Party Skills for the End of the World: An interview with creators Nigel and Louise
Nigel Barrett and Louise Mari are theatre makers known for making bold and bizarre shows that defy category. Eschewing traditional staging, they’ve been known to take over out-of-the-ordinary spaces such as a maze of shipping containers or the vaults under London Bridge Station. Their latest show, Party Skills for the End of the World, opened at Manchester International Festival and is now running at Shoreditch Town Hall. We caught up with the pair to find out what we can expect from their latest offering.
With the kind of immersive, promenade performance that you make, is it possible for things to go wrong? Or is that the point?
We are very interested in liveness, in the live event, in us all being aware that we are here together in this place, in this place in time. We do not pretend the audience aren’t there, and we do not pretend we are somewhere else and it follows that if something happens that shouldn’t have happened – we do not pretend it hasn’t. The show will be unique for every audience that comes because of that.
How will the particulars of Shoreditch Town Hall shape and change Party Skills for the End of the World?
We are remaking the show because it is physically impossible to make the show we did in Manchester, here. In Manchester the audience entered a glass building in the height of summer, where we occupied about 40 rooms then took them on a five-minute walk through a secret tunnel and through the basement of a huge university building into the disused library and the adjoining ten rooms. We made the show for the people of Manchester in the wake of the horrific events that unfolded around us, as a celebration of the unique city and its wonderful people.
In Shoreditch Town Hall it is winter, it is dark, there are only eight rooms here. It will have its own unique impact on what we do. The show has modular sections that can change order and so those things resonate differently for each place we go. The context is very important to what the show means to those that come. Shoreditch Town Hall has the word “progress” emblazoned over its grand entrance. People maybe feel at the moment that our ideas of what is progress may be our ultimate undoing. That’s a good place to start.
Could you sum up Party Skills in a word each?
You’re known for taking over intriguing spaces. If money or permission were no object, which space would you commandeer?
We’ve always wanted to turf Soho and recreate the Tudor hunt with schoolchildren
Can you recall some of your favourite audience reactions from your past shows?
Our favourite reaction from Party Skills was when an audience member asked us what the time was, and when we said “10 o’ clock”, they said, “On the same day?”. They were so disorientated they thought that we meant it was the next morning! In Manchester, lots of people who did not know each other ended up coming back to the show again with people they had met there and one night a bunch of about 50 audience members took us to a karaoke bar after the show where we all hung out until the early hours.
You’ve worked together since 2000, is that right? Has that been enough time to perfect a synergistic process together?
People think we are a couple because we talk over each other. We are absolute polar opposites in most senses, so we compensate for each other’s gaps in skills. We share the same political passions, which is the most important thing. We both come from small town working class backgrounds, which impacts how we see the world.
Do each of you have a particular moment or character from your repertoire that has stayed with you more than any other?
In Manchester, at the end of one show, there were two men in their 80s sitting at the bar with a group of young men they had never met before and they were having a really intense conversation about the choices you make in life and where they lead you. And when we turned around, a group of women in their 20s were dancing in a circle around a man in his 60s on crutches who was spinning in a wheelie chair. That was great and is something we won’t forget in a hurry.
Finally, what kind of a party guest are you?
I spend a lot of the time hiding in the kitchen. Nigel will usually be the life and soul of the party.
Photo: Myriddin Pharo
Party Skills for the End of the World is at Shoreditch Town Hall from 13th until 24th February 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
For further information about Nigel and Louise visit their website here.