Gluttony’s Feast: Bringing a Deadly Sin to the stage

Hi Nick. Can you tell us a bit about your background as an artist and explain how you got involved with the Fair Field project?
H

ello! I’m a writer and performer. My work tends to be a mix of theatre, music, contemporary performance and comedy and, despite being made up of lots of different elements, can be understood as having a relationship to poetry at its core. That doesn’t mean I always use text though, my work is also very visual, but I am fascinated by exploring poetry through different forms and in unexpected ways. I’ve created three solo full shows that I have toured internationally, and also created contemporary performance, including one to one pieces. I’ve had a number of residencies with organisations such as London Metropolitan Archives from which my collection of poetic works ‘Cries of London’ originated.

In terms of getting involved with Fair Field, I had worked with Tom previously when I created some promotional imagery for two Penned in the Margins shows. Tom mentioned this project and I thought it sounded right up my street. So we had a chat about possibilities and I was then invited on a research and development trip to the Malverns to discover more about the poem, the context and also to explore ways in which we might approach it as a project. I’m really excited about seeing all of that now come to fruition.

You’ve been Poet in Residence at Keats House Museum before. How far back in time has your poetry reading taken you? Were you aware of Piers Plowman before beginning work on this project?

Y

es, working at Keats House was amazing. It was brilliant to be based there and create work around that experience, and meet visitors from all over the world who had such a relationship with Keats’ work. More recently I did a residency project with City of London based in schools across the city, exploring the work of Medieval scribes. This led me to discover more about Chaucer in particular because some significant scribes worked on his texts, but I hadn’t heard of Piers Plowman before, so I’ve really discovered the poem through this project.

Clare Salaman has mentioned what a worthwhile experience the R&D week was. What did you take away from that?

Y

es! A lot came from that week. Not least finding out about Clare’s amazing Society of Strange and Unusual Instruments, and exploring how music could become part of the project. It was really great to go to the place the story begins, and get a sense of the scale and the physical location. It was brilliant meeting the other artists and theatre makers there too, and that’s helped a collaborative sense of making the final project emerge. For me things like spotting mushrooms growing in the landscape created a link between the dream narrative of the poem, other literary dream narratives like Alice in Wonderland and then the decay and hallucinogenic properties of fungi that I’m referencing in the piece I’m making. I also created an experimental performance piece based around sugar and it’s addictive properties during the R&D week that has fed through into my thinking and approach in creating the section I’m focussing on in Fair Field, Gluttony’s Feast.

You’ll be creating part of ‘The Confession of the Seven Sins’ in the third moment. Could you tell us a little about your thoughts on the moment & what the audience can expect?

I

am! I’m making Gluttony’s Feast and I’m so excited for people to experience it. I’ll be playing Gluttony, or Glotoun as he’s called in the poem, and welcoming all the other sins to join me for a feast at the end of the world. The piece is drawing on Glutoun’s exploits in the poem, which mostly take place in a tavern called the House of Betty and involve so much eating and drinking he nearly explodes. I’m using this as a starting point to explore questions of consumption, food and society, and the cultural currency of food. What I’m planning will be a lot of anarchic fun, with nods to the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. It’s going to feature a game called New Fayre that is mentioned in the poem, but reimagined to be based around the world’s most expensive fast food. There’s also a beautiful song I’ve written with Clare and the Society of Ancient and Strange Instruments exploring the colonial and physiological legacies of sugar. It’s going to be a feast for the eyes too! I’ve run with the possibilities of a dream narrative to make something imaginative, surreally funny and full of surprises that has a contemporary take on the question of gluttony.

Your piece in the moment is part of a collaboration with other writers and performers, such as Francesca Millican-Slater. How have you found that aspect of the creative process?

I

t’s been great! I’m a solo artist and generally make work that exists independently, so it was an exciting and fascinating challenge to create something as part of a whole. I’ve loved the opportunity to create music collaboratively for the project, and it’s been brilliant in the last few weeks working with the fantastic cast who have been so generous in enabling me to explore my process in this context. I’m thrilled also that Breach Theatre are going to be part of Gluttony’s Feast and also that while the pieces we’ve made are different moments they are also integral, in that Breach have made a piece about production and I’ve made a piece about consumption. Fran’s fantastic work with the rest of the Sins has been great to be part of and integrate into the section I’ve developed. I think it’s going to be a very special experience.

 


Book tickets to ‘The Confessions of the Seven Sins’ created by Nick Field & Francesca Millican-Slater as part of Fair Field.

“Got something to confess? Follow the dreamer, Will, into the crumbling basement of Shoreditch Town Hall and discover an anarchic, medieval self-help group. The seven sins will all be there – from Gluttony, high on icing sugar, to Lechery, teller of the dirtiest tales. Map your own route through the basement in this immersive, provocative and comic experience of the dark side of human nature.”

Shoreditch Town Hall, 5.00pm on Saturday 8 July.





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