Glen Neath Interview
"I am a writer, artist and theatre-maker. I have written novels, plays for radio, for the stage and for non-theatre locations, performed by rehearsed and unrehearsed actors and by members of the public who are also the audience. To date I have shown work in 17 countries across five continents.
I am an Associate Lecturer at Wimbledon College of Art. I have mentored at Central School of Speech and Drama and NYU Tisch as well as hosting workshops at Royal Holloway.
I studied Fine Art at Trent Polytechnic and have exhibited paintings in London, Nottingham, Leicester and Sheffield and installations as part of Manifesta European Biennial of Contemporary Art, at the ICA in London and in Dublin." - Glen Neath
How did you first get involved in making theatre?
I studied Fine Art in Nottingham and struggled to continue painting when I moved to London (finding studio space, expense etc) and I had always written so I began trying to write plays. When I encountered the shunt collective in 2000 the way I thought about making theatre changed.
What is Darkfield? How did your collaboration with David Rosenberg come to be? Do you have any specific themes or concepts that connect all of your work - something that you are continuously exploring?
Darkfield is the collective name for the shipping container shows I am making with David Rosenberg - Séance was the first. David was a member of shunt and we spoke about working on something together for a long time before we began our collaboration in 2010-11. Both David and myself have an interest in the position of the audience in relation to the work and the idea of making binaural sound pieces in the dark seemed to allow us to experiment with placing each audience member in the position of the play’s protagonist - one of our abiding interests.
In your performances sound seems to have an important role in driving the narrative - especially in Ring, Fiction and Séance which are all performed in the dark and use binaural sound. How do you approach translating your words/ideas/texts/concepts/etc. into sonic material? What is your relationship with sound?
The pieces are constructed with the concept very much at the forefront, I do not write texts that need to be fashioned to fit the format. The concept comes before the narrative and the narrative is never about telling a story but about telling the ‘story’ of the experience - in real time.
I’m very interested in the dynamics and interactions of SDs and other creatives - could you please elaborate a little bit on the process of you working in collaboration with sound designers?
We used shunt sound designers Ben & Max Ringham in our first two pieces Ring and Fiction, but David now edits the sound - he is technically much savvier thank I am. But our process is very much a collaboration - he does the technical ‘work’ but we work on the edits as a team. For example, I have been credited as the writer but David is very much a co-writer as I am a co-director/editor. We talk about every stage off the process as we move through it.
Is your work mostly scripted or devised?
Your choice to not show the technology is fascinating - playing with what is real and what is not - how does this in your opinion effect the experience of the audience as opposed to seeing it?
It took a long time, as we worked on our first piece Ring, to decide the best use of the technology (which was very new then) was not to show it. I think the pieces work best when the line between what is happening or not is blurred. All the pieces have walked along this line…
What to you is the main difference of experiencing a performance collectively as opposed to experiencing something alone at home? How does audience interaction shape your performances?
The work only really works in a group situation. The psychology of the group is part of our considerations when we plan the work. The pieces also make use of a ‘phantom’ audience that exits on the recording to ape the audience you (the audience member) is sitting in the dark space with. Because much is left to the audience to imagine I think of thyme pieces as being very much finished by the spectator.
Do spontaneous audience reactions become a part of the narrative?
No, they aren’t really helpful.
Have you experienced any other interesting binaural work in the context of theatre/live art? What about any performances generally experimenting with sound that come to mind? Any specific pieces, companies, venues, etc.?
I made 2 pieces of work with Ant Hampton (Rotozaza), who is now based in Brussels. We made Romcom in 2003 and Hello for Dummies in 2010-11. He is an artist who experiments with sound and very worth looking into. I think a couple of his later pieces have employed binaural sound.