Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Adam Scott Rowley: You Are Going To Die

By | Published on Friday 12 April 2024

I feel pretty sure that many of our readers will have seen Adam Scott Rowley’s acclaimed solo show ‘THIS IS NOT CULTURALLY SIGNIFICANT’ – or, at the very least, heard tell of it.

And I mention this because the performer begins a run of his latest show – ‘YOU ARE GOING TO DIE’ – at Southwark Playhouse this week. 

This show gets into some heavy themes (you might have gathered that from the title), but they are of course leavened with humour and the actor’s distinctive approach. 

I wanted to find out more about the show, and about Adam himself, so I arranged a quick chat ahead of opening night. 

CM: So, the title maybe gives a hint to what we can expect from ‘YOU ARE GOING TO DIE’, but can you fill us in a bit? Who is it about? Does it tell a story? 
ASR: ‘YOU ARE GOING TO DIE’ emerged from personal experiences, including a severe period of existential anxiety and a desire to understand some of the experiences I had had in meditation.

It’s a collaborative effort with co-creators Joseph Prowen, Tom Morley and Matt Cater, and it’s informed by my theatre methodology, The Sensitised Theatre.

‘YOU ARE GOING TO DIE’ tells a dreamlike story in a non-linear fashion, embracing fragmented and alternative narrative forms.

We visit all sorts of different characters, essences, fragments and creatures who are facing a ‘death’ in some fashion.

CM: What themes are explored through this performance? Is there humour in it?
ASR: ‘YOU ARE GOING TO DIE’ delves into themes of death, existentialism and the concept of the self.

These ideas have persistently intrigued and haunted me, but despite the heavy themes, humour is an essential component of the work.

My personal rule is that if a play hasn’t made you laugh in the first five minutes then it’s not worth hanging around to see the rest… So I hope I manage to stick to this with my own work!

CM: Does the show have a message? Political or otherwise? 
ASR: The show views human suffering through a lens of common humanity. This is reflective of Buddhist psychology and is aimed at creating a more empathetic connection among the audience.

While not overtly political, it reflects on the shared experience of pain and the possibility of transcending solitary challenges through collective empathy.

CM: A lot of people will be aware of one of your previous, highly successful works ‘THIS IS NOT CULTURALLY SIGNIFICANT’. Is ‘YOU ARE GOING TO DIE’ similar in terms of its style? 
ASR: While ‘YOU ARE GOING TO DIE’ shares some parallels with ‘THIS IS NOT CULTURALLY SIGNIFICANT’ in pushing the boundaries of human expression, it differs significantly in its underlying tone.

‘TINCS’ was born out of caricature improvisations and stream-of-consciousness diarrhoea, marked by intensity and violence, while ‘YAGTD’ has more curiosity and is enveloped in an atmosphere of compassion.

CM: You performed naked in that and again in this. What are your reasons for doing so? 
ASR: Performing naked is a conscious choice to instil vulnerability and create a shared connection with the audience. It is not for shock value but to express our shared humanity and the essence of pure experience, unmediated by social constructs or cognitive filters.

CM: Can you tell us about the process of creating your shows? Do you sit and write, or is it more of a devising process? Do you work alone? 
ASR: The creation process is collaborative and draws from avant-garde practices that prioritise emotional depth and physicality.

It involves mindfulness, physical expression, and tapping into shared human experiences and emotions.

The process is less about sitting and writing and more about a devising process where the play is made live in the room and in front of audiences.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about your background now and how you came to be working in the arts? Did you always imagine yourself doing this kind of thing? 
ASR: I grew up in a very small village in North Wales. I actually came to London to train in musical theatre because I’ve always been able to sing… but I quickly realised that my home was in something a bit more avant-garde and expressive – although I do still prefer musical theatre to most plays I watch!

CM: What have been the highlights of your working life thus far? 
ASR: Hard to pick out highlights really as the last decade of working in this industry has been mostly awful.

It’s been great to get to make my own work and act in other people’s projects, but I think the combination of our government and the late-stage capitalism we are in, and the severe lack of arts funding, is making the UK an incredibly hostile place, not only to make art, but for almost anything. 

CM: What aims and ambitions do you have for the future?
ASR: My ambitions are to continue challenging the British theatre scene, to create work that is both transformative and connects on a visceral level, and to further develop The Sensitised Theatre as a methodology that reshapes how theatre is told and experienced.

CM: What’s coming up next for you after this? 
ASR: After ‘YAGTD’, my focus will remain on creating theatre that asks difficult questions, instils empathy, and celebrates the complexities of our shared human experience, possibly exploring new themes and collaborative projects, and perhaps working on film too. 

Adam Scott Rowley performs ‘YOU ARE GOING TO DIE’ Southwark Playhouse from 18 Apr-4 May. See the venue website here for more info and to book.

LINKS: | |