I do not tend to play characters; I’d rather try to be myself

18 octombrie 2012
I do not tend to play characters; I’d rather try to be myself jpeg

an interview with Jerry KILLICK

Jerry Killick is known to the Romanian audience as an actor of the important British company Forced Entertainment, as well as a protagonist of some creations signed by Wim Vandekeybus, like the movie Monkey Sandwich or the performance Booty Looting. The spectators from Bucharest could see Jerry Killick by the side of the artists that are part of Booty Looting, presented in Explore Dance and Performance Festival, organized by 4Culture Association.

It is the second time when you perform in Romania, you were here last year in Timisoara, with the famous British company Forced Entertainment...

I have been working with Forced Entertainment for more than ten years and now that I am working with Wim Vandekeybus provides me with the opportunity of coming back with different types of creations and show the audience different artistic contexts. When you do different things you realize that performing is not only about one thing or another and this can be a liberating experience.

It is the second time when the Romanian audience from Bucharest meets you in a creation by Wim Vandekeybus, the first time was two years ago, in Explore Dance Festival also, when they saw you on a big screen, as you played the main part in the movie Monkey Sandwich, part of the homonymous performance. Now, they could see you live in Booty Looting, Wim Vandekeybus’ most recent creation… So, you were then present in another way.

The two experiences are very different. In the case of Monkey Sandwich, there were ten days of intense work, but the result, the final product is something that I do not have to live with. In the case of a live performance like Booty Looting, being on the road all the time with it provides us with the possibility of constantly improving it. The fact that the performance is repeated many times leads to getting better and better and makes me discover new things all the time. With the movie, this is not possible, as you cannot go back and change anything; you cannot re-do what is already captured on the screen. With a live performance, you can revisit all the time your work and then keep and integrate things that were born out of this repetition of a live performance.

Booty Looting sheds a new light upon what performing means; it deconstructs what we usually call “the nature of theatre”. To what extent is this performance autobiographical to you and how much “pretending” is in it on your side?

I must admit that I cannot do theatre any other way other than by deconstructing the conventions of the theatre or by clearly acknowledging the fact that I am performing in front of people. I could never do it ignoring that I am there; that I am present in front of the spectators, that I really exist there with them and not in a completely fictional parallel world, there is no black box or no so-called fourth wall that would make me feel and think differently. By being aware that I am always in front of them, I can discover the layers of reality that emerge from this performing for the people for whom I am present on stage.

What is your contribution, in terms of creation, to this performance?

When you work in this way, in this kind of performance (here it is included what the dancers are doing as well in the show), you have to follow instructions and obey tasks that you are provided with by the director and you follow them in a personal way, so there is freedom and personal contribution, but within the received tasks and instructions and you can perform in a way that you can find interesting. There are stories floating around, there is a mythology that contains you and you can react to it according to your personal structure, within the instructions given by Wim. For instance, there is this story of the film director Georges Clouzot. I have never seen anything by this guy, but I watched the film, in fact the documentary about his unfinished movie, The Inferno that is one of the important topics in Booty Looting. I enjoyed it very much and it gave me some ideas, so when I was required to link it to what is going on in the performance, to create a text about it and incorporate the fictional character Birgit Walter, this brought me deep into Georges Clouzot’s story and there emerged the shape of those two stories. There is a lot of mythology surrounding art and particularly cinema and that is why the films about the “making of”s are often more interesting than the films themselves and they are even more relevant for this function of the mythology when they are about movies that have never been finished like The Inferno or like Lost in La Mancha. They build a mythology around the work that gets to eclipse the work itself.

There are moments in the performance when you step aside and you are a spectator of what is going on onstage, never ceasing to be part of it at the same time. What kind of spectator are you when you step aside?

It is interesting that, for instance, in the movies you simply can disappear, you can be out of the frame at times. For sure, you can do this also in theatre, you can go away somewhere out of the stage when it is not “your moment”, but it feels like kind of cheating to remove yourself in that way. A question is born in this kind of stepping aside from Booty Looting: how do you have to act when you are not directly involved in what is going on onstage and you are not related directly to an audience? The simplest answer would be: you just watch it. I just watch and give as much attention as I can. It is not like I am playing a character. The simple presence as a watcher on stage transforms what is going on onstage.

How do you relate to your characters, is it any methodology of building them?

Honestly, I do not tend to play characters, but I’d rather try to be myself.

But through this, aren’t you in the danger of becoming fictional yourself?

Being yourself onstage means, of course, adopting a persona…You know, I am totally unfamiliar with all this Stanislavski character stuff. To me, the fuel of the performance is not a fictional back story, but the presence, as I said, the awareness that I am in front of the people. I am always open to feel what the real situation provides me with, what the presence of the people watching me gives me and this allows me to access emotions. Usually, this kind of awareness does not require anything fictional anymore, because the real situation of being a performer in front of the spectators, the exposure and the vulnerability of being watched all the time generates enough drama, enough extremes and enough emotion.

There is a moment in Monkey Sandwich that was triggered in my mind by the end of Booty Looting: the moment when the director you are playing is asking the actor to “eat her”, to really eat a girl, not to pretend that he is eating her and this generates his rage and he says that he is making a living out of pretending…

I think that rage is at the heart of every performer, you strive as a performer for something real, yet you are living in a fictional universe and there is this big tension between what you want to do (be real!) and the fact that you are an actor upon a stage in a situation that cannot be real, so you are facing an impossible task. Therefore, that rage is the result of this frustration caused by the impossibility to be real, when you are, in fact fictionalized by the context in which you appear…

Do you have personal myths?

Of course, for instance the stories in Monkey Sandwich in which I speak about losing a finger are all based on personal myths.

I first saw you onstage in Brussels, in a performance entitled The Investment, a project that you did with Davis Freeman. I know that recently you have been involved, together with Kylie Walters, in another project directed by Davis Freeman: Expanding Energy.

I have been working with Davis for a long time and we have developed a certain strategy for performance over the last few years, in the sense that our work is explicitly politically engaged, as we do not believe in encrypting any political message. But we like to blur the line between being ironical and being real, as we do not like people thinking: now, it is ironic so we can laugh! We like them to reflect if it is real or not. What Kylie and me are doing in Expanding Energy is to come elegantly dressed in suits and step in front of the people and talk about the issue of energy exactly as if we were experts (which, in fact, we are now, as we did a lot of research), we talk about topics like oil, gas or nuclear energy as if these were good things, we do not speak about environment at all, we do not mention renewables at all other than dismiss them, as they are not big enough to meet our energy needs. We do this for an hour in front of theatre audience, maybe giving them a few tricks that we are not for real, but most of the time we act as if we were completely those real experts…

I am also involved in another project with Davis: 7 Promises, which is partly an action, partly a performance. We give vodka to anybody who will make promises from a list that we suggest. But me and Davis also assume and keep promises, for instance now I am obeying the promise to be a vegetarian for a month. It is a way of doing something for the environment, small steps that could bring some changes (for instance if some people do not eat meat for some time this will contribute to diminishing polluting effects of meat industry). All we can do is investing trust in those people that they will keep the promises, there is nothing like surveillance…

Why vodka?

Because its production is not as bad to the environment as the meat industry is (which is the second harmful to the environment in the world)…I can give you statistics about how harmful each type of industry is…

Speaking about persona again, when we are for real, we still have to do this, in the daily life…

Yes, for sure, but one thing that I like about acting is that it helps me assume this onstage, without having to do it somewhere else, this is why having the frame of the performative context around is very healthy.

Do you reconsider yourself?

This is a topic related to the fact that performers tend to be a bit young at heart, permanently being like teenagers…

Interesting enough, Booty Looting ends with you playing with a balloon…

Yes, because it becomes clear that after all the mythology has been swept away, after all the stories have been told you are left with a simple, basic thing, with this primary impulse of childhood.

How is it for you being in Bucharest?

It is very interesting, because I feel that this city can be every city, being here could mean being everywhere and also the language is such an interesting mixture suggesting so many languages. Bucharest feels like a real place, like a city where people really live and really work, not like in the cities with many iconic buildings in which everything may seem like a nice chocolate box.

An interview by Gina Şerbănescu

Photo by Danny Willems

A photo gallery from the show is available here.

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