Nicola Gunn’s one-person show asks us to imagine a woman who works with children, but has a secret she is incredibly ashamed of. Gunn sat down with herself to ask a few important questions ahead of her world premiere season at Southbank Theatre.
Nicola: Nicola, please tell me about your new theatre piece, Working with Children?
Nicola: That’s an excellent question. Well firstly, I want to correct you and say that it’s contemporary performance, which is not to say it’s not also a theatre piece because I am performing it in a theatre, but sometimes I think it’s good to clarify that it’s actually contemporary performance.
Nicola: What’s the difference?
Nicola: Oh well. Hmmm. For me, I suppose it means there is not really a linear plot with characters, there’s very little artifice.
Nicola: I think you’ll find theatre can do those things too.
Nicola: If you say so. There’s very little pretending (I really am playing myself) and I’m looking for more abstract ways to communicate an idea or a feeling or an experience.
Nicola: An idea about working with children? Is that because you haven’t actually got any on stage?
Nicola: That’s part of it, yes.
Nicola: Don’t you think the title is misleading?
Nicola: No because it’s about people who work with children, not the children themselves.
Nicola: Have you ever worked with children?
Nicola: Ah no.
Nicola: But you did spend some time observing people who work with children?
Nicola: Not exactly.
Nicola: Do you know any children?
Nicola: Not personally, no.
Nicola: What is it about this theme that interested you then?
Nicola: I’m fascinated by the amount of rules and regulations put in place to protect young people, especially if you want to work with them in an artistic context. What are we protecting young people from and when we’re protecting them, what are we not protecting them from? And what are the long-term effects of an overly risk managed theatre, school, city, world? As a side note, I also notice in art that there is an interest in seeing real people do real things and I want to know what it is about them that is so symbolically powerful, particularly when they are children, especially when let’s face it, they can’t really act.
Nicola: Let’s not get into this.
Nicola: So how is the show coming along?
Nicola: Well, it’s in development. It’s a new work, which is pretty exciting, but it also makes it difficult to talk about because nothing is fixed yet. This creates a fair amount of uncertainty and a lot of people find uncertainty uncomfortable. I find it a little uncomfortable too, to be honest, but there’s something thrilling in the risk of it all. The risks are all being managed of course. Unfortunately.
Nicola: Where are you right now?
Nicola: Oh I’m glad you asked. Right now I am sitting in a technical rehearsal at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Becket, Massachusetts. I open an older show of mine here tomorrow.
Nicola: Wow! You are performing at one of the oldest dance festivals in America and you have absolutely no dance training whatsoever! That’s quite an achievement.
Nicola: It is. Except we went swimming in a lake yesterday and I think I have sunstroke.
Nicola: You should probably have a cold shower and drink lots of water. Maybe have a Berocca.
Nicola: Good idea. Well I should probably get back to it now.
Nicola: Thanks for your time.
Rehearsal photography by Sarah Walker.
Working With Children plays at Southbank Theatre from 30 August.