The barbarian is back

Our blogger Jonty had a chat to Jo Randerson, whose show Banging Cymbal, Clanging Gong returns to Basement for four nights only, beginning this Wednesday through Saturday in the Theatre.

We love strong and unusual voices,
diversity and change.
Artistic Director, Jo Randerson

What was the original inspiration behind the show?

The original inspiration came from being at the Odin Teatret in Denmark. That’s my homeland, I come from a town called Randers (way back). I had to do a showing of new work at an international gathering, and everyone else’s pieces seemed watertight: superbly crafted and executed, and very serious. I wanted to make something loose. I think I boiled a kettle on stage, and stomped around a bit for my showing. I remember Eugenio Barba’s bemused face – I crumpled. My workshop leader told me I would ruin my knees if I kept stomping around like that. I felt crude, loud, a big noisy unsophisticated Antipodean alongside the petite Spaniards and Italian women. I remember sobbing out the back to Sally Rodwell after the showing -’what is wrong with my way of making?’ My character started reclaiming the value of her position as ‘less skilled’, and investigating the heritage of a mongrel line – the bastards. Trying to occupy a position of difference with dignity, and struggling to contain her emotions.

How has the show evolved over the years?

When I first started performing the show, it was very out of control. I had no idea why it worked some performances and not others. I put a lot of pressure on myself to do it well, and would go through long rituals to get myself ready to perform, usually getting drunk the night before, listening to a intensive playlist on the day, going for a huge run… often I was exhausted, so I guess it was a form of method acting. Now I know what I am doing on stage more confidently, i can play with the audience more, and I know how to calibrate my performance. It’s more fun and less stressful for me now. And also – I have changed angles on the content. I still identify with this lonely raging soul a lot, but I have found more kin since I first starting making this show. So she feels like a part of me but not all of me like she used to be, I think this is a sign that I need to make a new solo.

You’ve taken this show around the world (Denmark, Norway, Brisbane and around New Zealand), how have different audiences responded?

When I have played it in Scandinavia, I get a more bemused response. They mostly find New Zealanders bizarre anyway, so to have a Kiwi speaking in a mock-pseudo Scandi/Russian/French accent is a novelty that seems a little beyond their cognition – I think they experience the show as a ‘phenomenon’. They like it and they like her, but in NZ the performance resonates more deeply around the current political climate of suppressing oppositional voices, a climate of homogeneity. This reaction occurs in Australia too.

How does it feel to be responsible for what has been described as “an iconic New Zealand work”?

I try not to think about this at all!

Banging Cymbal, Clanging Gong is on from 21 – 24 Sep. More information on the show and bookings here. More of Jonty’s writing can be found on his blog.