imitating the dog + melanie frances

Andrew Quick (Co-Artistic Director, imitating the dog)
Pete Brooks (Co-Artistic Director, imitating the dog)
Mel Frances (Artist/Interviewer)

Sometimes we use digital technologies as tools; sometimes the digital is present because of the stories we are telling, or the way the piece presents narrative and structures information.

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At times the technology is playing as itself, and at times it plays as something else. Imitating the dog have a long standing tradition of using technology as metaphor; in my work I often transform devices to allow them to become part of the narrative. Sometimes a phone is a phone, sometimes a radio, or a portal.

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Isadora is a mixing technology that allows you to mix live in the rehearsal room, and then live on stage. As Isadora transforms process, it also transforms the work that we can make, and new tools introduce new ways of telling stories, and new dramaturgical structures.

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‘Digital theatre’ creates a disruption. The ‘liveness’ of theatre, reimagines the ‘fixedness’ of digital, questioning what it means for things to be fixed, and creating the possibility for things to change.

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Andrew: We’ve always been interested in memory and how narrative relates to memory, we’ve always been interested in time; if you like we’ve always been interested in how the human subject negotiates the dynamics of memory and time physically and in space, and of course technology has always been involved in that. So our understanding of memory and time is – Pete and I’s particularly because we’re of a particular generation, is massively affected by cinema. Which is why probably cinema has been ghosting in our work. As you’ve quite rightly pointed out your – is it your 16 year old brother, he has a relationship to screen perhaps not to the cinematic in a different way, and we’re changing as well. But time, memory and the relationship between the physical and the virtual still exist in some sort of dynamic. I suppose one of the things we’re doing is we are negotiating a bit more rawly now.

Pete: We did this show set in Berlin, kind of at the very end of the war, just after the war had ended and we used computer games which were set in Berlin during the war and then repaired some of the buildings so you know got rid of some of the tanks and we had this kind of instant 1945 Berlin and that was kind of interesting.

Andrew: Yeah we hacked into the game really

Mel: Yeah that’s cool, and I guess the ways that those game environments construct our - in the way that kind of film changes, I’m aware that growing up I’m sure that having seen films changes the way I think, changes the way I perceive of my own memory, there will be ways that I perceive of my own memories within the frame of film-icly perceiving of my own memories. I’m sure that it has changed the way I visually render stuff, and I wonder as well for those people who play lots of games, how those games have changed the way they render Berlin at the end of the war, and then you’re having a dialogue I guess

Pete: Yeah, yeah you are

Mel: That’s really interesting, yeah

Pete: Yes

Andrew: That Isadora allowed us to play with them, it allowed us to mix, yes that was one of the really key things, it allowed us to mix in the rehearsal process, while we rehearsed. Whereas before we had to pre-make and then bring into rehearsal and see if it worked.

So we filmed, edited, brought it back, see if it worked and that’s – that’s a very cinematic, televisual process. Where suddenly we were in a different world where we could mix our elements and play with them.

Mel: And then there is an inherent liveness there that you can play with right, because you are creating and then being able to render as you’re going as opposed to needing to have an artefact that you are bringing in.

Andrew: Exactly. That was a massive change for us, but it also happened, I think you’re right, I think it is a very astute point you’re making, it happened when we were leaving the cinematic and entering a different kind of relationship to the digital. Because the digital was allowing us to do these other things and that inevitably meant we could start layering in information and processes that had never been available to us before.

Pete: Something just occurred to me, and it’s that some of these ideas pre-date the digital, so I’m thinking of Brecht Andrew, and the idea that what Brecht said in one of his theoretical writings was that in his theatre when you saw an actor doing something, you also saw all the other things they might have done if they had gone down a different kind of route. So you know there is a thinking about seeing options in that kind of work, in Brecht’s kind of theatre that we would feel more connected to than other movements in the 20th century.

Mel: And then the – what you were saying before about having the audio of maybe the documentary text coming through and having to live receive that and then repeat is also creates this – I am probably saying something you are really aware of which has only just occurred to me – creates this really wonderful parallel I guess of the malleability of all the material we perceive of being fixed, the kind of notion that this is a fixed bit of history, and then you create this malleability on stage that then dislodges the whole nature of these artefacts and the positions that they currently exist and I think there is a real, wonderful way in which theatre as a live form and theatre as often seen as a fixed form when they intersect with each other suddenly you can begin to merge those worlds and displace the’fixedness’ of digital documentation and bring in some of the liveness of theatre and that is really exciting.