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Interview: Louise Mari, co-founder of shunt talks about their next big show, The Architects

shunt return. No introduction required. They have a new show. We caught up with Louise Mari, one of the ten highly prolific co-founders and associates to hear about their much anticipated new production, 'The Architects' - taking place in a Biscuit Factory this christmas. Excited? Understatement!

RR: 'A new work from shunt, inspired by the Labyrinth and the Horror it contains' reads the strap line for The Architects. Tell us about how the myth of the Minatour has inspired your latest show.
LM:
The labyrinth has been the springboard for making The Architects - and touchstone for our creative ideas. We don't ever try to literally represent or illustrate our source material - it's just one inspiration for the work, which also is inspired by the space we're in; the skills of the people in the room; the physical journey of the audience through the space, and ideas of who the audience are when they're in the show.

RR: Since the production is taking place in the labyrinth of a Biscuit Factory, is there a sinister hint of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory here?
LM
: There is nothing sinister about biscuits. They are an important part of our everyday lives.  

RR: Why the re-union?
LM:
Have we had a break? I don't feel like I've had a break. I have been working with shunt associate Nigel Barrett and it's been a pretty full on year.

As we all have successful careers outside of the company as independant artists it does get trickier and trickier to find time when we can all be together - it needs a ridiculous amount of diary co-ordination which is a drag.
 
We are two shunt performers down this time because we have two new tiny shunters on the way - but the girls will still be instrumental in making the show - just not performing. Hannah (Ringham) is back, after being away for our last show 'Money', so that's exciting. When one person isn't around you really feel their absence in the work. I guess it has been eighteen months since we finished 'Money' and I have to say it's been really lovely to all be back together again. Everyone has learned from working with other people in other environments and we all return with new and exciting things to offer the collective and enrich the work.

The shows hold us together. However different we are as people and however we disagree about things outside of the work room we have an uncanny synchronicity of vision when we start to make a show.  

RR: Who else is collaborating in the show?
LM:
This time we are having some new blood which is a big responsibility. We are using musicians and aerialists who we haven't done before. Saying that, Max and Ben Ringham are writing the sound for the show, as they always do, and Layla (Rosa) will be directing the aerial stuff which is her area of expertise.

RR: We have to ask - will The Biscuit Factory be the new shunt lounge?
LM:
V22 at the Biscuit factory have their own Summer Club which is a loungey type affair where they curate artists and events. They just had the finale of the Rio Occupation there, which was really exciting. They're building it up slowly and it's growing nicely into something quite uniquely lovely. For the moment we have no plans to run a lounge - but to focus on making shows and pushing our practice in new and exciting directions.

RR: How have you all spent your time while on 'leave'?
LM:
I've been working with Nigel - making stuff for the Tate Gallery at Latitude; taking 'The One Man Show' to the Edinburgh Festival last year; we made 'The Body' at the ICA - where we attached the audience to heart monitors and gave them real looking babies; we made a festival of installations for children in Redbridge; and we're about to embark on some research for a large outdoor, immersive performance for children - based on the true story of Andre Stander, a policeman who robbed banks. David (Rosenberg) has been working with Frauke Requardt making 'Motor Show'. Gemma (Brockis) has just appeared in 'Crow' with Handsprung and is making a show about the English civil war. Hannah has been travelling the world with Tim Crouch and doing her 'Free Show' and is making a show for kids right now. Mischa Twitchin has just done a masterful new show as part of Showtime at Rich Mix. Heather (Uprichard) has just written a play. Lizzie Clachan has not stopped working as a designer and has been nominated for loads of awards. Serena (Bobowski) has had to slow down considerably now she's approaching her [baby] due date - but not too much.

RR: As a collective you've been going since 1998 - you've clearly been a huge influence on how performance is experienced. What have been the most prominent changes you've witnessed within the performance art scene - and where do you think 'performance' might take us in the next 14 years?
LM:
The rise of the producer makes our early endeavours at arch 12A Bethnal Green seem very naive and beautifully 'so now'. We all miss the simplicity of those early days. But what has grown is the audiences openness to new work and new ideas - and how they are so much more up for being engaged in new ways without worrying too much about categorising their experience. When we were starting out someone asked me why I was anti traditional theatre, which I found a weird question to be asked. We're not anti anything. We are pro-theatre, pro-audience, pro-experiment. I'm not sure this question would be asked now in such a bewildered way. There are not so many rules - so who knows where that will take us. The important thing is that the audience come with us wherever we go.

RR: Shunt has always had an edge to it: what clues can you offer us on any worldly commentary The Architects might conjure?
LM:
One of the suggestions for a starting point was the Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, which we reluctantly let go of because it was such a vast beast to tame. But there are still elements of this in The Architects and it hopefully will inform the darker aspects of the experience. There will be a sacrifice.

RR: Is this the ultimate christmas show?
LM:
It is going to be wild. You should come. I've never been more excited about doing a show - ever.

RR: What do you want the audience to walk away with?
LM:
A sense of awe.

Louise Mari, co-founder and associate at shunt
www.shunt.co.uk
www.nigelandlouise.com

shunt presents
The Architects
A new work from shunt, inspired by the Labyrinth and the Horror it contains
The Biscuit Factory, Bermondsey, London
27th Nov 2012 - 6th Jan 2013
Tickets via nationaltheatre.org.uk/shunt-architects
Box Office (c/o National Theatre) 020 7452 3000