'ENGLAND' by Tim Crouch is a performance work that starts as a gallery tour, and launches into something much deeper.
Set in Metro Arts, 'ENGLAND' takes guests through an exhibition before it becomes a tour of a different kind, looking at the life of a central character moving rapidly towards death.
Director Matt Seery tells us more in an open letter.
“I remember shuffling into a seat in the Bille Brown Studio back in 2011, for a production of 'An Oak Tree' by Tim Crouch. I wrestled my ticket and programme and phone and drink into submission, and the play began. I would never have guessed that the next seventy minutes would set in motion a trajectory stretching six years into the future.
I was transfixed as a guest actor (who had never read a script before taking to the stage), was guided through the performance with script excerpts presented on clipboards and stage directions fed through an earpiece. To say any more would spoil the fun of the show. But here was a work that opened up the mechanics of performance for all to see; the most affecting piece of theatre I had witnessed and it didn’t even play by ‘the rules’.
Years later, I am getting ready to break those rules, those expectations (and perhaps even break a few hearts) with my own production of another more recent, but equally rebellious, of Tim Crouch’s works: 'ENGLAND'. Co-presented by Nathan Booth and Metro Arts, a hub for Independent artists to push those boundaries, 'ENGLAND' gleefully smashes together the worlds of visual art and theatre. Two attendants guide the audience through a visual art exhibition… But the course of the tour suddenly blurs into obscurity.
We are lead no longer through the works of art around us, but instead through the life of a woman on the other side of the world; one who is moving rapidly, and devastatingly, towards death. Plagued by sickness and the search for health at any cost, it’s a gallery tour through space and across borders: from Brisbane, to London, hospital beds, hotel rooms and beyond.
Despite their resounding international acclaim, productions of Tim Crouch’s works are something of a rare breed here in Australia. 'ENGLAND', in particular, has only ever been performed here once before, in Melbourne almost a decade ago. But it’s not just the rarity of the project that has our hearts racing. 'ENGLAND' takes a wildly playful approach to modern theatre; structurally innovative, intriguing, chilling and, best of all, a provocation of those difficult conversations we need to be having about the world today.
The opportunity to direct one of Tim Crouch’s most unique and captivating works is something of a dream come true. I am writing this open letter at the very start of rehearsals. Tomorrow, our team, which includes some of Australia’s most accomplished actors and (in true poetic fashion) the director of 'An Oak Tree' from all those years ago, will gather and begin piecing together this challenging but endlessly rewarding work.
We hope you can join us for the Queensland Premiere of 'ENGLAND'. We will experiment with transplantations of every kind: hearts inside bodies, cultures inside countries, value inside art, theatre inside a gallery, the whole world inside the mind of the audience. It's going to be a lot of fun.”
– Matt Seery
'ENGLAND' plays Metro Arts 19-29 April.