English, Rose (11 of 13). National Life Stories: Artists' Lives
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2005-12-08, 2006-02-03, 2006-04-11, 2006-05-08, 2006-06-05,
Interviewee's home/studio, London
English, Rose, 1950- (speaker, female)
Dyke, Anna, (speaker, female)
Part 11: [Session Six: 20 June 2006] [2:10:54] Discusses ideas behind ‘The Double Wedding’; fictions told through different art forms; the hyper-real; Wagner’s idea of ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’. Reflects on ‘closing down’ of culture from late ‘80s; hostess persona in ‘Double Wedding’; SV’s set. Enjoyable show to make and to perform on Royal Court stage; covered in sequins. Funding from Barclays New Stages. Three week run sold out; but expensive show so didn’t tour. Working relationship with the Royal Court, then run by Max Stafford Clark. Writing the script of the show. Eclectic group of performers, eg. MH. Process of making the show over three/four years; high production values; producers; fundraising; now the process takes ten years. [17:28] Thinks of the work as ‘shows’, rather than a plays. From mid-‘80s-90s for theatre spaces; work seen as both theatre and Performance. ‘Double Wedding’; relationship to narrative; RE in ‘A Flea in Her Ear’; had become interested in idea of performer embodying a fiction. Has never made a linear narrative or told a story; the work is about representation and structure. Development of hostess persona; continued in persona of Rosita Clavel; but ‘Tantamount Esperance’ was a break from hostess persona. RE embodying a persona rather than acting. Performers’ backgrounds: Steven Beard, Roddy Maude-Roxby, Thom Osborne, MH, Lucy Allen, Jo Robley-Dixon, Nigel Charnock, Wendy Houstoun, Brian Lipson. Reflects on difference between acting and performing; 20-year critical debate about difference between Performance and theatre. [31:50] Reasons for changing persona for ‘Tantamount Esperance’; influence from other work eg. plays. Different process of making ‘Tantamount’. Sees ‘Walks on Water’, ‘Double Wedding’, ‘Tantamount’, as trilogy, made for proscenium spaces; about theatrical representation. Mentions appearing in MH’s work eg. ‘Fresh Dances’; and subsequent collaboration. Stimuli whilst developing shows eg. trip to Lido in Paris, Futurascope in Poitiers; equestrian shows for ‘My Mathematics’. Addressing magic and illusion in ‘Tantamount’; process of researching the subject; meeting Paul Kieve, illusionist and historian of magic; researching stage flying via JG; developing the technology and equipment. Developing all aspects of production concurrently. Research trip to France with SV ‘in search of excitement’. Ideas behind ‘Tantamount’; RE had become increasingly interested in language; early ‘90s, observed slippage in language eg. ‘the longer term’; sense of judgement being eroded; addressing this concern in ‘Tantamount’; melancholy show in comparison to ‘Walks’ and ‘Double Wedding’. Mentions recently speaking to Guy Brett [GB] for his book on RE’s work. Illusion in ‘Tantamount’; SV’s design for Royal Court stage; characters; flying effects. Mentions ‘My Mathematics’. By the time of ‘Tantamount’, Royal Court run by Stephen Daldry; funding; the last moment it was possible to independently produce a show of that scale and technical ambition. Audience response to ‘Tantamount’. Exhilaration of speaking in ‘Adventure or Revenge’; successfully pulling off ‘Double Wedding’; experience of ‘Tantamount’. Critics’ responses to ‘Double’ and ‘Tantamount’; predominantly theatre critics; GB. Has never compromised the tone of the work; regrets the work wasn’t seen more/didn’t tour more widely. ‘My Mathematics’ toured everywhere, eg. New York, ‘Serious Fun’ festival at Lincoln Centre, diverse programme of artists. Reacting to audience whilst performing; stage convention of the curtain call. [1:12:10] Funding; regular changes to funding streams for Performance/Live Art; in 1970s, with SP and JL set up Performance Art Collective. Overview of funding; ‘Berlin’; ‘Mounting’; ‘Adventure or Revenge’; ‘Plato’s Chair’ - LD’s role; from ‘Walks on Water’, management from Artsadmin/Nicky Childs; set up production company ‘Walks on Water Ltd’; RE sold studio to cover loss made on ‘Walks’ at Hackney Empire. ‘Double’ and ‘Tantamount’ - combination of Barclays New Stages, Arts Council, box office split, sponsorship in kind. 80% of RE’s working time is the finding the means to produce it. RE has made personal income from (1970s) day jobs gardening and sewing; (1980s) part-time teaching, at Cardiff Art School and one-off workshops; performing in other work as actor eg. ‘The Witches’; recently mentoring. Has seen these jobs as enriching, learning experiences, rather than distracting - poverty is more distracting. Deciding not to take full-time teaching position. Made conscious decision to make work in ephemeral medium, ie. not making a saleable commodity. At Leeds, producing objects; wanted to be in control of how they were presented; gradually less interested in making the objects and more in making the shows. Being in charge of own means of production. [1:32:22] RE’s approach to teaching/mentoring. How to survive as an artist economically; sometimes working abroad eg. RE taking work to Canada, recently working in China with MH and with Artists Links. [1:40:50] Cultural climate in Britain from late-80s onward; difficult time for Performance work. (1990s) huge sums of money from lottery has gone into refurbishing buildings rather than funding art work; judgement was no longer valued; use of language, eg. reductive notions of ‘permanence’ of work. RE’s decision to step outside of fundraising process; sustained by private awards Harold Hyam Wingate Scholarship and Paul Hamlyn Award. Hopes this period will be addressed critically. [Background noise] How this period affected RE and peers; quotes artist Arnaud Maggs and Dorothy Parker. Artists who became ‘consultants’. Examples of work which excited RE during this time: singer Ekaterina Semenchuk; ‘Force Fields’ exhibition curated by GB; ‘Queen of Spades’ and ‘The Ring Cycle’, both directed by RJ; ‘What Do I Wear When I Play Chopin’ solo show by Thom Osborne; friends’ work eg. Bock & Vincenzi’s ‘Invisible Dances’. Met GB via Lynn MacRitchie, while living in 17 Northington St squat. Friendship since mid- ‘80s, GB wrote catalogue for Rotterdam festival ‘Perfo 3’. Process of working with GB over last decade on the book ‘Abstract Vaudeville’; also writer/director Anne-Louise Rentell has interviewed RE’s collaborators for the book. Digitisation of RE’s archive. Documentation of RE’s performances; first shows photographed by SE; documentation process was more advanced in Canada; RE became involved from ‘Moses’ onward; Steve Littman would do a live mix; cassette recordings; video recordings held by National Sound Archive. Recently has made artist’s book of libretto of ‘Rosita Clavel’, CD of ‘Standing Room Only’; important role of these interim documents; pursuing commercial producers - an empowering experience, eg. Madeleine Lloyd Webber, Gilles St-Croix [GSC]. [Break for lunch] [2:10:54]