Interview with Radu Afrim


H: To begin with, what motivated you to come to London?

RA: I think it was the unknown. I’ve seen some performances in Romania coming from the UK and I wanted to feel for myself how things are here, I wanted to sense the atmosphere of the theatre. I watched a show at the Barbican and I was looking at the audience to see their faces and reactions, because it is important to get a context about British theatre, to get a sense of what people liked or didn’t like.

H: Has your motivation for wanting to do a project here changed in any way?

RA: No, not so much. I  know where I am situated in European theatre or at least where I should be because it is true that theatre in Romania is a little isolated from the rest. It also hasn’t changed because I have my own way of doing theatre. If you don’t follow trends but your own instincts, this is the best motivation. I have an eclectic style, there are at least two levels in my work at all times. I try to make it poetical enough, social enough or political; there are a lot of histrionic elements in my productions. When you have that mixture and you’re personal in what you do, you can’t be wrong.

H: What do you think will be your biggest challenge when working in the UK?

 RA: I really don’t know. The process will be challenging but what the biggest one will be, I can’t say. I’ve had challenges in my career before and not only when working abroad, even in Romania. You arrive in a town, you don’t know the audience, you don’t know the company and what they expect from you. I wouldn’t be doing what I do if it wasn’t a challenge, if it didn’t provoke me. Otherwise it wouldn’t make any sense. But I’m not afraid of working in the UK. I know how to do my job well and the people here know how to do their job well. We’re professionals so we can do something good together.

H: What is your impression of British theatre?

RA: It is still quite premature. I have no in-depth observations. I have been told that people in Britain prefer spoken theatre. I am not based in spoken theatre. I do work with text and have done spoken theatre shows but this is not my style, it seems to me to be too static. You need to come up with something special, something where not only the words are important, where behind them is a real life, a world of silence, actions, emotions and energies. But as for London, I don’t know. It would be a mistake to talk about British theatre. I need to see a lot more to answer this question.

H: And finally, how would you describe your work?

RA: It is very dynamic, not only the performances themselves but the trajectory of my career too.  I change a lot. I try to change my aesthetics all the time and I’ve had my different periods. I’ve had different careers. I saw a performance yesterday and I remember thinking: ‘I used to work that way ten years ago’. I’ve changed a lot since then. I guess I could describe what I do as based on simple emotions with simple characters, still very personal and sophisticated in its overall framework. But within that framework, the details are always very simple. I hope my work is dynamic and also violent, humorous and poetic at the same time. That is what I try to do, sometimes more successfully than others. They say I’m a unique voice in Romanian theatre because I come from a visual background. I wanted to be a visual artist initially. Then I wanted to become an architect. I try to mix all my passions in what I do. That’s why I cannot work only with words. I can manage text-based theatre because I studied letters for five years – semantics, literature, languages, but I’ve been trying to go away from all of that. I do a lot of contemporary plays, most of which haven’t been shown in Romania previously, but always within my own aesthetics and approach. And I enjoy working with classics and re-making them because it is necessary to put them in a contemporary context and make them relevant, socially and sometimes politically.

The interview was conducted by Henriette Morrison, transcribed and edited by Svetlana Karadimova.

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