AU ABROAD

the AU interview: Director Duncan Maurice (Australia) discusses new immersive theatrical experience “Like Me”

Following two sold out seasons in 2014, Mongrel Mouth now returns with a new immersive theatre production Like Me, which will take place in a 166 year-old mansion in The Rocks. The AU caught up with director Duncan Maurice to discuss immersive theatre, unpredictable audiences and laughter saving our sanity.

What is the concept behind Like Me?

Like Me is a comedy that mirrors society’s narcissistic obsession with social media. We wanted to make a work that reflects the ridiculous nature of popularity and the silliness of pursuing it. In Like Me we at Mongrel Mouth are ready and willing to laugh at ourselves and the world around us in a hope of understanding it more. This new show is about the crazy culture of the contemporary ego driven individual and the hilarious hangers on that inspire it.

What sets immersive theatre apart from a more traditional theatre production?

The stage and characters of immersive theatre are all around you and not something to sit still in front of and just watch, although you also have that option too, if you wish. Mongrel Mouth makes immersive theatre that allows the audience to move freely throughout many rooms on different levels of a huge house where the action is happening simultaneously. They can choose a thread of the narrative that intrigues them and pursue different characters. The audience can also make choices throughout the show that effect the outcomes of scenes and ultimately the story. The characters at times might speak directly to members of the audience or could even whisk them away into a private room . This kind of work is spontaneous and unpredictable because although there is a plan for the show the potential for anything to happen is much greater than in a traditional proscenium arch production.

How important is the setting, in this case the 166 year old mansion in The Rocks, to the production?

This huge house has an enormous influence on setting the mood, flow and story of the show. We bring in a lot of set design to create an evocative world that audiences are surrounded by. The physical layout of the house informs how we write the story, create the characters and develop the show. The house is very important to the show because it evokes the audiences imagination, understanding and informs how they move throughout the space.

How do you need to consider audiences when creating such an unpredictable experience?

The audiences experience, engagement and reaction to the show are always at the forefront of our creative development. Every production and in fact every single show teaches us more about audiences. The one thing we know for sure is that an audience member and sometimes more than one will do something we didn’t expect. Because in Mongrel Mouth shows the audience are free to do whatever they want whenever they want we try and anticipate the different choices they will make. Most of the time we have the different options worked out but not always. This is when the real fun begins because the actors need to adapt and keep going, this is the true magic of Mongrel Mouth theatre. During the writing of the shows and the rehearsal process we plan and predict but we’ve learnt always expect the unexpected.

How have you approached incorporating Jacques Lecoq’s Bouffon theatre style within Like Me?

The clownish mockery of Lecoq’s Bouffoonery underpins the characterisation and performance style in the production. This wonderful genre of comedy is a vehicle through which to expose the foolishness and frivolity of the flawed characters in the show. Mockery is at the heart of this style of clowning and this enables the actors to play endlessly with each other and the audience. Creating silly scenes about real themes is the bouffon’s gift to the stage and the key to hearts of the audience.

Did your (very successful) experiences with last year’s sold out sessions impact your approach this year?

We are overjoyed that people are enjoying our hard work and we have the opportunity to make more shows. Knowing that people are energized by new forms of theatre and entertainment inspires us to take pride in our work and keep on going. We believe that audiences deserve value for their money and we want to ensure we deliver high quality art that pushes the boundaries of tradition whilst respecting the unwritten rules of entertainment.

You have said that “laughter might be the only thing we have left to save our sanity”. What did you mean by that?

That laughter is the best medicine. We are continually bombarded with the struggles of the world and I believe we must face the reality of living in this country, on this planet in this time but to do so we need the joy of laughter. To do more than hopefully survive but to really turn this ship around laughter must be the wind upon our sails.

And finally, what should audiences expect from the pure madness that is Like Me?

A fun night of entertainment where anything could happen.

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Like Me will draw audiences into a world of pure madness from Thursday the 18th June to Saturday the 11th July at Merchants House in Sydney’s The Rocks. For more information visit http://www.mongrelmouth.com/