Caro Meets Spoken Word Interview Theatre Interview

Tom Marshman: Kings Cross (REMIX)

By | Published on Thursday 11 May 2017

Live artist Tom Marshman brings his latest work ‘Kings Cross (REMIX)’ to Camden People’s Theatre this month as part of a UK tour, placing the piece just a short distance from the area the show is set in.

It’s a performance that looks back at the King’s Cross of the eighties – a hub of LGBTQ culture and underground nightlife. To find out more, I spoke to Tom, ahead of his two week London run.

CM: Can you start by telling us about the content of the show – what’s it about, whose story does it tell?
TM: ‘Kings Cross (REMIX)’ is about the underground nightlife scene there in the 1980s. It was made through a process of a series of interviews. Initially I made an open invitation to folk who were there at the time to come to a tea party – I was really impressed how many came along. Collecting the stories from all the people who came gave me a general idea of the lay of the land, and they then suggested more people I should meet.

The focus is LGBTQ people, who lived, worked and partied in the King’s Cross area in the 80s. For me there is something important in capturing the stories of people feeling politically disenfranchised, and I wanted to make sure stories around HIV are remembered and not forgotten.

CM: What about the format? What sort of show can audiences expect?
TM: You could call it verbatim theatre, but it’s not classical verbatim as I’m always myself. I speak their words but I’m always me, using gestural physicality.

CM: Apparently it’s inspired by Pet Shop Boys Lyrics – do the songs, or the lyrics, actually appear in the show?
TM: ‘King’s Cross’ is in the show, but it’s the Tracey Thorn version. I like that version because it feels more like as hymn than an 80’s pop classic. And that’s what started the whole journey for me.

CM: What made you want to create a piece of theatre about this?
TM: Because I’d heard lots of fascinating stories from people who were there, and wanted to know more. Collecting stories from LGBTQ communities is how I always make shows. I usually do whole cities but this was an area and a time because the mood was quite specific and that seemed important. There are stories here that deserve to be told.

CM: It’s a show that looks back to a time in our recent history – how do you expect its themes to resonate with a contemporary audience?
TM: I’ve been sharing the piece to younger audiences already, younger writers, for feedback. I want it to be alive. There are lessons to learn about how HIV medication has been developed. How those people who were affected were pioneers for the way that people are now treated. Also, I think that it can demonstrate a way that people can be political as they party, using it to make a difference.

CM: There seems to be quite a wide variety of ways in which create your work; can you tell us a bit about what motivates you to use them, and how you decide what approach you will take?
TM: First and foremost I like working with people’s stories, particularly sensory details. I ask people about what smells take people back. And music. They are both so evocative. I also work in cabaret and walkabout theatre, so I don’t feel set by one form, and that allows me to pick and choose what method is best for that story. Whether it’s lip-syncing or scripted. Most people would think lip-syncing is exclusively a medium for queer cabaret and gay clubs, but I’m lip-syncing real stories about gentrification. It’s unexpected.

CM: You’ve created more than 20 projects over the last decade – do you have a favourite?
TM: I’m going to say this one, I’m so pleased with how well it’s been received so far. I’ve really stepped up a gear with this project and coming to Camden People’s Theatre – just a few blocks from where it all happened – is really exciting for me.

CM: How did you end up in this kind of career? Did you always want to focus on art and performance?
TM: When I did my degree I thought I wanted to be a classic actor, but the course was quite open and really opened my eyes to the different performance practices. Being able to make work about people I knew and myself was a revelation. It didn’t have to be a huge dramatic event or ancient history, it could be something real and tangible now.

CM: What do you have planned for this particular show after the run at CPT? Will it be retired, or are there further tour dates planned?
TM: CPT is the long run in the middle of my tour. I’m going to Colchester Art Centre, Norwich Arts Centre and Leeds Live Art Bistro, and more touring dates tbc.

CM: What’s coming up next for you? What other plans do you have in the pipeline?
TM: I’ve been commissioned to be the artist in residence at Hanbury Hall, a National Trust property in Worcestershire, as part of their Prejudice and Pride programme. I’m developing both live and film pieces about LGBTQ stories in the property, and people’s reactions to a Greek mural in the grounds. Greek mythology and art is steeped in homosexuality and gender fluidity and I’m really enjoying talking about that with local people there.

‘Kings Cross (REMIX)’ is on at Camden People’s Theatre from 16-27 May, see the venue website here for more info.

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