Amy Mansfield is coming to Basement Theatre with her exciting new show, I Didn't Invite You Here to Lecture Me - a mash up of seven years worth of university notes, performed by Mika Austin across nine characters. This merciless and gleeful show is guaranteed to get you a degree in 55 minutes! We talked to creator Amy about the show, have a read below.
How did your experience studying inform I Didn't Invite You Here To Lecture Me?
Well, I am basically completely indebted to that experience. I developed a practice when I was sitting in university lectures of writing down funny lines the lecturer said, which were often tangential rather than central to whatever their actual subject was. I hoarded those notes for 20 years because I knew there were some real gems in there. The lines in the play were scooped straight from those lectures, already tested for their comic value in that environment, and now I’ve changed the context entirely and taken them from a lecture theatre to a theatre theatre and cut them together for my own purposes.
What has the devising process been like with this work? How much of the script is verbatim?
I started with a deadline and I did a lot of things backwards. Originally, I thought I’d be able to construct the entire play from the verbatim notes. In the end when I was working through the scripting process, which was a gigantic, old-school cut-and-paste job, and trying things out with the performer, Mika Austin, I realised I was going to have to sit down and do some good old-fashioned writing. That was partly to connect the various sections together and also to allow me to include some lingering ideas which I remembered from specific lectures but had never actually written down.
I feel like there is so much potential for more fluidity between stage and street, and silo-ing our institutions off is exactly what we should avoid.
This task of writing filled me with fear, and every time a change is required I do always revisit the source materials, because I feel a loyalty to them, I often feel like the answers are in there somewhere and I just have to divine them, or be asking the right questions of them. Of course that’s a bit deterministic, potentially conservative, or even lazy, but I do think the exercise of returning to the source is worthwhile, even if it’s just to confirm that you shouldn’t have spent so much time in the pub before attending that particular lecture as it’s clear in the quality of the notes, or lack thereof, right when you need them most. I’ve deliberately tried not to get too hung up on narrative, but rather to have the flow and arc of it develop organically. Working with Nick (Dunbar, the director) has been a really great experience for this season of the play as he’s challenged us to develop the show from multiple angles.
Who do you think this work will appeal to the most?
Pretty much anyone who has sat through a tertiary degree, particular in arts or law subjects. Word-lovers. Language-lovers. Listeners. Geeks.
What do you hope audiences will walk away with at the end of seeing your show?
This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot. I don’t think of the arts as being transactional, and in terms of this play, I don’t think that education is or should be either. I feel like there is so much potential for more fluidity between stage and street, and silo-ing our institutions off is exactly what we should avoid. So, I hope the ideas that have lingered with me and been the impetus for making this work will in turn linger with the audiences, for them to do something with, whatever that may be.
I Didn't Invite You Here to Lecture Me is on at Basement Theatre from 10 - 14 September. Book tickets or find out more here.