MA English Studies graduate Richard Dodwell is presenting his new show PLANES at The Yard Theatre in Hackney Wick from Tuesday 31 January.
Tell us about your new work PLANES? How did it come about?
PLANES is a “live tuning” into missing things. By that I mean it’s a live work for theatre that explores notions of remembering and processing difficult experiences, with a live accompanying score by the poet and composer Timothy Thornton. In this case, that difficulty is the suicides of people close to me. Mental Health is in crisis and more and more people seem to be suffering as services are slashed and the world becomes crueler. I suppose, as someone trying to survive, the work emerged to try and harness the truth of both what grief is and how we move forwards—but it’s a tough one! I did a couple of scratch previews of that work, with the help of Arts Council England and Battersea Arts Centre, and then The Yard invited me to present the work as part of their NOW 17 festival of new performance. So I was really chuffed about that.
Who or what inspires you to make theatre work?
Anything and everyone really. I try to make work that’s honest and not too obscured by style and posturing, although inevitably when you “make” something it always runs the risk of being perceived as such. I guess that’s the magic of any kind of art making or creativity—the multitude of ways it can be perceived. I’m not here to moderate or manipulate anyone’s feelings, although I am trying to create a world where people find some sort of connection. I’m hugely inspired by the European avant-garde and the New York experimental theatre of the 70s and 80s. The Wooster Group particularly are a huge inspiration, as is the writer and filmmaker Derek Jarman. I guess I want to make work that documents the experience of being alive, here and now, without too much thought.
What was studying English Studies at Queen Mary like? Do you have any favourite memories or tutors?
Fantastic. I have very warm memories there. The English Department is second to none: great teaching, excellent resources and the chance to really engage with literary theory—which has influenced my creative practice hugely. My favourite memory is meeting Matthew, who studied on the MA with me. He was a wonderful friend and support throughout the course, and introduced me to lots of new left-wing and radical revolutionary thought. He was a wonderful person: sensitive, vibrant and hugely caring. Sadly, Matthew took his own life in October last year. I miss him hugely. This show is partly dedicated to him.