Among the boldest site-specific ideas at this year’s ABSOLUT Fringe is Waterdonkey’sHappening – a 12 hour ‘bed-in’ in a suite in the Gresham Hotel on Sunday Sept 18. Meadhbh Haicéid, the show’s director, was kind enough to shed some light on the event, the company’s recent fascination with John Lennon, and the escalating lightsaber violence in rehearsal.
Also: you may spot a wannabe impartial journalist sporting Lennon shades below. I’ve worked with Waterdonkey before and have on occasion lent my mug to their press images.
Just how big a fan of John Lennon are you? Because you’ve been making shows about him for a while now.
It would seem I’m a massive fan but in actual fact I’m not really (laughs). I don’t really know what being a fan entails. Is it to idolise a person? Like, I like his songs.
How did this show and the recent Lennon influence come about?
It’s funny because the germ of the idea has gone through so many incarnations. The first time I remember thinking of doing a show about John Lennon was Christmas 2010 and I was listening to Gimme Some Truth and for some reason it struck a really strong chord – that’s a terrible pun – with me. It became an intuitive interest then, and the thing that interested me was that gap where the sentimentality of those lyrics nearly embarrass – nearly embarrasses me anyway, I can’t speak for anybody else – today. I get the impression that it was different then and I was interested in the sentiment of that song but from there it went on to become more about how we understand John Lennon today as people who get most of our knowledge through Wikipedia and youtube, which was the case for those who worked on [the last show] The Very Best of John Lennon. But now it’s taken another twist. What we’re doing now is more about the bed-in and that event than it is about John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
Waterdonkey have been making theatre for some years now. Tell me about how the company was formed and what kind of work you’ve done. You have a very distinct aesthetic.
The company was set up by a group of graduates from the Masters in Drama and Theatre Studies in NUIG in 2008. We were heavily influenced by two classes in the course: Max Hafler’s Ensemble Acting and Devising and Thomas Conway’s Postdramatic Theatre module. We decided that we wanted to start making theatre communally. We made decisions as a group as much as that is possible. The shape of the company has changed quite a bit since then. We’re working now with a director.
Whereas John and Yoko took a stance for world peace with their bed-in, what motive, if any at all, do Waterdonkey have with theirs?
I don’t want to give too much away. We’re being careful with the knowledge that we don’t have anything to tell the audience about how to live that the audience don’t already know, or even know more about than us (laughs). There are elements of plays on power and war and peace.
When I think of Waterdonkey I think of Love Song and The Very Best of John Lennon, and particularly those climaxing moments when performer-spectator distance can just melt away. And now in Happening ye are working in close proximity to the audience. Where do the audience fit into a Waterdonkey show?
That’s what’s so exciting about this project. That the audience are going to build the piece with us.When people come along they’ll be part of the world inside that hotel suite. It’s the first time we’ve done a show of this magnitude with a focus on the audience. We’ve always played with that border between the performer and the audience in our work, and we’re interested in building relationships between them. The Very Best of John Lennon probably had the most direct moment of audience interaction to date.
I hear there have been lightsaber battles in rehearsal. Has anyone been hurt?
(laughs)Chris, I have terrible news! One of our performers was killed yesterday in a lightsaber battle! Nah, that’s not true.
Do you think it was Yoko’s fault that the Beatles broke up?
I don’t think it’s healthy to bring blame into it.
Happening runs Sept 18 10am-9pm at the Gresham Hotel