Q&A with Darragh McLoughlin of Squarehead Productions performing The Whistle
Tell us about your show? The Whistle concept asks the audience to open and close their eyes at the sound of a whistle. This allows me to create a live cut effect such as in cinema or comic-books. From there I have the freedom to create all sorts of different effects and ways of presenting narratives and experiences for the audience. Sometimes it’s a funny thing to be on stage in front of hundreds of people and nobody is watching me. Well…somebody is always watching. I explain the rule in the beginning of the show and from that point on the choice to follow (or not) is in the hands of each individual audience member. Choice, even the illusion of choice, is a very powerful thing.
What was the inspiration behind it? I came across this concept in the middle of creating my other show ‘Fragments of a Mind” which relies heavily on blackouts. The open-close eyes method was a cheap way to replicate the blackout effect when I was rehearsing in a studio. I quickly realised it was often much more powerful than turning off the lights. A whole sort of different experience emerged when people closed their eyes. Their ears perked up. Their imagination flared.
What’s particularly special about your show? It demands the audience’s collaboration in order for it to work. I think not many audience members realise this, but they are actually creating material in their head that I am not actually doing onstage, which leads to them for brief moments being the creators of their own experience. I find this to be pretty powerful.
It requires the audience to be more than just spectators, are they always eager to be involved? Any particular anecdotes from previous performances? It really depends on the person. Most people are eager to be involved once they realise they are rewarded by following. Of course a part of the show is to occasionally cheat and not follow, and some people realise this too and can take matters into their own hands. In Spain I remember Miguel telling me one member of the audience told him that I scared him as he was so easily manipulated and even when he tried to escape the game, he was still in it.
What three words would you use to describe your show? A crunchy cinematic crusade…..
Has theatre always been something you have wanted to do?
No. I actually didn’t want to do theatre until the point that I realised that what I was doing actually WAS theatre. So I sort of got into it by default.
What are you looking forward to most about the Best of BE tour?
I am curious to play for an English speaking audience. Apart from the two shows I did in Ireland all my audience’s have been non-English speaking. Not that it was ever a real issue, but since I am playing with language I think this will open up some new playful possibilities.
Who has been the biggest influence on your life?
To be honest I never really had any idols. Of course there are people who inspire me, but I don’t really want to do what they are doing. I am inspired by people in general (for thats who I make my work for – humans), the good the bad and the ugly. It’s all there in all of us. Inspiration just waiting to be tapped into, if we are willing to see past all the shite and look a little deeper.
Have you had a stand-out moment in your career to date? Maybe winning the Circus Next Award. It’s probably the most prestigious award a young circus artist can win at the moment. I worked hard for it and got it (the second time round). Although as I write it it feels a little trivial. Maybe dropping my pants on stage in front of my parents…I think my grandmother will see my show in London, which might just top it.
One of the hardest things in this job is… Not having a home. Always moving. Sometimes I love it. Other times I want to shut a door that is mine.
The thing I love most about theatre is… Freedom of an (almost) blank canvas. Also having an audience’s full attention allows little things to be big things.
Has your background always been in circus? In the performing sense yes. Before that I could have become a chef…Although I see performing as curating an emotional and sensory experience for an audience, which is basically the same thing a chef does. I have been thinking about collaborating with a chef in Ireland to curate a meal in the same way a choreographer or a dramaturge would work on a stage show. It’s just about having the consciousness of what we are doing, and who we are doing it for.
Do you think circus in mainstream theatre deserves more recognition?
It is coming. It really depends on what country it is in. In France for example circus is up alongside dance and theatre, and sometimes even more sought after. As ‘contemporary’ circus (it is important to make the distinction) still has a very recent history I think it is less afraid of being whatever it wants to be. A lot of circus performers are creeping into dance and theatre companies. Today very few artists are only an acrobat, a painter, or a musician. The internet opened up a lot of doors and so most modern artists are a hybrid of many art forms.