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Interview Joe Kelleher


Maybe with the idea that theatre is always capable of making a promise to me or to any other spectator, which is: that I do not know what is going to happen.’

Joe Kelleher is Professor of Theatre and Performance at University of Roehampton London, where from 2007-15 he was Head of Department for Drama. He is also co-author with Claudia and Romeo Castellucci, Chiara Guidi and Nicholas Ridout of The Theatre of Societas Raffaello Sanzio (Routledge 2007) and co-editor with Nicholas Ridout of Contemporary Theatres in Europe (Routledge 2006). During SPRING he will lead an open discussion about Romeo Castellucci and his work. We wanted to know more about his expectations about SPRING and his vision on Romeo Castellucci.

What are you looking the most forward to during the SPRING festival?

I enjoy a festival like this. I’m going for this festival for two or three days, so I get to see a variety of shows. Normally I have time to see a festival for one day and now I’m gonna be there for a while. My interest will actually be moving between different sorts of works. So, there is work that I know well, and I’m representing Castellucci’s work (as I’ve seen his work before). There is work by artists who I know, like Julian Hetzel, but I’ve not seen this piece, so I’m curious to see what he is up to. And there are other people in the programme that I don’t know at all. So I look forward to encountering the new and capturing the familiar in different cases. If that makes sense..

Yes, it does. It’s about seeing what they can do in the different forms under the term ‘theatre’, right?

Yes. It is also always enjoyable to visit such a festival where you have the opportunity to do some work there. So where I will do a lecture with my students and with the festival academy (red. SPRING Academy). But I think that that will be a pleasure as well. Encountering other people and seeing new works at the same time. To hear what their thing is like.

Do you think there is a distinction between SPRING and other festivals you have visited?

I haven’t visited SPRING before, but I have visited the previous festival, which is Festival a/d Werf. That seemed to work out well. SPRING is otherwise a new one performing, so I will see. I have a sense that it is compact. In a relatively short time you see a lot in according to the big extensive festivals. And it is concentrated in the town, so I think that will be part of the special sense (of SPRING).

You specialize in spectatorship. Do you look at theatre and shows in a special way?

It is a really broad question, but let me try to think about it. Although I’m a theatre academic, I don’t always assume that I’m working while I’m see a piece. I suppose, what I try to do –although it gets harder-, is to go to the theatre with the assumption that I know nothing. That I haven’t seen it before or that I don’t know how to read it. Maybe with the idea that theatre is always capable of making a promise to me or to any other spectator, which is: that I do not know what is going to happen. Even if I’ve seen one of the artists before, I’ve seen the show before, in the beginning there is a possibility of a promise: you dón’t know what is going to happen. That’s maybe how I go as a spectator. When I’m then try thinking about work, it is about restaging it for myself.

About Romeo Castellucci, you will be presenting the open interview with him. Can you tell me a bit more about that?

It’s going to be an open discussion, so I will put some ideas through Romeo and as he tends to do, he will have lots of interesting things to say. He will carry off. So, we worked together, we made a book together some years ago, with himself and some other members of the company and I’ve done things like this before. So it’s always good to have the opportunity to catch up with Romeo again and see what he is thinking and see where the work sat. I look forward to it to see him again.

What do you think about the performance of Castellucci that can be seen during SPRING?

I’ve seen his piece in Italy and it is fascinating. It’s wonderful. It’s not going to be a big spectacular, scenographic pieces is a very different thing. It is very much based on the work of the actors, really just about them. It also use a language that the theatre company invented in the early days in the company: the Generalissima. It uses all the functions of language in an abstract form, almost to a point of zero. What happens in this piece, is essentially a basic drama which is in the picture, of the which is the resurrection of Lazarus and there is a dialogue between Jesus and Lazarus played out. And it is played out again and again, through the poach of this language of the most general, the most abstract, most human, most fundamental. So it’s more a true experiment than a theatre piece, in what it means to take a true human encounter, towards the fundamentals of that. And then there is this marvellous musical performance, which is part of it. It is very strange and works in the same sort of way of working to the fundamentals of human sound. Without language, without image and without gesture.

What is then your fascination for especially Romeo Castellucci?

It is many things. Many years ago, maybe at the end of the last century, Romeo’s work was presenting in London. I met Romeo at what discussions in London with some others and I was pretty fascinated by the way they were speaking about theatre making, speaking about rhetorics, about theatres technology, of dedication and of persuasion. The sort of language theatre can use to do that, to share a thought with its audiences. That made me particularly excited. It was a mix between the work itself, which was fascination to watch as a spectator, but also how the theatre makers spoke about the work and how they understood it. Their sense of ideas, what ideas become and when they become theatre.

How are you going to prepare for the open discussion?

Yes, I’ve been thinking about it a bit. We will meet before and have a little bit of a discussion. What I will try to do is talk about the show that people have seen and we will take it from there. And see what happens.


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