By JESS SUO.
Tim Crouch is the writer and actor in I, Peaseblossom, a play seen through the eyes of Peaseblossom, a lesser-known fairy in Titania’s court in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The interactive play introduces the influential playwright William Shakespeare to younger audiences and is coming to Auckland in early December.
Like many, my first exposure to Shakespeare was Romeo and Juliet. What was yours – did it stand out and why?
I was lucky in that my Mum and Dad both taught English. My Dad who, was a total Shakespeare dude, he studied Shakespeare after he finished university. He started at the Shakespeare institute at Stratford-upon-Avon. He was a teacher in a government school, in a state school. One of those annoying people who could take apart a motorbike and explain a sonnet. That’s my dad. I do remember seeing a production of Macbeth at the National Theatre, I just remember it being enormous, not just physically, but mentally enormous. The internal scale of it. I think when you’re a kid you get used to things that are quite scaled down for you, so when you hit something as cavernous as Shakespeare, in terms of how it looks at the world… My synapses started to snap.
Why do you believe it’s important for young people to be introduced to Shakespeare?
I’m going to get very poncey here. I think Shakespeare is kind of like the equivalent of the humanist’s bible in terms of what it’s taught us, what that collection of plays teaches us about being human. In the 16th century, people had a very different idea of what being human was and then Shakespeare and the Renaissance happened. There’s a guy who wrote Shakespeare and the Invention of the Human and I feel that, that Shakespeare invented the modern idea of what it is to be human…Whether a young person knows it or not but how they perceive the world has to some small degree been influenced by Shakespeare.
You’re considered a Master of Shakespeare theatre… what would you tell your past self when you were just starting out?
Floss! You have to floss or else your teeth might fall out. What else? Trust yourself. Trust yourself! Trust your instincts. Trust your instincts! Nobody knows anything, that’s what I would tell my younger self. Nobody really knows anything, people who say they do know something are usually bullsh*ting.
What should audiences expect in I, Peaseblossom – as you’re known for interactive theatre?
I lay myself completely open to the audience. They get involved in the piece, the audience terrorise me in the piece. I lose control in the piece in the most positive way I positively can. On one level it’s super structured, but it’s super structured to enable me to lose control.
I saw you’re running a workshop. What will Adapting & Performing Shakespeare entail for those interested in going?
I’m going to look at dreams. I have this idea that dream and theatre are very close together. In theatre, you can put something on a stage and it can represent something else and we as an audience get that immediately. In dreams, have you ever had those dreams? Where something like a table, in dream, you know it’s your mum? Dreams can accommodate between two realities. In your dream state you have no problem distinguishing those two, or accepting those two. I think theatre as well has that same place, that dual reality.
A pop-up, to scale, Globe Theatre is being created in Auckland early next year, to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. 21,000 tickets have already sold for currently 6 plays; what are your thoughts on such a large scale celebration of the man himself?
I think it’s interesting. On one level it’s interesting we might get a sense of how the plays were fitted into the space when they were first written (but) I also have to question that historical interest of ‘the more we do it like Shakespeare’s day did it, the more authentic it is’, because I don’t think theatre works like that, personally. I think theatre is about the contemporary connection between the performer and the audience, that’s the most important thing, the only thing. If that’s what the pop-up is focusing on, that then that’s really brilliant.
And lastly, is there anything else you’d tell the youth of today trying to break into the industry, whether it’s on stage or off?
I direct work and I audition people and I know when somebody walks into a room to talk to me about the possibility of us working together, I want to see them. I don’t want to see a polished, shiny, fake version of them that they have created because they’ve looked around the world and think that’s what they want. From Hamlet: “To thine self be true”. It’s a cliché but I understand it now. I don’t want people to be slick and professional, I want them to be themselves. I don’t want people to have photographs of themselves that make them look as good-looking as they possibly can, because I don’t find good-looking people very interesting. I want them to embrace their own-ness.
I, Peaseblossom will be performed at The Musgrove Studio at The University of Auckland from December 8-12 at 7:30pm and December 12 at 3pm. Stay tuned for Jess’ review. Tickets and more information can be found here.