Posted on July 21, 2016 by Basement
Our blogger Jonty had a chat to Nisha Madhan and Stephen Bain about their upcoming exchange marketplace/Capitalist experiment/interactive performance piece FREE HAPPINESS, coming to Basement August 2 – 6.
What can we expect from the show?
You turn up with 20 bucks for a ticket and we will exchange that ticket for 21 $1 coins, from there on in it’s up to everyone to get what we all want.
FREE HAPPINESS is an exchange of things for money. Normally when we go to a show we get the money part of a show over and done with at the box office but this whole show is about the exchange of money for things and things back into money. You can also earn money since that’s an essential truth about money, it comes in and it goes out. Only little bits of it really stick, it’s the flow that keeps it all working, and a belief that it’s all going to work out fine of course.
We offer the audience experiences but use ‘theatrical tricks’ to get everyone into it.
Future Hotel was formed in 2009 when Nisha and I were doing some work in Europe and we’d had the opportunity to see a load of art from around the world. We staying in a lot of hotels at the time and we figured that this was like living in some kind of weirdly optimistic future. I think we’re both pretty optimistic people.
What were the inspirations behind it?
We’re all part of this system called Capitalism and we’re supposed to be doing very well out of it. We’re told that if we aren’t doing well then it’s really our own fault, that if we’re smart we will and can do great. This is what is called a ‘winner takes all’ financial system, you make a pitch for something – a job, an artwork, an opportunity, you spend your time and energy on it but then it’s just the winner who gets to take away the prize, no-one else gets anything. That’s the system we’re in right? Quite unsurprisingly there are are a huge portion of the population who don’t think that’s a cool system at all, they think there’s something wrong but they can’t quite put their finger on where it’s gone wrong.
So all of this has lead to a great deal of thinking, from philosophers to artists, mathematicians to postal workers, everyone is starting to get the gist that we’ve been shafted somewhere along the line and the first thing to do about it is to get a better handle on what’s really going on. FREE HAPPINESS is one way of us getting everyone in the room to play with the idea of alternatives to that system.
Meanwhile, the two of us have been working for the past few years on making shows that feel more like a party or hanging out with someone rather than sitting in the dark watching people pretend that the audience isn’t really there. Sometimes we’ve taken people outside, or given them headphones or taken them into a garage or even our own living room, it’s all part of re-looking at the original agreement of what theatre is supposed to do.
I think there are a lot of people working in this area at the moment. Kate Prior from Wellington wrote a great article about it recently.
What has been the most difficult part of the production?
Feeling ok about giving away money or worse still throwing away money. Yesterday we shot a video where we destroyed a 20 dollar note, we put thousands of holes in it, then smashed it into tiny pieces, melted it down, ground it into dust, then set fire to it. Pretty sure that 20 bucks is never coming back.
Watch the trailer then Experience FREE HAPPINESS from August 2 – 6. You can read more posts by Jonty on his blog.