Tim Crouch's Theatrical Transformations
A Conversation with Caridad Svich
[I first encountered Brighton-based
theater-maker Tim Crouch's work when he brought his solo piece
My Arm to 59 East 59th Street Theatre as part of the
Brits Off Broadway series in 2004. The piece detailed in short
diary-like sequences the life of an "accidental" visual arts celebrity:
a young man who one day raises an arm above his head and refuses
to bring it back down. The set-up and execution were deceptively
simple. Crouch walked onstage in casual clothes, addressed the
audience directly, and slowly began to tell his first-person narrative.
As the play progressed, objects drawn from the audience's pockets
and purses stood in for other people in the story. Manipulating
a small DVD player, Crouch "animated" the objects and gave them
curiously potent force in the tale of this odd, stubborn and tragic
Since I saw My Arm, there
has been no question in my mind that Crouch is one of the most
exciting experimental theater-makers working in the English-language.
As a writer, he crafts precise, beautiful, literate, and defiant
texts that challenge linear and nonlinear storytelling. As a performer,
he is simultaneously opaque and translucent in his emotional,
vocal and physical directness and specificity. There is not a
wasted action in Crouch's pieces. He refuses to settle for either
the conventional or the odd for odd's sake. Encountering his work
is like walking into a laboratory: the experiment is already afoot,
the rules are changeable, the presentation is lucid, and important
questions are asked about the stage, space, time and how we tell
stories. He also has a sharp sense of humor that works the rare
trick of lifting somber passages out of their gravity, and awakening
his silly, cheery moments into something that crosses from hilarity
into something else: a comprehension of the comic as singular
presence in voice and body.
Crouch and I have engaged in a lively
transatlantic correspondence about the nature of making art today
since 2004. We've also participated in a quorum at the University
of London, Queen Mary, on the topic "Documentary Theater and the
False Photographic Affect," and shared billing at the 2005 Edinburgh
Fringe Festival (with The Booth
Variations and An Oak Tree, respectively). What distinguishes
Crouch's work for me (and it is a quality that he shares particularly
with the U.K. group Improbable Theatre) is its engagement with
the durational nature of theater and its unabashed embrace of
genuine feeling despite its formalism.
This fall he brings An
Oak Tree to the Barrow Street Theatre in New York. This piece
is a two-character study of loss and grief: a Hypnotist (played
by Crouch) is playing a lousy gig in a small pub. As it happens,
he accidentally killed a young girl with his car some time ago.
A person steps forward from the audience (played by a different
actor every night) to go under hypnosis. The person is the young
girl's father. The "trick" of the play is that the second actor
comes into the play "cold," without having read the script before.
The audience witnesses a performer responding spontaneously in
the moment, while Crouch "performs" his role. Two styles of acting,
one rehearsed, one not, become part of the story's meta-theatrical
narrative. Meanwhile, the ghostly presence of the young girl haunts
the fictive story, related (script in hand at times) by the Father
figure and the Hypnotist. It is a powerful and surprising piece
of theater -- rigorous in intent and execution. Embedded in its
narrative and design is a relentless desire for the resolution
of grief, and an acknowledgment that grief never really leaves
the heart. Avoiding sentimentality yet embracing sentiment, An
Oak Tree plays with our expectations of theater. The following
interview with Tim Crouch was conducted via e-mail during summer
2006, while he was presenting An Oak Tree in Finland.]
Caridad Svich: I'd like
to start with the basics first, which is, how did the piece come
to be? What was the process of building it and how has it developed
since the Edinburgh premiere?
Tim Crouch: When Faber
published my first play, My Arm, in 2003, I made a statement
at the front of the volume that my next play would be called An
Oak Tree. I didn't know how or what the play would be, but
I knew it would be a response to Michael Craig-Martin's 1970s
conceptual art work of that name, hanging in Tate Modern.
I loved the Craig-Martin piece, and I knew
that it spoke directly to my approach to theater and to theater
in general. Here were, in essence, the devices of My Arm,
the devices of all good theater. Craig-Martin displays a glass
of water and, in a text next to it, he tells us that he's "transformed
the properties of the glass of water into those of a fully grown
oak tree." This (playful) transubstantiation is achieved through
an act of intention-- simple as that. He says it, and it is so.
In this respect, theater is the ultimate conceptual art form.
I say I am Hamlet, and that's what I become! I say I've had one
arm above my head for thirty years, and that's how it is. There's
no need for a material manifestation or transformation. All that's
needed is an audience to accept it; for a contract of credence
to be established. The proof is in the conceit. We believe and
it becomes true. The oak tree comes into existence because that's
what Craig-Martin says it is. Just like the objects in My
Arm. This cigarette packet is my Father. This apple is my
When My Arm opened in Edinburgh
I had with me Emile Coue's Self-Mastery Through Conscious
Auto-Suggestion -- his book written in 1921 about healing
through the power of the mind, through forms of what we now term
hypno-therapy. I had a sense that Michael Craig-Martin's piece
worked on the level of an act of conceptual hypnotism. It convinced
us, in spite of our rational selves, that one thing could be manifested
in something else. This, also, is the sine qua non of theater.
And the cross-overs with hypnotism extend into the language of
theater -- the music, the lights, the rhythms, the tone of voice.
So, I knew An Oak Tree would involve a hypnotist!
I also knew it would involve loss. Conceptual
art was triggered by the losses of the beginning of the Twentieth
Century: the Great War, the death of grand narratives, the loss
of faith in previous representations. It was these losses that
enabled Marcel Duchamp to put a urinal in a gallery. In Freud's
On Melancholy and Mourning he talks about the impulse
to create art stemming from a sense of grief, a sense of loss.
I felt this absolutely with the creation of My Arm --
it was a response to the loss of my faith in acting and in me
as an actor. With An Oak Tree, I wanted to connect these
ideas: that art can be triggered by a de-materiality, that loss
can be the engine of art, that something which isn't there can
be created through an act of intention. I had these ideas, but
I didn't have the story to place them in. For me, story is always
the medium. It's the carrier by which complicated ideas can operate
on an internal level for the audience. Without story, you might
as well write a pamphlet...
So, the story dropped into place whilst
I was running My Arm at 59E59 during May 2004: reversing
the Craig-Martin narrative and turning a tree into something else.
Man turns tree into daughter! This would be the strap line, the
"Oprah" hook that would get an audience in. Two men, united by
loss. The father of a girl killed by a car; and the driver of
that car, a provincial stage hypnotist. The father has turned
the tree next to where she died into his daughter and his life
is falling apart. The Hypnotist, since the accident, has lost
the power of suggestion (has lost his power as an "artist").
Their meeting, and their need for each other, would fuel the drama.
And their situation could amply contain the medium for the ideas
I wanted to explore. Before I started to turn this story into
a play, I asked my friend, the poet and performance artist Andy
Smith (working under the name "a smith"), if he would
let me write the part of the Father for him; if he would be the
second actor in the play. I knew that I wanted an actor who "wasn't
an actor." An actor who wouldn't fall back on the traditional
approach. Andy was not an actor. He knew My Arm; he knew
the area I was working in. He also knew that he didn't want to
take the job... So, at my kitchen table, we talked. We talked
about the "animation" of inanimate objects in My Arm.
It was Andy, in our far-ranging conversation, who suggested that
we could replicate the effects of My Arm on a human being
-- that a different person each performance could play the Father
-- unknowing of their own significance. With the possibility of
this device in place, An Oak Tree took two weeks to write!
It was simple: I had to write a play that would enable me to guide
a second actor through it. With that restriction in place, the
devices flooded in. And each one felt that they were reinforcing
and amplifying the themes of the story.
started to put the show together in April 2005 - working with
my collaborator Karl James, and with Andy Smith playing the Father,
but only in rehearsal! In An Oak Tree the Father is called
Andy Smith, so he's with me after all! As we worked through the
play, Andy would come fresh into the experience each day -- guiding
me, noting me on my instructions. Then, as we got nearer to completion,
Andy stepped back into the role of co-director, and we started
bringing different actors into rehearsals. We'd run the play and
then buy the actors a drink and question them on the experience.
Gradually a vocabulary emerged for this show which we continue
to use. We previewed twice in Germany at the end of April and
then left it to settle before bringing it together again for previews
leading up to the opening at the Traverse in Edinburgh in August
CS: When I was in London
in spring of 2005 and we had the Quorom talk at Queen Mary, University
of London, you were in the middle of making the piece (or pretty
far along), and I remember you were quite keen on the nature of
exposure in it: theatrical exposure that would then reveal emotional
truth(s). In My Arm the grammar of reality is foregrounded
in the staging: house lights are up, you walk out, the space of
enquiry is the room itself -- the performer, the audience, the
objects on stage and in the audience. The conceit of the piece
is that it is being "made up" in the moment. And while there is
a degree of improvisation, the piece is scripted, rehearsed, designed
and so forth. But the illusion holds. There is an affectless quality
to your performance, which goes against Acting as culturally we
recognize it (naturalistic or stylized) and is closer to Performance,
which tends to stress in its purest sense the "So, here I am and
here's what's happening and this is what we're going to make tonight."
So, my roundabout question is: as a writer and theater-maker,
what's led you to this broad investigation of real space and time
in what are essentially fictional pieces?
TC: I think that enquiry
started to develop alongside my growing disillusionment in psychologically
motivated social realism! This is the dominant form of British
theater. It's what we train our actors for and, almost as a consequence
of this, it's how 90% of British plays are written and made. Until
2003, until My Arm, I was a jobbing actor -- waiting
for my agent to ring, working with anyone who'd have me. In this
world, I found myself working with directors whose sole methodology
was the processes of character-led, psychological enquiry. It
became the thing to do -- sitting around a table in rehearsal,
breaking down the script into units of action and intention, endlessly
finding transitive verbs to describe what our characters were
trying to do to each other. I had one experience of working with
an actor who kept this process going throughout the run of the
play we were in -- he was so absorbed by it that I never once
felt we were ever on the same stage together! There was no understanding
from him of the here and now, and certainly no sense of the audience.
In a way, My Arm was written for this actor. And also,
in fact, the role of the Father in An Oak Tree -- a performance
which cannot be researched, cannot be rehearsed...
I knew that theater was not only about
what happened between actors on stage -- that the majority of
people involved in the act were actually sitting beyond the lights,
and that what they brought to the process was equally important,
but regularly ignored. In my experience of those rehearsals, we
were working to create an hermetically sealed simulacrum, a perfect
artifice predicated on a collective trickery. In those plays,
if the illusions were broken, then the trick would be revealed
and, somehow, the message would be lost. This increasingly struck
me as an insult to the intelligence of the people involved on
both sides of the footlights. We all know this isn't Elsinore,
I'm not really Hamlet. These are embodiments of an active idea
-- an idea in action, which we all buy into when the play begins.
It's all right if the castle doesn't look like a castle. I'm always
bemused when so much detail is given to period costume dramas
-- what are they trying to tell us? That this really is Victorian
England? Come on? If the play stands or falls on whether the costumes
are right for the period, then something is deeply wrong with
CS: As an actor, how have
you gone about stripping down the affects of Acting to achieve
the quintessence of Presence?
TC: When I teach I talk
about the subject of theater being what happens in the audience;
and the object of theater being what happens on the stage. This
is a guiding principle for my work.
Once, at the Bristol Old Vic, during Act
One of a production of Hamlet, I helped carry what we
thought was a corpse out of the auditorium. She was an elderly
woman, sitting two seats along from me, ten rows or so from the
stage. She slumped forward, wet herself and was, we thought, gone.
She was heavy and it was a bit of a procedure to get her out --
lots of grunting and heaving. All the while, Hamlet continued
on stage. Hamlet never stopped. A famous young director
had been sitting the other side of me but, as soon as the woman
slumped, he disappeared. I found it hard to reconcile that, if
theater was the live act we all said it was, if it dealt with
the human condition as we all said it did, that it was unable
to respond to the tragedy that was happening in the auditorium.
(She'd gone into a diabetic coma; she was okay...)
So far, every performance of mine (of my
own work) has started with a moment of connection with the audience.
I walk on stage, I stand, I make contact. This is not a performed
idea of making contact -- it's just me, checking that everyone's
okay, that we're all in the same place, that we're ready to start.
This idea of connection is fundamental. If I directed a play with
a cast of ten, it would probably start the same way. It brings
the audience into focus. It also makes them aware that they have
a role to play during the performance. In one sense, it also makes
the actors part of the audience too. I have always said that theater
practice is just an extension of audience practice; that we actors
are nothing special; it's just the contract that we've agreed
on for this show, that I'll be here this time and you'll be there.
Next time, maybe, it will be the other way round. This "levelling-out"
is essential before the play begins. I don't want the audience
to relax into thinking that they are going to be treated to a
passive spectacle, a display of technical expertise. Once we've
achieved this grounding, then the play begins in a shared space,
and the audience are truthfully implicated in the experience.
They know where it's coming from.
Performing My Arm in London in
2004, I had an audience member in the front row who I could see
was visibly distressed. It was summer, she was wilting in the
heat. When she leant forward and put her head in her hands, I
asked her if she was okay. I offered her my glass of water. Someone
else in the audience offered their handkerchief. There was no
sense of disruption, no sense of embarrassment for the woman.
Just an acknowledgement of the heat and that everything was fine!
We opened the doors to get some air in, and, when I checked that
everyone was okay, we went back to the play. I am sure that, when
the play began again, nothing had been lost. No illusion had been
broken. Just a greater sense of ourselves had been engendered.
I would always want to see a production of Hamlet that
contained that level of contact.
CS: In An Oak Tree,
the second actor, who plays the father, the man whose child has
been accidentally killed, is different every night. The conceit
is that this actor has not seen the text beforehand and walks
into the play. What transpires is a meditation on acting as much
as it is a play about a Father and a Hypnotist (whom you play)
coming to terms with grief and guilt. What has it been like to
work with different Fathers throughout the piece's performance
history thus far?
Fantastic. At the start I had to convince myself that none of
them could ever do anything wrong. And now I effortlessly and
wholeheartedly believe it! At the time of writing, I've had 83
different actors play the Father -- male and female. And I've
had 83 different performances. I meet each actor an hour before
the show. I talk them through ideas of "open-ness" on stage. I
say that all I'm requesting is for them to bring their instinct
on stage -- to respond in each moment to the reality they find
themselves in. So, of course, every instinct is different. And
I genuinely have no perfect image of the second actor. They are
themselves, and whatever they do in the show will be "themselves"
-- even if they fake it, even if they "put on a show," even
if they fail to connect. Nothing is false. Nothing is a failure,
and the play seems to be able to stand up to anything.
I got fed up as an actor with encountering
a notion of being "in the moment" that is promulgated in certain
movements of theater -- all about relaxed shoulders and loose
knees and being "present" in an actorly way. It became a "performance"
-- as much of an artificial state as anything else. I like the
human imperfection -- the tensions, the blocks, the trapped voice,
the wonky features. In An Oak Tree I try to create a
place where those imperfections can be acknowledged and celebrated.
I ask for the actors to come as themselves, to wear what they
would wear. I say, and I mean it, that nothing they can do will
be wrong, that I will be there to support them throughout, that
everything will be fine! The play's strength is their human-ness,
not their actorly-ness. The play will make them a character without
them having to do anything. These are easy things for me to say,
I acknowledge, but much harder things for the second actor to
absorb, to assimilate. What's been interesting is that, time after
time, my expectations of certain actors have been completely confounded.
Actors whom I've felt this play has been written for, have found
it difficult to just be. Whilst others, for whom I've felt the
play will be a struggle, have placed themselves outside of a performed
notion of themselves with the most extraordinary honesty and vulnerability.
It's important that the play begins and
ends in real life. I felt this particularly with My Arm.
If I did a warmup before a performance, then it put me in an artificial
state which didn't help the play at all. This is Tim Crouch, and
not a performed idea of who Tim Crouch is.
Also, I'm always asked about why I don't
use non-actors -- why don't I just get someone up from the audience.
This would certainly encourage the human-ness, but there are problems.
I need people who have a certain competency at sight-reading.
I also need people who can make themselves heard. I don't want
the experience of An Oak Tree to be a constant anxiety
about whether the Father can read his script. This is a concern
the play doesn't need. I know that there are many non-actors who
are great sight-readers, but I can't make that assumption with
someone I pull from the audience. I would have to get to know
them, know their level of skills; and, with a different actor
each time, I don't have time for that. With actors, I feel able
to make that assumption, to meet them an hour before we start.
Also, the play has a deep emotional core which I wouldn't want
to spring on anyone out of the blue. I give a one-page document
to any prospective second actor -- it tells them that they need
to be happy to sight-read, happy to wear an ear piece, and that
they need to know the play is about the loss if of a child, and
if that story is close to them then they shouldn't do it. Finally,
I feel this play is a play FOR actors. It's a play about performance.
CS: There is an extended,
shared silence in My Arm, and in An Oak Tree,
there is a 30-second silence. Both silences come at exact, unexpected,
and yet perfect moments in the emotional tenor of the evening.
There is discomfort always about silence in the theater because
we are used to living in a culture of noise and constant sound.
And so much of art-making (visual arts included) in recent years
has been focused on sonic environments. We are used to the soundtrack.
The power of silence is that the soundtrack stops, and we actually
have to deal with whatever it is (as John Cage observed) that
lives within and among us at a given time. So, my question is
this: what drew you to explore silence as part of both pieces'
fundamental vocabulary, and how have you nevertheless managed
to use pre-existing music and allowed an audience to re-hear that
music in a theatrical context?
TC: I talk about creating
"black holes" on stage -- something which draws matter towards
it. This metaphor holds strong for the theater, and these silences
you talk about are a clear example of this. With an audience,
the more you present them with a finished product, the less they
feel they have anything to contribute to it. In a sense, if you
present the audience with "solid matter" then they are more likely
to be repelled, or rather directed towards a passivity in relation
to it. The more you can leave open, the more an audience is drawn
in. And they are drawn in of their own volition -- with no sense
of coercion. The silence in My Arm has, at one theater
in Ireland, lasted over 5 minutes. Usually it's around 3. I don't
ever fix it, but just each time test the temperature of where
we are as a group of people. I connect this silence to a year
in my protagonist's life when he didn't speak. The narrrative
supports the silence; it's designed to create a physical experience
of the frustration felt by people around him. But, more importantly,
it encourages the audience just be.
My Arm deals with modern art,
with ideas of visual art. I love the objectivity of an art work.
It exists, and it requires you, the spectator, to form a relationship
with it. It isn't going to do anything to help you; it isn't going
to start singing or dancing; it isn't going to start explaining
itself. It's here and you're there, and the duty is on you to
make a connection. We're happy to sit in front of a Rothko for
ten minutes, but it's a harder proposition to sit so connected
in the theater. We expect things to be done for us. The silences
just create a different form of narrative. I think that more happens
in the audience during that three-minute silence than if I had
spoken for 3 minutes.
With regard to the music... There is an
absent 12-year-old girl in An Oak Tree, and she is materialised
by a piece of music -- Bach's "Goldberg Variations." Music is
another de-materialised art form. It operates on a absolute level
of suggestion. I use the Bach, partly because it's the most perfect
music, but also because I read somewhere that Bach was commissioned
to write a piece that would help Goldberg sleep... I since heard
that theory refuted, but that was an impulse. In narrative terms,
the girl is listening to music when she dies ("You could still
hear the music coming from her Walkman"). She's on her way to
her piano lesson. The play suggests that she dies somewhere around
the end of the beginning Aria -- and this is the section which
is worked and re-worked throughout the play -- faltering, imperfect,
the girl herself, at her piano ("I used to love to listen to her,
watch her fingers"). It is unable to resolve -- just as the Father
is unable to move beyond his loss. At the end of the play, the
two men re-create the final moments of her life and (through art/creativity/hypnotism/
theater...) the Father is able to do the thing he most wanted
to -- to say "goodbye." As these words are spoken the Aria breaks
through into the First Variation which plays with an energy which,
for me, is the absolute transformative power of art. He says good-bye,
and the girl is materialised, his grief is addressed. "When you
open your eyes."
CS: If An Oak Tree
can be seen as an anatomy of grief -- disguised or masked as a
hypnotist's act -- it is also about discontinuity. Place names
shift, identities shift (at one point the Hypnotist is speaking
as the Husband's Wife, the audience member is now the Father).
Everything is suspect, which of course, means that everything
in the theater is suspect. In the U.S., while many performers
question the meaning of the stage, very few -- Richard Maxwell
is one, and Young Jean Lee is another -- employ the discontinuous
without excessively commenting on discontinuity. While your work
is meta-theatrical, it escapes the trap of being ironically or
narrowly about its metatheatricality. On the one hand, there is
the charlatan aspect (the Hypnotist and his act complete with
carny music) but on the other the more profound idea that there
is an element of the charlatan in all creative work. How beautiful
and necessary that is to remember.
TC: Yes yes yes! The beautiful
element of the charlatan! Or rather, in art, truth is what you
say it is! I do not mean that we can be irresponsible or cavalier
towards everyday reality - but the audience know what is credible
and what is not. Art is NOT "anything you can get away with"...!
CS: In what way do you
negotiate the tough terrain of exhibitionism, exorcism and expiation
that An Oak Tree requires?
TC: A woman at the end
of a performance came up to me almost speechless with tears. She
looked at me and said, "How could you? You have children. How
could you?" An hour later she came to see me. Her initial emotional
reaction had been replaced by a considered understanding of what
the play was trying to do. There needs to be an emotionality to
the story. If it's not there, then it becomes an ideological exercise.
Also, this play is about engendering that emotionality in the
audience -- not keeping it all on stage. My job is to keep things
simple, so that all the complicated stuff happens in the audience's
When I teach I talk about working to create
small actions on stage which trigger much larger re-actions in
the audience. It should be this way round. But often, theater
becomes about creating large actions on stage which communicate
diminishing re-actions in the audience. This is the wrong way
round! I am tired of those actors who give these deeply personal,
heart-emptying performances. I don't want to see real but rehearsed
tears on stage. It's not our job. Our job is to focus the generation
of thought and emotion in the audience. Not to lose sight of ourselves
behind a veil of indulgence.
Some people see An Oak Tree as
a tyrannical act of control on my part. I've had reviews describing
me as a patronising control freak. In my defence, I would ask
them to realise that 50% of the play each performance is unrehearsed...
In that sense, I throw control out of the window! True, we stick
to the same script each time, and we work roughly in the same
blocking, but I give the second actor as much freedom as possible
to take the play wherever their instinct moves them. Some actors
laugh their way through the play; some actors cry. Some actors
are ponderously slow and spend much of their time trying to find
the meaning of each word; some actors just rattle from one instinctive
response to the next. Some actors turn in elaborate "performances,"
some can bearly make their voice heard. In foreign countries,
the actors read the text that has been translated into their own
language -- with me working alongside them in English. For some
actors, it's the most phenomenal experience, for some they feel
a little manipulated, or they experience the play as an intriguing
experiment. ALL THESE RESPONSES ARE RIGHT RESPONSES -- and I genuinely
do not wish to have control over them. Far more controlling are
those productions where everything, down to the smallest gesture,
has been intricately rehearsed and fixed. Also, with each performance
of An Oak Tree, we go back to the start. A moment that
didn't work so well the night before, cannot be improved the night
following. We can't meet and work on it -- because who knows how
it will be tonight? I love this -- these moments of the everyday
in the made up. In An Oak Tree, there are acts of genuine
communication between me and the second actor -- I need to say
these things to you and you need to hear them, in order for the
play to progress to the next moment. These are not rehearsed moments
of communication; we haven't spent six weeks working to make them
look real; they ARE real! No pretence, in a piece that is all
CS: Have you thought about
making texts for more than two or three actors at some point?
TC: My writing... Well
I still don't really consider myself a "playwright." I'm a theater-maker.
And for my theater to be made, it needs some words... Playwrights,
in my mind, are those people who sit in their studies and write
plays for other people to put on. People who tussle and wrangle
over their meaning. I feel the same about my writing as I do about
my acting now -- both are a means to an end. And the end is to
communicate the ideas and to tell the story. Kind of traditional,
I am, however, passionate about words.
Words, and the universes they can create in the audience's heads.
I am not a physical theater man. The abstraction of the human
body in movement is, to me, not as strong as the visions and associations
the right words can achieve. My words, however, are still very
much connected to my sense of theater. There is a totality to
my vision at the moment, in which it feels perfectly natural that,
to achieve a cohesion, I need to perform. This is partly a question
of economy of realisation. I have an idea, and I still feel that
I am the right person to execute that idea. I write for myself,
for my qualities as an actor. This partly stems from a lack of
confidence about getting a team of people to work on MY ideas.
That still feels arrogant, what right have I got? I'd rather keep
it small. To give the idea over to a group of people means that
the idea immediately becomes part of a process of negotiation.
And I don't feel strong enough for that...yet. Also, working on
my own enables me to really follow my instinct. I make decisions
in a split second in my writing that I would take two days to
resolve in a devising process -- and then the idea would probably
be dropped. I go to the theater to see instinct at work, not a
committee process. You wouldn't suggest to Lucien Freud that he
should start working with other people... I like that individuality.
Having said all this, the next play, I think, will probably be
for a slightly larger cast -- maybe four! We'll see.
CS: Have you considered
not being an actor in one of your pieces, but offering it to another
TC: I have seen a production
of My Arm in Germany with a different actor, and it sort
of both liberated me and chilled my blood. Someone sent me press
cuttings of a production in Zurich, and it looks as though the
actor performed the whole piece with his arm painted black and
strung up above his head. This goes against everything the play
is trying to do, but I have to let it go! People always seem to
want to complicate things, when in fact the idea is to keep it
as simple as possible. There has been a production of An Oak
Tree in Venezuela (called MI MUNDO HYPNOTICO), and
there'll be productions in Moscow and Barcelona this year. I am
very happy to encourage these productions. I have to achieve a
distance from my work. I have to give them an integrity outside
Earlier this year I wrote my first ever
piece for actors other than myself! It was a 30-minute piece for
10-year-olds to perform -- a choric piece based loosely on the
Kasper Hauser story. I had the treat of being the writer going
to see his play! It was very moving. I felt overwhelmed that people
had worked so hard on something of mine. Very flattering. So maybe
I'll do more....
[Editor's note: Tim Crouch's An Oak Tree begins
performances at the Barrow Street Theatre on Oct. 27, 2006.]