3 – WHO DO YOU THINK WOULD CONNECT WITH YOUR SHOW?
I think that our show will appeal to a large audience. It is about displacement, which many of us feel for various reasons during our lives. It’s funny, dark, honest, interactive, thought provoking and celebratory. It is an adult show. Who will connect with it? Men and women, people of colour, people who are white, people with different abilities, theatergoers, queers, summerworks fans, trans people, the privileged, the poor, the disordered, the healthy, the single, clown lovers, the married, the heartbroken, the deviant and the hobo.
4 – HOW DO YOU CREATE YOUR WORK?
We, myself and Tre Whan, create our work through discussion, research and play. We do not have a director, playwright or designer. We do everything ourselves. We don’t force the process of creation together, when it happens it happens. We go to theatre and cabaret and get inspired by other performers. We watch clips and videos of historical clowns, physical performers and bouffons. We research circus, the hobo and political commentary through theatre.
When we sit down to ‘work’ we alternate between on being on our feet and engaging in discourse. We base everything off a politic. That’s truly how we start. We believe in performance being the most effective medium to create change and shake controversy so we bring our politics to each rehearsal.
We sit down and say to one another “what are you thinking about these days? What has affected you? What are you angry about? What do you want to change?” And we take it from there.
5 – IS THIS YOUR FIRST TIME AT SUMMERWORKS?
Yes, this is our first time performing in Summerworks. We are so excited.
It has been incredible thus far and the community is so supportive of one another. Artists have been communicating with us since the first all company meeting, the festival has been responsive, honest and reliable. We can’t wait!
6 – WHAT EXCITES YOU MOST ABOUT BEING PART OF SUMMERWORKS IN 2009?
I’m thrilled to be part of the intense creative process that comes with producing a show in an indie theatre festival. The walls of pretense are broken down. We communicate with one another, share knowledge, desire, and an almost childlike giddiness about being part of something together – as individuals. I can feel the energy of all the performers, designers, writers, actors, directors and producers. It’s an addictive experience.
Of course I am excited about presenting our new work – something both myself and Tre Whan have been speaking about for two years now. It’s a piece that epitomizes the Summerworks festival for me at this time. ‘Old Peculiar’ is timeless. It is about humanity, all of our absurdist tendencies and queer peculiarities. It is about darkness, irony, mainstream corporate media and finding the humour in being free. It is in this way that I hope our work will speak to many people.
7 – WHAT DO YOU FEEL THE FESTIVAL BRINGS TO THE CITY IN AUGUST THAT DIFFERS FROM OTHER SUMMER FESTIVALS?
Summerworks brings an edgier theatrical festival than others. Due to the professionalism and support each company receives from the festival, I believe that the caliber is higher and the artists work harder to ensure the quality of the work they present. Summerworks also brings a collective feeling of theatre as social commentary and a form of activism to the artists and audiences of Toronto during the festival. We are all a part of this eclectic community. We have a culture that is different from others and we nurture it together in order to effectively be heard, be seen and create change.
8 – WHEN DID YOU AND YOUR GROUP BEGIN WORKING TOGETHER?
Tre Whan and I began working together in 2002, in Sydney Australia. I moved to Sydney to attend a ten month master clown program with Alan Clay at Playspace Studio. We fell in love, moved back to Canada together in 2003 and started Dot & Dribble Productions in Prince George, BC. We were hired to perform at birthday parties, exhibitions, medieval theme galas and University graduations. We weren’t picky and we didn’t turn anything down!
Eventually we moved out to Toronto with a children’s curriculum and were brought into schools to perform and teach the art of theatrical clown. Since then we’ve toured Fringe festivals, children’s festivals, performed in cabarets in Montreal, Vancouver, Berlin, London, Australia and Amsterdam, produced our own queer carnival, ‘Abnormals Anonymous’ and Toronto’s first ever ‘Trigger Festival’ this past April 2009, a reclamation of queer survivors and art as activism and activism as art.
We’ve trained at Mime Centrum in Berlin, Theatre de L’Ange Fou: The International School of Corporeal Mime in the UK and continue to develop as a duo. Life is exciting together. Our strong histories of physical training, vocal training, film work, dance, classical theatre and clown make us very different performers. We work to compliment one another with our styles and always bring out something entirely different during each project.