‘Arteries By Ancestry’ is a bold new dance and theatrical performance that investigates queer relationships, hypermasculinity and how we are shaped by our ancestry.
Directed by James McMillan and presented by FUGUE, ‘Arteries By Ancestry’ is an ambitious exploration of personal history, sexuality and identity through a visceral combination of dance and physical theatre.
Here, James answers our questions about this complex work and the wicked web it weaves.
How did 'Arteries By Ancestry' originate?
The original concept for 'Arteries By Ancestry' came from an extremely vivid dream I had a couple of years ago. There were these identical two-story white homes surrounding a black lake. Within the lake were hundreds of rubbish bags bobbing up and down. Ignorant to what was going on in the river the inhabitants of the homes took no notice or concern of the wasteland they were living on. This immediately spoke to me about how people can run around in their everyday life not considering the impact their actions might be having. I further investigated this vision and saw ties with masculinity and how underneath a façade of strength there can be bubbling turmoil, doubt and fear.
What is the underlying story of the piece?
The piece follows the story of one man, Avory, and his relationship to both his father and lover. Throughout the show we watch Avory discover the many lies his father has kept throughout the years and how he copes with these discoveries. 'Arteries By Ancestry' looks at masculinity, where it comes from and how it affects our relationships.
Image © Marshall Stay
Part theatre and part dance, can you describe the visual aesthetic of the performance?
Having a performer with a predominately dance background and performer with predominately an acting background, it is an interesting platform to see where the two meet. We are utilising both forms as way to fully explore the ideas central to the piece, being able to work with no clear boundaries. It has been a case of stripping back to what best can convey the relationships or ideas within the specific scenes. The visual aesthetic I believe is a unique one, having moments where the text and movement join in symbiosis, then moments where they both fully juxtapose one another. We are working in a long traverse set up that gives a catwalk-like feel and some other juicy visual components that I won’t reveal just yet.
What sets 'Arteries By Ancestry' apart from similar productions?
The form we are choosing to play with is very malleable. The production is hugely ambitious in all facets, which is exciting and appropriate. It is an exciting narrative and the way in which we present it is non-conventional to say the least.
The story takes place in a world 'where environmentalism is king, and drastic repercussions rain down on those who dare to harm the earth'; what is the importance of basing the piece in such a reality?
Within the reality of this world any negative environmental impact causes physical repercussions for the person accountable. You inherit all your aligned gendered parent’s physical alterations; Father to son, Mother to Daughter. Environmentalism here is used as a metaphoric vehicle to physicalise and examine learnt behaviors – to bring them to the forefront of the character’s experience. Often we see gendered traits passed down through generations to create a constant cycle of negative systematic ideals and mindsets, and it is my goal to bring that under contention. There’s no room for denial when previously conceptual experiences become physical mutilations, passed down through your bloodline.
Image © Marshall Stay
How are issues of environmentalism tied in with those of queer identity, hypermasculinity and how our ancestors shape who we are?
The current world is facing a crisis with the sustainability of our environment, but there seems to be an inherent ignorance within the vast population. Similarly, with masculinity, people conform to the learnt behaviors that have been around for such a long time without considering the implications for themselves and the people around them. Masculinity is so inherent within the gay community and I believe it's hugely important to question how traditional views might be affecting same-sex relationships.
What are some of the key ideas and messages you want to convey with this work?
It is important to question where our opinions and mindsets come from. All our actions have effects whether or not you can see them.
What do you want audiences to take away from the performance?
Questioning masculinity and its firm grip on society. Opening a dialogue in which people can discuss learnt behaviors and considering where parts of their identity have come from.
Image © Marshall Stay
As a director, how did you approach bringing the story to life on stage?
Approaching 'Arteries' it was important for me to find the right creatives to bring it together. Making sure the team are all passionate about the themes and ideas is hugely important in creating an extraordinary output for the audience. Having an opinion always creates discussion which leads the show to be more considered and developed in content.
The show also explores the idea of legacy; what legacy do you hope to leave as a creative?
It is of a great importance to me not to stereotype and conform to society’s homonormative expectations. I think it is so important to create original characters and show the diversity of the LGBTQI+ community.