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
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
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
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 brother, etc.
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.
We 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 2005.
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 the production...
CS: As an actor, how have you
gone about stripping down the affects of Acting to achieve the quintessence
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
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?
TC: 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
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
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 head.
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 about pretence!
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, really....
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 performer?
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.]