Interview with Cypriot theatre maker Athina Kasiou

AthinaHow did the idea of staging Six Characters in Search of an Author begin?

When I was invited to London to take part in Theatre of Europe I didn’t think to myself ”this is the project that will wow London!”. It’s a project I’ve had in mind to do for a long time and the more I thought about it the more it made sense to do it here. Following a week of intensive and focused work, thinking about Six Characters in Search of an Author, going to exhibitions, talking with different people I’m even more convinced. When you are in the place where you are going to stage a project you find the roots that will lead you to the final product.

Tell us about your creative process generally?

Maybe this is going to sound a little pompous but it’s like Pirandello wrote, it’s about ‘imagination’ and as a director we read plays, see productions and then there is an unexpected moment that clicks in your mind, an image or an idea that comes to you and it’s so real that it won’t let go. It’s the moment you need to give you a thread to continue the journey. For me, it’s always the relationship between an image and the heart of the play that makes me decide that’s the play I’m going to do now and then you start building the world around it.

What did you do over this research and development residency?

I came to London with the seed of an idea that needed shaping in order to become entirely specific and substantial. The first part of my stay was focused on simply getting a feel for London by walking around, travelling on buses, visiting different galleries (A Bigger Splash at Tate, Light Show at the Hayward Gallery,Dancing around Duchamp at Barbican, The National Portrait Gallery and the Saatchi Gallery) and going to a wide selection of theatre (Robert Lepage’s latest production showing at the Roundhouse,The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time in the West End, Watt at Barbican,The Captain of Kopenick at the National Theatre, Paper Cinema’s Odyssey at BAC, Above Me the Wide Blue Sky at Young Vic and In the Beginning Was the End at Somerset House). Then, as my idea felt more solid, I tested it out on different people beginning with dramaturg Neil Grutchfield and followed by new writing experts like producer Vicky Graham, artistic director Poppy Burton-Morgan and finally the Royal Court’s literary manager, Chris Campbell. I also had the chance to introduce myself to some of the writers whose work I admire here in the UK and share my idea with them too. Although I can’t say too much about our plans for Six Characters in Search of an Author quite yet I’m pleased with the way everyone we met responded to the idea.

What has been particularly useful during this research and development residency?

It was very useful to have that early meeting with dramaturg Neil Grutchfield because this put me into the rhythm of things here. His questions were carefully prepared and went straight to the root of the matter and this was just what I needed. The visits to the different galleries were also very useful because I am a visual person and it was important for me to get a feel for the aesthetics here at the moment. The fact that you were so open was also very important and that you allowed my ideas to breathe and evolve. I like how I was able to allow my ideas to have a dialogue with every day experiences. Seeing shows was also vital – you understand where you place yourself, what excites you, what is happening – I needed to hear the work of these new writers as well. I was fascinated that every person we met with a finger on the new writers pulse – dramaturgs, artistic directors, producers, literary managers – not one recommendation overlapped and now… I have a lot to read!

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