Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Jess Latowicki: Super Duper Close Up

By | Published on Sunday 11 November 2018

Here at TW Towers we’re big fans of the work of theatre company Made In China, having first seen the company in action up at the Edinburgh Festival. So of course we were happy to hear that they’d be bringing their latest show ‘Super Duper Close Up’ to London’s Yard Theatre this week.

To find out more about this intriguing-sounding show, I spoke to Jess Latowicki, co-director of the company, and creator/performer of the show.

CM: It sounds like the show has a very interesting set up – can you start by explaining how the show is staged, and the multimedia elements?
JL: We’re working with video, most of it shot live every night by our amazing camerawoman/performer Valentina Formenti. There’s a big screen looming over the stage: there are bits you just see in the flesh, bits you see both in the flesh and on screen, and bits you only see on screen. The video, sound and lights circle around me as I deliver this big looping monologue from amidst a set that I’ve described as looking ‘like Instagram just vomited’ and which a collaborator calls my ‘plush prison’. All pink and green, bright and shiny, and filling up gradually with objects that could be real or could be fake, you can’t quite tell. It’s a prison I sort of break out from pretty extravagantly during the show, but it would be a spoiler to say exactly how.

CM: Does the show have a narrative?
JL: It kind of has about seventeen! As in, multiple strands that sort of weave in and out of each other, fragment, get weirder and more surreal. So it’s at once the story of a tiny everyday heartbreak on an average Tuesday, and the story of three generations of my family, and the story of a girl trying to make her way in L.A., and of the worst foot-in-mouth wedding speech known to humanity, and a karaoke-induced anxiety attack. And it’s also the story of none of these at all because really the narrative is what happens between me, the audience and the camera on any given night. The effect of the all the strands are like the internet when you’ve got about twelve tabs open at once and you’re skimming between them, and it makes you kind of dizzy and weary and yet wanting more.

CM: What themes does the show explore?
JL: It’s about the gender politics of anxiety in a world of overload. Overload of stuff, consumable items, and of information. And it’s about what that does to people, especially women. Asking how do you go anywhere as a modern woman, if you keep hitting a wall that says you’re not allowed to be both feminine and a bold, active protagonist?

CM: Would you say the show is political?
JL: YES! Hell. Yes. Not in obvious ways though.

CM: What inspired you to tackle these themes, and in this way? Where did the idea come from?
JL: ‘Super Duper Close Up’ is kind of a furious distillation of about the last three years of my life, living in London and online (!) One of the first things I did as I began making the thing that would become the show was trawl mainstream media for images of violence and sex, from which I made the most (deliberately) disturbing fanzines you’ve ever seen! I wanted to find unexpected ways to talk about my experience as a woman now: half-waving, half-drowning amidst a glittering sea of beauty vlogs, glamour selfies, frozen pouts and desperate smiles in a violent, unstable aggressively male-dominated world.

As the script comically testifies, I did a lot of googling. A lot of scrolling. But I also wrote and wrote and wrote, wild fantasies and close-to-the-bone autobiography and everything in between. I met academics to talk about the radicalisation of young girls, I met plastic surgeons, I visited a medical research facility exploring sleep disorders. And I thought about family, inherited trauma, learnt behaviour, self-improvement, my own anxiety.

CM: Can you tell me a bit about the creative team involved in the show?
JL: It’s the first Made In China show where one of us (me!) has taken sole lead – previously Tim (Cowbury, Made In China co-director) has co-authored every show with me but this time he’s the dramaturg which is more of a consulting type role. I’ve spent the last few weeks variously supported by him, Valentina (performer/camera operator) who I first worked with earlier this year, Mikaela Liakata (video designer) and Irene Cioni who did the choreography on Made In China’s ‘Tonight I’m Gonna Be The New Me’ in 2015. Tom Parkinson (sound) and Alex Fernandes (lights) have been with us more and more. The process is kind of an open conversation between whoever’s in the room, but one I can become tiny dictator of whenever I need to!

CM: What plans do you have for the show after this run? Are there plans to tour it?
JL: There’ll be a show at Bradford’s Theatre In The Mill come spring. They co-commissioned the show and we’re looking forward to our first visit there! And then we’d like to tour it fully next autumn, but nothing confirmed yet.

CM: How is Made In China getting on? What plans does the company have for the future?
JL: It’s been a busy year or so – we’ve juggled individual projects outside of the company with a mainstage show for children (2017’s ‘Double Double Act’), an interactive audio project at Imperial War Museum North (‘Ministry of Memory’, ongoing!) and of course ‘Super Duper Close Up’.

We should have another new show out towards the end of 2019, where Tim takes the lead to write a play about bombs that’s been brewing for about a gazillion years. And then there are a couple of big ideas we want to begin work on, including one which would entail more fake blood than you’ve ever seen on a single stage in a first ever staging of an iconic movie… but those two potentials are under wraps at this point!

CM: What’s coming up next for you after this?
JL: Naps. LOTS of naps. Then in the new year (I’m literally going to nap till then) I’ll be dramaturg on Tim’s bomb play, creating a show with young people at Cambridge Junction in the new year, and hopefully getting that autumn 2019 tour of ‘Super Duper Close Up’ sorted.


‘Super Duper Close Up’ is on at The Yard Theatre from 13-24 Nov. See the venue website here for more information and to book tickets.

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Photo: John Hunter