Caro Meets Festivals Interview

Rachel Parish: Hellscreen

By | Published on Friday 27 February 2015

‘Hellscreen’ is a multi-genre immersive performance inspired by a classic Japanese horror story in which Jonny Woo plays a successful artist with a dark personality; the resulting production, created by a host of highly talented creatives, promises to be sensual, terrifying and exciting.


Ahead of the show’s run at Vault Festival, I sent some questions over to director and co-creator Rachel Parish, to find out more about the show, and the team behind it.

CM: What’s the show about, and What themes does it explore?
RP: Hellscreen explores artistic obsession, the line between art and life, and the role of the audience.

CM: The show fuses lots of different performance genres, doesn’t it? Can you tell us what those are? How did you bring them all together?
RP: Hellscreen blurs the lines between many different art forms, combining animation, film, music, immersive design and theatre. We’re pulling out all the stops to give the audience a really unique experience of the macabre. One aspect we’ve used is real-life horrors drawn from court transcripts of true crimes in Britain over the past three years.

CM: Given all these different elements, there must be a lot of talented people involved – can you tell us about them all?
RP: So, I wrote it with Morgan Lloyd Malcolm, whose play ‘The Wasp’ is currently playing at Hampstead Theatre. Susan Luciani directed the film elements. She’s been in Rome working on Ben Hur, so was doing a lot of work (including faking drowning a puppy) from afar! Ana Ines Jabares Pita designed the set, which looks incredible in the Vaults. Her most recent show was ‘Idomeneus’ at The Gate. She’s a brilliant brilliant young designer and hopefully we’ll work together again! Joe Hastings composed the beautiful, haunting songs Amy sings. Finally, the wonderful Natasha Chivers designed the lighting. We are indebted to all the actors, technicians and professionals who have joined us on the project. It’s been quite the ride and we hope it will be for you too.

CM: How did you get this idea for this? What was your inspiration?
RP: It’s based on a short story by Japanese writer Rynosuke Akutagawa. Morgan and I began the project with a love for the story and took it for a ride essentially. We were drawn to the themes of horror, blurring lines between truth and fiction, and being a slave to your passions.

We knew early on that we wanted to set it in modern times and started by investigating the art world and its parallels to the world in the original and we found many! We were also keen to preserve the nightmarish quality of the original and began experimenting with film, sound and light to see what could be achieved.

It’s been over four years of development with several R&Ds to investigate this strange world and its inhabitants and we’re still discovering so much about it.

CM: Performance artist Jonny Woo stars in the show. How did his involvement come about?
RP: I’ve known Jonny for ages and we’ve always wanted to do something together but never had the chance. When I was casting Hellscreen I kept getting stuck with the part of Frank and then a friend suggested Jonny and it just made sense. He’s been absolutely amazing and has brought so much to the show.

CM: The production is part of Vault Festival, but do you see it having a life after this particular run? Are there plans for it to tour elsewhere?
RP: We’d love to transfer it somewhere! Ana’s fabulous mirror screen set isn’t the most portable thing in the world (although we do manage to set it up in 15 mins during VAULT…) so maybe not touring but we’re pretty much open to anything. We’d love to do it in a gallery, or maybe at a festival…  somewhere where we can really play with the art installation idea.

‘Hellscreen’ is on at Vault Festival until 8 March. See this page here for more info and to book tickets.

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