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Thoughts behind The City & The City

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Kendra Fanconi (Director, The Only Animal):

A couple of years ago I mentored Darren Boquist in the creation of a sound piece called How To Love. It was a theatre show for no actors. The audience was fed individuated instructions through an earbud that allowed them to become characters of the story. I remember standing in the circle of audience as it became clear that the story was ours and the giddy, strange power that came with that.  I’ve always been interested in activated audience. Always resisted that dumb, passive state of proscenium staging. I’ve met that challenge in a number of ways over the years, sited work, immersive work, including a human-scale board game that had no actors. And I kept bugging Darren to come out to our retreat centre and do more work on his concept and see if we could advance the form. Anyway, some time in there my old buddies from Upintheair theatre came calling about a novel they were adapting ; a murder mystery—a form that I had been investigating for a while with Brian Quirt of nightswimming and Craig Hall of Vertigo. The murder mystery is an activated form for an audience, right? You gotta figure out who done it. Unsolved murders shake up communities, who need to restore the order by solving whodunit. The particular world of Miéville’s novel has even more to say about civic life: how 'us' and ‘them' can become the 'seen' and the ‘unseen’. So I brought back to Upintheair the idea of adapting Darren’s concept -  I wanted to see an audience encounter that same giddy, strange responsibility of telling this story. Of discovering the murder mystery inside the mystery of the world of the play and the mystery of our own human. Who we are as a people. And as a city. 

I also have to add the caveat that I hate audience interaction in the crass way that it is sometimes done. This ain’t that. This has nothing to do with embarrassing people and it's not about performing, it’s about being human with your other humans. ‘Acting’ here just means ‘being in action’ together to work through the chaos and restore order. It’s often choral in word and movement, it’s always held, and it’s always fun. I have my hand over my mouth, cause I don’t want to tell you too much. But I look forward to seeing you in the theatre, and we can take it from there…

The Only Animal creates cultivates and inspires theatre work that arises from a deep engagement with place.