Later this month, Outer Gaea will make their VAULT Festival debut with The Ballerina. Director James Scotland speaks to Theatre Bubble about bringing the show to London, experimenting with Artaud’s theatre of cruelty and asking audiences to question their complicity.
Can you tell us a bit more about The Ballerina?
‘The Ballerina’ is new writing that centres on an unnamed African nation, portraying a dictatorial figure (Pacifique) similar to dictators we know around the globe deceased and alive. For me, its relevance and constant reflective quality of world daily news was why I had to stage the play. In New York, it was a big risk but I had no doubt that the process and reception would be worth it. This new narrative questions the real-world effectiveness of our so-called western Democracy, and what contemporary democracy looks like in other countries. Through the eyes of Colin, a British diplomat, we meet Pacifique, a different kind of protagonist, a nuanced character you least expect, who holds a mirror up to the audience.
How have you experimented with Artaud’s theatre of cruelty in creating the show?
In New York, we began piecing together an alternative kind of exploration. It was important to create a physiological language that defined the production and guided the audience’s sensory experience. We experimented with Antonin Artaud’s theory of assaulting the senses and placing the audience in an environment that made it difficult for them to shy away from what they were experiencing. With Artaud, the effect is largely to shock, for The Ballerina, it was to encourage a feeling of complicity. In the Vaults, we’re creating a show that will tantalise and harness the immersive qualities of the venue.
This is the first time at VAULT for Outer Gaea. What are you most looking forward to?
I’m looking forward to engaging with the Vault Festival audience. It’s a very exciting audience that celebrates theatre-making. When you attend Vault Festival, you’re literally voting with your feet, and encouraging a space in London that promotes theatrical diversity and the shared experience. Artists perhaps should not look for the audience to receive their show a particular way but it means a lot to me how festival audiences respond to our work, that’ll be the highlight.
What do you want audiences to take away from the show?
I want the audience to question their complicity in western foreign policy, and to what extent our ignorance is ‘the’ very danger to the world peace we all seem to desperately want.
What’s next for Outer Gaea?
We’ve spent 2 years establishing Outer Gaea Company, staging thought-provoking work in the UK, US and Slovenia, and are very excited about defining ourselves as an Actor’s theatre company and distinguishing our artistic voice.
Next, we’re co-producing a very special production of ‘Othello’ with international theatre company Restless Ecstasy. This is a Race-flipped version of Othello portraying a world where black supremacy is dominant and the white-body is heavily critiqued and censured. A radical take on Shakespeare’s Othello which I believe addresses aspects of black pornography inherent in our culture. Less about starting trouble, think of this production as a means to emancipate the audience from the cultural lens we’re limited to when experiencing the play.