Caro Meets Spoken Word Interview Theatre Interview

Ben Moor: On ‘Each Of Us’

By | Published on Wednesday 5 March 2014

The immensely talented writer/performer that is Ben Moor is currently touring his latest one man show ‘Each Of Us’ (“unashamedly intellectual” and “mesmerising”, according to our very impressed reviewer) around a number of different London venues.

Since we first came across him at the Edinburgh Fringe, we’ve been fans of his funny and intelligent performances. Keen to find out more about this show, and about Ben in general, I sent over a few questions…

CM: Can you tell us what ‘Each Of Us’ is about?
BM: It’s a show about how we find treasure in our lives and how moments with people, decisions we make and times out of our control all feed into the stories we become. There are three phases – family and childhood, romance and friendship – and each of the sections takes a different perspective on the central question of how we mould ourselves and others.

It’s also about differentiating between the authentic and the artificial – a lot of the piece is about how modern life is such a blur we tend to take an easy option when the harder one leads to a more valid and valuable experience. I’ve made it sound awfully sincere and heavy – actually it’s just a lot of jokes and one-liners following a man whose life is going to pot.

CM: What gave you the idea for it, and how long have you been working on it?
BM: On and off for a couple of years before I did the first preview reading in December 2012; I’d performed short sections at club nights beginning in May 2010. There was no specific idea moment for the piece – I tend to write in sections and add and discard during the editing process. I did once see a girl on the tube play with photos on what I imagined to be a year-ring though – that was a spark. And of course I had that toy astronaut helmet that the narrator keeps coming back to. But I guess the ideas just came while seeing the way the world and how we live keeps changing. I’m a big fan of JG Ballard and that has informed some of the more social commentary sections of the piece as well as his experiments with structure and psychological landscapes in works like The Atrocity Exhibition.

CM: You’re something of a veteran of one-person shows. What attracts you to this medium? Do you think it’s easier than performing with other people, or harder?
BM: A bit of both. I was in a west end play in 2000 and more recently I was in The Seagull at Southwark Playhouse and it’s a real joy to work with other actors and see their rehearsal methods and performance styles. But solo shows are a great delivery system for ideas and images – I can’t afford to build a wall of genetically modified algae designed to change colour over the course of the day following the sun, but I can describe it, and if I describe it well enough, the audience will see it. It’s like the kid having a bedtime story read to them by a parent – the audience’s imagination is the most important prop in my show – it wouldn’t work otherwise. It’s the narrative gene.

CM: How does performing your own writing compare to performing other people’s writing?
BM: Well, I can always edit my words to make them flow better on the night – I can adlib without worrying about the author’s intent! But as an actor on another’s script, I’d always try and be word-perfect. On the radio series I’ve written for the BBC, ‘Elastic Planet’ and ‘Undone’, I’d always be there in case an actor wants to phrase something differently – and frankly they often make improvements!

CM: How does performing compare to writing? Which do you enjoy more?
BM: I enjoy both at the time I’m doing them and dread them both when I’m about to start on something. The blank page is a huge obstacle for a writer to fill, but it’s also an opportunity. And the same the acting jobs – how do I play this? I’m very lucky to be able to do both, but I never expect the next job or task – I’m always super happy when I get an acting role and when I’m in the middle of a writing job that’s going well, I can’t wait to get back into it.

Sometimes they feed into each other – in 2004 I had adapted Jonathan Carroll’s dark and beautiful novella ‘Black Cocktail’ as a solo piece of theatre and straight after that I was cast in ‘Casanova’ as the sidekick to the main villain – it was kind of cool to explore a weirder aspect of the world from both sides.

CM: You’ve appeared on/written for TV and radio, as well as doing live performances. Which media is the more satisfying?
Well my writing tends to work on radio – it’s that use of the listener’s imagination again – closure – where an image or a person or a moment can be described and an individual does their own work to visualise it. One of my stage pieces was optioned by a film company, but it wasn’t easy to turn the whimsical and magical into a solid reality.

But I think on the page ‘Each of Us’ is very successful and that’s maybe where my writing will take me next. In live performance I rattle through the plot and the one-liners so fast, it’s a good thing that readers can catch up and absorb the imagery at their own pace.

Three of my other solo shows were also collected as a book in 2009 as ‘More Trees to Climb’ and there’s also a lovely introduction to my work written by Stewart Lee. I don’t think I’ll ever totally give up solo stage performance, but from doing a new one pretty much every year from 1993-2001, they’ll be a little rarer in the years to come.

CM: You often take your shows to the Edinburgh Fringe. What is it about the festival that attracts you and keeps you going back?
BM: I loved going up there as a student in the late 1980s and really there is no more exciting place. The amount of work from amazing people from all over the world is just super-inspiring and it’s such a pleasure to get away from the main big venues and discover something weird and wonderful.

It is of course a big trade fair as well, but because I do my own flyering and see all the other younger groups out there every day, witnessing their enthusiasm and pleasure in putting on shows and the whole experience, it really makes it worthwhile. I also love the fact that I can give someone a flyer in the street in the morning, see them at my show in the audience and maybe have a chat with them afterwards and all over a couple of hours, we’ve had that interaction. It’s not like big superstar comedians who just flog DVDs (not that there’s anything wrong with that!) but because of my quirkiness and appeal to a friendlier sort, I’m always thrilled with that aspect of Edinburgh. I’ve made some excellent friends that way.

CM: Will that be it for ‘Each of Us’ after this run…? And do you have anything else in the pipeline…?
BM: ‘Each of Us’ will be on in Oxford at the Burton Taylor Theatre on 24-25th March and at the inaugural Whitstable Literary Festival – WhitLit – on 10th May. I’m so excited about that as it’s my home town and I grow up just a street away from the venue, right on the sea front. Then there’s a couple of summer festivals and we’ll see about other venues later in the year.

And if you can’t get to a performance, the text of the play (written as a short story) is available from my website along with ‘More Trees to Climb’.

Oh, and an Italian theatre company has translated one of my old shows, ‘Three Wishes’, and I really hope I can go out there to see that.

You can catch ‘Each of Us’ at Pleasance Theatre on 5 Mar, Southwark Playhouse on 9 Mar, Canal Cafe Theatre on 13 Mar and Arcola Theatre on 16 Mar.

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