Basement Disruptors – Sam Brooks

Basement Disruptors

There's a whole lot of norm out there. Shitloads of the stuff. You can hardly see for the amount of norm out there in the world. We love the stuff that curdles the norm. We can't get enough of the spikes in the soft bits, the bangs in the silence, the stretching, the scrunching, the kicking, the punching, the sucking, the licking, the twisting and the lifting of the norm.

We're celebrating a #DecadeofDisruption this year. Basement is nothing but a couple of black boxes in, well, a basement, without the people who come here and kick arts every week. So celebrating a Decade of Disruption, is really about celebrating those people. Here's to the Basement Disruptors. You guys keep the norm at bay.

Sam Brooks is our very first Basement Disruptor. Sam had his first show at Basement was in 2012, and since then has had so many shows put on in the space we can't tell whether it's furniture we're sitting on sometimes or Sam "Nails-on-Fleek" Brooks. We've loved watching and supporting Sam to develop his voice, one that breaks through the sea of norm with a huge splash, leaving you dripping wet, but warm and fuzzy, with a puzzled look on your face wondering what just happened. Here's what it might look like if you could crawl inside his brain.

What moves you re: process?

People bringing their talents together for one vision - and not just their talents but their soul and their time. We operate in an industry that can severely undervalue people’s time but it’s the most valuable resource we’ve got. People giving you their time - something we never get back - is a special thing, whether it’s your collaborators, whether it’s your audience - and it moves me that people are willing to spend their time on my work. I am hugely blessed for this, and it moves me so much whenever I see a rehearsal room or an audience watching my work.

Where do you see NZ artistically?

Small, not utilizing the potential of what intimate communities can provide us, often scared of criticism both from the insides and from outside.

What makes you laugh?

Mallory Ellis’ impression of Joan Didion.


What are you mad about?

The state of theatre criticism in Auckland - and how nobody is taking responsibility for it (myself included, honestly, but that’s more through exhaustion than lack of caring).

Who’s job is it to care, though? Who’s job is it to fund it? Is it the reviewers working for free? Is it the media industry publishing reviews that nobody reads? Is it the theatre industry for not fostering, engaging and valuing rigorous criticism? Is it too late to actually fix it?

Ideal breakfast scenario?

An empty cafe, with my laptop and my Kindle, pretending to read but actually watching something on Netflix.

What is the coffin of theatre?


What work do you want to see more of?

Work that dislodges established narratives - we’re fed so many narratives that make marketing executives and publicists nod their heads, narratives we’ve seen before, and our generation has grown up on those narratives that we’ve started to model our lives after them.

We need to be bringing our actual stories - our lives lived, our lives lost, our lives spent and even wasted - to the stage so that we can challenge the notion that there is one narrative that we all live.

What work do you want to see less of?

Naturalism, green couch theatre, shows set in people’s flats. It’s a step that I think everybody has in their career - because it’s a fairly universal step in life - I just don’t personally need to see it anymore.

Where to next for Sam Brooks?

I’m doing Burn Her as a part of the Matchbox Season at Q in August, and in November I have a commission with STAB that I’m working on with the incomparable Isobel MacKinnon and Meg Rollandi relating to surtitles, and then in that same month I’m back to Basement with a graduate show that I’ve written specifically for the Actor’s Program.

Favourite kinds of collaborators in the industry, why?

Rigorous, critical and hardworking collaborators. I’m the kid who sits at the front of the class, who has done the reading, who’s done the homework, and is always putting their hand up to ask and answer questions - I love working with other people like that. Basically I love teacher’s pets - we talk the same language.