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Mojo – A Theater Production Full of Energy for Children and Adults

18 JUN 2012

published in: Drama

Mojo (Photo: Patrick Baldwin)
Mojo is a play for children and adults. Anybody can be enchanted by the music, the actors, dancers, puppets and effects. Sue Buckmaster has developed this play, taking special care that the result is an event for younger and older people. Director of Drama Sven-Eric Bechtolf spoke to the director about the development of Theatre-Rites, the work with people and puppets and of course the production Mojo.

Take a look at this unusual, energetic production Mojo, about which The Guardian raved after its London premiere: “This is a joyous show about finding yourself and the things that you love, retaining the wonder of life as you move from childhood into the adult world, remembering what it felt like to be a child. An exhilarating family show and a mischievous life lesson for all ages.”

Sven-Eric Bechtolf: What is the history of Theatre-Rites?

Sue Buckmaster: Theatre-Rites was set up in 1995, so we are about 15 now. I set it up with a woman called Penny Bernand. It was the era when site-specific work was really interesting. Deborah Warner did her Tower Project for LIFT, and then there was the Robert Wilson piece underground about H. G. Wells. There were just extraordinary pieces going on and really grabbing people’s attention. But it was all for adults. And Penny and I said: wouldn’t it be great if kids could experience this? 15 years later I’m still saying that. Immersive theatre for children is still very undernourished. I am so delighted that the Ruhrtriennale and I were able to create Salt and Paradise.

We founded the company to create site-specific work or immersive experiences or to create visual theatre that wasn’t narrative-driven or responding to a text or an existing story. And the reason it is called Theatre-Rites was to recognize that the experience of going to the theatre is a myth. And the whole individual journey – how you might arrive there and how you might leave and what you might leave with – is as important as the product. It was to look at the whole experience. And we’ve created a lovely two shows a year, and they are either site-specific or are theatre pieces. For me it’s travelled with my daughters. The very first show was done when my daughter was born.

SEB: Do you feel like this is theatre for children only?

SueB: It’s theatre.

SEB: Yes, this is what I felt, in both Mischief and Paradise. I felt like this is not only for children. Of course it is for children and they are amused and they are absorbed, very much inside the thing. But as I could see, it is the same with adult audiences. It is a very pure form of making theatre.

SueB: It’s universal. And it just doesn't exclude kids. That’s it.

SEB: And it doesn’t exclude adults, which is good as well.

SueB: Absolutely not. It’s for everyone.

SEB: How was the first rehearsal for the new show?

SueB: Mojo? Now we have done six weeks of what we call research and development. We wouldn’t call it rehearsal. Rehearsal starts in October and will be six weeks of working through all the ideas we have collated over two years. The R & D all had a different focus. The very last one was in a dark room with a magician, looking at how to trick the eye, how to create illusion with objects. I can say no more. My lips are sealed. (…)

SEB: How do you develop these things? I mean, is there an idea before you start out, how do you begin?

SueB: Adriano came in very early on in this process, with the idea of evolution, about how things evolve. But I wasn’t interested in doing a show about evolution in nature, being green. I wanted to apply the notion of evolution to child development and how a child evolves. In an evolutionary process similar to the one where an animal might sprout more legs or might get small eyes or lose a part of itself and say: I don’t need that anymore. I want to look at how a child develops. How does a child say: Well I need my hair to be red for me to survive this next age. This is the stage I’m at with my daughter. She has to dye her hair red. Everyone is doing it, you know. Or the skirt has to be shorter because everyone is doing it. Or it’s getting rid of some things. It’s like saying I don’t like pink anymore, I don’t do pink or I don’t do ‘Glee’ anymore.

SEB: How come you are close to puppets?

SueB: That’s my family history. I’m the fourth generation of performers, of theatre practitioners. My father became a puppet maker. From the age of 12 he was performing puppets on the piers. And my mother joined her parents’ act. And they met at the end of a pier show and became “The Buckmaster Puppets”.  That was my parents’ act: a cabaret performance with marionettes, string puppets.

SEB: There is an interesting relation between the puppet player and the puppet itself. Who influences whom? I can imagine that something of the puppet will go into the puppet player. Is that true?

SueB: All of the performers will pick up objects and animate them and express their feelings through the objects. Absolutely. The girl is a central character. However, there is also a bird, which is more fleeting. It’s something that acquired a form and is trying to articulate something. And it’s important to me that it can come apart on stage. If you give something life you have the ability to take the life away from it. And I think I want to see some of the objects given very temporary life. And – I’m thinking aloud here – we could do that to the child. We have the ability to break the child. The child is so fragile in our society, we need to nurture it. If it’s a puppet it can be man-handled, it can be broken, it can be turned back into a puppet and we can just make it do what we want, to make our society become what we want it to become. The puppet is the symbol of manipulation of power.

SEB: And puppets are the simplest form of creating illusion or disillusion.  Even grown-ups can take a hand-puppet and start to talk to it. And the grown-up believes for a moment, in a very natural way, that there is a dialogue, although he knows that it’s not true.

SueB: It is a great training for actors and it’s a great personification of emotion on stage. Without relying on language, which is great. I’m not so keen on puppets to speak, personally. I don’t tend to ask them. For me they say so much in what they do und how they are and how they become and how they disappear. That’s much stronger for me than anything they talk about.*

The premiere of Mojo takes place on August 9, 2012 at 6:00 pm at the Perner-Insel in Hallein. Secure your tickets now and be surprised!

Further dates: August 11, 2012, 2:00 and 6:00 pm / August 12, 2012, 11:00 am and 3:00 pm

*You can read the complete interview here.