Interview: Shunt co-founder Gemma Brockis on her show ‘An Execution (by invitation only)’
We talked with legendary performance troupe Shunt co-founder Gemma Brockis to get the skinny on her latest performance work coming up at Camden People’s Theatre.
Tell us about An Execution (by invitation only) – what should an audience expect?
Expect entertainment. Expect to laugh, cry, to wonder what is happening to the condemned and maybe what is happening to us. Expect a story with love, death, defiance, regret, a quiz, denial, anger, bargaining, acceptance, spider and rats. (the rats aren’t real). Expect to be close to the performance, but also to sit and watch as though invisible. Peeping toms onto a private moment.
Who or what inspires you to make your performance work?
Everyone I work with. That’s not fanciful it’s really what I feel. I like to work with people who have turned my head upside down and everybody in this company has performed something that has done that to me. Influences change from moment to moment and project to project. Nabokov’s writing has definitely influenced me not only in this show. Gregor Schneider or the journeys through French gothic cathedrals are things I find myself referring to, for the impact of space. Theatrically, moments from many shows, I don’t have a particular moment of epiphany.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in making theatre?
Make stuff. Find a way to make it as cheaply as possible. Find a way of getting round the challenge of finding a space (particularly in London). Go to venues like CPT that you think might be able to help you. Meet people. Try to talk to people after shows that you like. Make friends. Follow them around. It’s all about getting enough of you to make something happen and support each other doing it. Or if you are inclined to sit at home by yourself, make something there. Try not to get too bound up in the production, funding etc – until you have made something that you want to build on. People are the most valuable commodity.
Do you miss Shunt’s old rabbit warren under London Bridge? Are there any plans for Shunt to run a space again?
Of course I miss it very much. I had keys to that world for 24 hours a day for seven years. It was fun. It made it very easy to constantly make things because we had an incredible space and an audience. I miss just having an idea – like building a bridge and flooding the space, or dropping a piano from the ceiling, or producing a little play – and making it happen in the space of a few weeks. Sometimes days.
Shunt aren’t looking for a space. We are all working individually as artists at the moment – creating lots of spaces, sometimes building spaces from scratch and sometimes taking a room and transforming it with a chair and a microphone. Running a space is a whole different ballgame. If the right space appears, then it’s not impossible, but London does not offer up buildings in quite the way it used to, and looking for a space is a full time job, which none of us wants to do right now.
What are your favourite London haunts?
I need to see more stuff. I have taken my finger off the pulse a bit. Of course there’s big places – but the smaller more surprising spaces? I’m sure they exist but I’m not sure where they are. I just love eating so that’s infinite. I live in Dalston, so right now I’m just thinking about a lamb kebab.