Thursday, May 26, 2016

Introducing Robert Motum - Artist-Researcher/Director

In today's blog I have the absolute pleasure of publishing an interview with the amazingly talented Robert Motum!

Robert and I met during our MA course in which we had plenty of opportunities to create and perform together. We even shared a flat for the last part of our course! Robert holds a BA, MA and starred in a Royal Television Society Award-Winning short film. I can honestly say that Robert is one of the most diligent and creative artists I've worked with.

Recently, Robert has been awarded national grants by his home country, Canada, to put on some exciting and innovative projects. In this interview, Robert will give us an insight into his new performances and some of his inspirations within theatre!

Without further ado:

Would you like to give us a summary of the projects you're working on at the moment?

I'm currently working on three projects in different capacities; as playwright, curator, and director. I'm working with Toronto's (if not Canada's) preeminent site-specific theatre company (Outside the March) to develop a new site-based production; to be staged in an abandoned Target store.

For anyone who might not know, could you give a brief explanation of what site-specific theatre is?

Site-specific theatre is performance taken outside of a purpose-built theatre space. It's a theatre that engages critically and often, politically with its chosen site. For me, it’s a theatre that simply invites more - more engagement - more stories - histories. When audience members are invited on a city bus instead of to a theatre space, they bring with them their experiences of the place. This immediately begins to shape how they approach the work.. before any action has begun.

Great! Tell us more…

Target is an American box-store chain which came to Canada in 2013 and failed to gain Canadian market share. Last year they ceased all operations and let go 17,600 employees. I'm sourcing the performance text from interviews with some of these former employees. I’ve spoken with dozens of people - from teams at Head Office to cashiers and janitoral members in stores. Currently, I'm preparing for a preview performance in August.

In addition to that project; I've been curating a work that I began during my MA at Aberystwyth. 'Kitchener-Waterloo: A Guidebook from Memory' is to be a 'tourist-style guidebook' to my local community, with the 'attractions' sourced from community stories. I’ve collected about 60 memories from residents of 'K-W'... all connected to places in the area. From first kisses, to bee stings, to lost pets, to awkward bathroom experiences... stories which have somehow shaped these places for the people who frequent them.

Lastly, I'm directing a one act play for a local theatre festival. Subterranean is a new play written by young playwright, Scarlett Fountain. It will premiere at The Registry Theatre's Act-One Festival in June.

As I've known you, you've always been particularly interested not only in site-specific theatre as performance, but also with how the public interact with and relate to any space. Your first two projects seem especially concerned with public relationships. Can you explain that interest a bit further and whether there are any artists who you've found particularly inspired your most recent projects?

I discovered site-specific work during my BA. It's not a huge area of theatre in Canada; with most productions probably happening in Fringe Festivals or with smaller companies. However, I really believe that site-specific, relational, immersive work is going to be the future of theatre in North America. With an aging audience base, we have to adapt and find innovative ways to engage communities which may not typically be theatre goers. So many companies are focused on finding their own building - on renting or owning their own theatre. I think it just makes much more sense to go to your audience.. rather than hope that they'll find you. 

Site-specific work is a theatre that relies on the myriad of stories connected to its chosen site in order to shape, dictate, and often create the work of the performance. It questions who has been here, what has happened, what are the ‘ghosts’ of this place. For me, these stories – these ghosts – enrich the performance material and invite political and critical engagements with a site.

I think just the thought and scale of Mike Pearson's site-based work continues to be an inspiration.

So, on that topic, did you notice any particular differences or similarities in Canadian and British theatre during your MA?

Theatre is incredibly ingrained in British culture; much more so than Canada. I think that there is a larger focus on the development of new work and of new voices. Especially on work that 'pushes the boundaries' (to use some terrible cliché) of performance in interesting ways. I think that many Canadian companies are fighting to change that... but our large theatrical institutions are, for the most part, producing classics and commercial musicals.
There are many young companies over here creating very interesting and important new work. But we have nothing comparable on scale with .. say.. National Theatre Wales.

Are there any things you wish you knew before you started? or do you have any advice for people wanting to get into site-specific theatre?

I'm not so sure if there's anything that I wished I knew.. I think part of the fun is in making discoveries. As for advice - simply read theatre and see theatre. repeat. And yes, see Phantom of the Opera.. but make time for an evening with GETINTHEBACKOFTHEVAN as well.

Thank you so much, Robert. I can't wait to hear more about your new projects!

It was fun!


If you'd like to take a look at Robert's K - W: A Guidebook From Memory project, be sure to check out his website:

Also, luckily, Robert has agreed to do a further interview with me closer to the premieres of his performances! If there are any questions you'd like me to ask him comment below and I'll see what I can do!
As always, all my best wishes to you. Your friend, Nicky.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting, with more immersive theatre I am always frightened that the actors are going to come over and make me do something embarassing. But I'm certain that site specific theatre makes a much bigger emotional impact on the audience, as even if you lose focus on the play the environment there is still part of the story and brings you back to it. The environment brings a bigger gravity to the play.