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In Conversation with Keir Aitken | FRINGE HUB 2022

We chat with director Keir Aitken about ‘How Long is a Piece of String?’ premiering at Explosives Factory as part of Melbourne Fringe Festival.

How Long is a Piece of String? : Used to indicate that it is impossible to answer a question about the distance of something or the time it will take.

Q: Why distance? Why’s it relevant?

After picking up my life in Scotland and moving to Melbourne six months ago, distance has been on my mind. Then, when I decided to use distance as the show’s core creative theme; when we started playing with distance, I started to notice how distance permeated everything. I don’t simply mean physical distance and using zoom, rather, the distance I felt between who I was, who I am now and who I aspire to be. Or between what people said and what they meant; between events and their backlashes; between art and artists; and even between our bodies and music when in flow. All of these areas excited me and I found exploring distance as a commonality inspiring.

One line of enquiry led us to the question ‘Which distances are good to make shorter and which should have been left alone?’. We aren’t in the answering business but let’s take the distance between an incident and its public reaction. The shrinking of this distance means we know about travesties at the other side of the world yet also can react viciously to events without pausing to think. How much distance should we have between ourselves and the happenings of the world? Well, how long is a piece of string?

Q: Why String?

String is an opportunity. Aside from providing us with a vaguely distance related, aphoristic title, it offered us a devising tool and a dramaturgy. We have been playing through long form improvisations for months. I find you can’t overstate how crucial play is for theatre in both process and product and string was the perfect playmate. Our dramaturgy grew from a need to build our set with string. What ties our episodic show together (pardon the pun), is the casts goal to find the perfect bit of string. We play with the distance between autobiography and fiction, between audience and performer, and offering audience members one end of a piece of string is an ideal way to involve them in questioning these types of distance.

Q: What can people expect from this show?

A healthy amount of interaction. I don’t mean asking folk to get up and do a jig, rather an offering of co-authorship to the audience. An opportunity, if they so please, to have some autonomy over their shared experience. Not interaction for its own sake, but so people leave feeling like they were personally involved in the asking of questions surrounding how distance effects them on both a global and personal scale. From the conversations I’ve had with theatre makers here and from what I’ve seen in Melbourne so far, this UK based style of interactive co-authorship-based performance will be really something fresh for those Melbournite’s who also believe that theatre should celebrate its own theatricality!

Join us tying ourselves in knots at the Explosives Factory from Oct 18-22!


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