Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Made In China: Tonight I’m Gonna Be The New Me

By | Published on Thursday 3 September 2015

When we were in Edinburgh this summer (yes, you will never hear the end of that) we heard great things about a show called ‘Tonight I’m Gonna Be The New Me’ from producing company Made In China. And when we sent our reviewer along, she loved the show.

Tonight I'm gonna be the New Me by Made In Chine at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2015 Photo Credit: Richard Davenport. 07545642134

Next week, the show starts a run at Soho Theatre, so we sent a few questions over to the show’s creators, Made In China founders Jessica Latowicki and Tim Cowbury.

CM: Tell us a bit about the narrative of the show. What happens in it?
J+T: The show delights in messing with narrative, and by doing sets up a few different strands that basically explode into each other and into the live action in the room. It all revolves around the apparent autobiography of the two people who made the show, who are both there with the audience each night: Jess on stage, Tim controlling the lights from the technical booth. The key word here is ‘apparent’… because some pretty impossible and provocative things happen in the fragments of story we tell about ourselves.

CM: Can you tell us something about the characters who appear in it?
J+T: They’re not characters. They’re us! Well, they’re sort of us, and sort of not. We’ve built fictions out of the truths of our real-life relationship, as a couple who live together and who for six years have been working intensively together. We did have to start calling ourselves ‘show-Tim’ and ‘show-Jess’ in relation to who we are in this piece, because despite all sorts of wild exaggeration, it’s so close a parallel to our real life. In terms of it being about a couple in a room together – bedroom, rehearsal room, auditorium, you name it – clashing and struggling for control!

CM: Does it tackle particular themes?
J+T: Love and control, gender expectations and performed identity. Amongst others. And in an uncompromising and thrillingly live way, because it’s not a story about these things but a live enactment of the struggle and emotional tension between us as a real couple. A couple whose relationship is bound up in making stuff up for strangers who’ve paid to be entertained by us. Or who’ve paid to be entertained by the words of one of us in the mouth of the other, since Tim creates the work with Jess but never really performs.

CM: What gave you the idea for the show? What made you want to tackle this particular subject?
J+T: ‘Book of Mormon’ gave us the initial idea, which was in many ways VERY different to the show we’ve ended up with. We didn’t really want to tackle this subject, not in such an autobiographical, warts-n-all way. That seemed scary and narcissistic for a long time, and we kept trying to make the show about tap dancing (hence Book of Mormon) or 1920s America or some fictional people we weren’t really invested in. We were in denial that the show was actually about us, or that our distinctive but also relatable experience as a couple was interesting. Then we realised how much fun we could have taking massive liberties with the truth one moment and being unflinchingly honest at others…

CM: It’s based on a real relationship, isn’t it? Just how biographical is it?
J+T: That’s one of the questions we want audiences to walk away toying with, and some of the fun and pathos of the piece lies in it not being answered by us. So…come see it and judge for yourself!

CM: Is the play funny, or dramatic, or both?
J+T: It’s funny, dark, sad and moving, at various points. It’s dramatic in the sense that you never quite know what’s going on between the two of us, whether we’re ok, whose words are being spoken, and even when the show veers off somewhere ‘narrative’, in the back of your mind you know we’re both there, doing this to ourselves, in ways that seem both rehearsed and really raw.

CM: One of our team saw the show in Edinburgh and loved it. How was Edinburgh for you? Did you have a good time? Are you tired? What’s it like going straight from that to a run at the Soho?
J+T: That’s nice to hear! We had a great time up there – our venue Forest Fringe is just the best thing about the Festival. They made it easy on us in a way few if any venues do for artists. We were only there for a week, we were given a flat with a bath-with-feet and a great view of Arthurs Seat, and we’ve had a week off before starting at Soho. Tim is still fighting off the customary post-show-opening-man-flu, but we’re more or less raring to go.

CM: Can you tell us about Made In China? How did the company begin, and what are its aims?
J+T: We met at Goldsmiths, did our first show in a cave under London Bridge in 2009 (the legendary Shunt Vaults) and we aim to make theatre that does things TV, film or mainstream media can’t do. We want to entertain people but also to unsettle them, ask difficult questions, stoke the debate about who we are and how we make meaning in a world that’s hyperactively connected and overloaded with stories.

CM: What’s next for the company?
J+T: We’ll be touring ‘Tonight I’m Gonna Be The New Me’ next year and we’ve got a couple of projects in the pipeline that include more work with our brilliant friend/associate artist Christopher Brett Bailey… and work with children. Jess wants to work with puppies but Tim is so far veto-ing that.

‘Tonight I’m Gonna Be The New Me’ is on at Soho Theatre from 7-26 Sep. See this page here for info and tickets.

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photo: Richard Davenport