Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Chris Goode: STAND

By | Published on Thursday 16 April 2015

It truly is the season for political shows, but here’s one with a bit of a difference – the broad-ranging experiences of different kind of activists, distilled into a distinctive biographical performance.


The piece is a collaboration between Oxford Playhouse and Chris Goode and Company, and has been conceived and directed by Chris himself. I sent some questions over to this acclaimed theatre practitioner, ahead of the show’s run at BAC.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about the show? Does it have a narrative or is it a study of characters?
CG: ‘STAND’ is a show made out of intertwining stories, told by actors but using the words of six real people who we interviewed last spring. We asked people to tell us about times in their lives when they stood up for (or against) something, when they stood up to be counted. It’s definitely a study of characters, in a sense – it feels odd in a way to use that word about people who really exist! – but it’s also full of amazing stories and fragments. One of the interviewees talks about “a storm of images”, and sometimes that’s what the show feels like to me.

CM: What kind of activists are the people you portray in the show?
CG: Across the six people we portray, there’s a real range. Some are more-or-less professional activists working in climate and energy campaigning; others have long-standing commitments to animal rights, say, or work with refugees. But we also tell the story of a young woman who simply stood up against an injustice she felt was being perpetrated one morning on the bus ride into town. We’re excited by the idea that anyone can suddenly find themselves being an activist, taking a stand unexpectedly in a moment of crisis.

CM: Does the show have any kind of political agenda? Is the timing of the production significant?
CG: If there’s a political agenda, it’s not a party political one. It’s much more about asking people to consider their own power, their own capacity to make change. We’re not telling anyone what to think, we’re just inviting them to listen and reflect. Hopefully for some people the show is inspiring, and might even prompt them to take action in some way, and that’s a good thing as far as I’m concerned. The timing of this revival is significant in the sense that I think you intend: it was really interesting to make the show in Oxford last year, but to be re-hearing these stories again in the context of the upcoming election feels like it makes everything more urgent. It throws a whole new light onto the piece.

CM: Do you think it’s important for theatre, or art in general, to engage with the political? Do you think it’s possible to mobilise people politically through art?
CG: I absolutely think these things are not only important but crucial. All art is political: it either challenges the status quo, or (tacitly or otherwise) endorses it. It’s not always easy or uncomplicated for art to mobilise people – though I think it can, and mine often aims to – but it can certainly inspire them, provoke them, give them a new perspective on things. You never know what effect a show will have. What I do know is that theatre and art have often moved me not just to an intellectual or emotional reaction, but to real action – and I find that possibility very exciting.

CM: What inspired you to create the show? Where did the idea come from?
CG: Ever since its formation four years ago, Chris Goode & Company has often made work that draws on real people’s words and experiences, and tries to create a platform for voices that otherwise maybe wouldn’t get heard. In this case, the invitation came from Oxford Playhouse to make a piece that reflected Oxford’s radical history. But we found that what excited us all was actually to look into what was happening in Oxford’s radical present!

CM: How did you go about researching the show, and putting it together?
CG: Through Oxford Playhouse we asked people to contact us with their stories of taking a stand. We met about a dozen people and chose six to represent in the show. With each of those six, we did three long interviews, which we transcribed, and those transcriptions then came into the rehearsal room with our six actors, and we began the joyous, painful process of editing those twenty hours of material into a 75-minute show.

CM: What happens to this show once the current tour is over? Will it be retired, or does it have a life in the future?
CG: At the moment we don’t have any intention to take ‘STAND’ on any further. I think most theatre, and especially explicitly political theatre, has quite a short shelf-life. And speaking for myself as a maker, I’m always more interested to be moving on to the next thing, whatever that may be.

CM: So what’s next for you, and the company?
CG: In the summer and autumn I’ll be touring my show ‘Men in the Cities’ – which is a solo storytelling show, but again very obviously a political play trying to ask some deep questions about how we live now. We’re also embarking on a number of processes towards the making of some new shows and projects: about the fraught and complex nature of online communities; about the legacies of Riot Grrrl culture; about what might now constitute ‘folk’ music and storytelling. There are always lots of things going on, at various stages of emerging!

‘STAND’ is on at Battersea Arts Centre from 20 April to 9 May. See the venue website here for more info and to book.

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