We chatted to Rob Iliffe about his collaboration with Theatre Biscuit on the show Stuff of Life…
What is Stuff of Life about?
Its a play – performed in a van. A story about two people moving house. The story is told through their objects.
What did you use a starting point or inspiration for your project?
It started with a writing project with Nuffield theatre, creating a response to the British Art Show and in particular a piece called A Convention of Tiny Movements.
At first I thought it would be good to stage the play in one of these big new fancy (relatively speaking) apartments they keep building in the city. But everyone shook head and said no. And then someone said – “How about a removal van?” And that was that. I needed a van. A really big one. A few weeks later a really big van with the name CRANBURYS loomed ahead on the road in town and I thought – I’ll ask them. To be honest I was a bit surprised when they said yes – but I’m really grateful to them for saying yes – I guess it was fate. I now keep seeing their vans everywhere I go. Somehow I’d gone from an online search of a contemporary art exhibition -looking at objects in different ways, to finding my own really big object for a show at the Fringe.
Can you describe what you hope visitors will experience or take away from it?
It’s supposed to be about everyday stuff. Hopefully it will be fun and a little bit interactive too.
What has been most challenging about working on your Southampton Fringe project?
I’ll get back to you on that. Lots still to do
What was your first exposure to art?
Ouch – sounds painful! I reckon as a child we are all artists and performers. Then life tries to beat it out of us. So it’s that first scribble. The connecting up of words, the play acting, dressing up – it’s all good. Then there were always lots of books in our house, we went to galleries, museums, libraries and theatres – so I’ve never had to think too hard about being exposed to it or not.
I remember seeing some Landseer paintings in London when I was young and the attendant whispered “Would you like to see the Queen? “ And there she was visiting her paintings! I remember thinking – She’s very small. The paintings weren’t bad either.
As far for theatre – I think it when someone introduced me to Bertolt Brecht – not personally – but I remember thinking – this sounds more like it… The idea of being open with an audience and being relevant to the real world.
Why do think its important to nurture contemporary and visual art in regions outside of London?
The train fare for one thing. I can’t afford to visit too often and for those of us who live beyond the M25 it would be nice to see regional arts and culture supported with the right amount of resources, funding and opportunities. Seems only fair to me.
What would your advice be to aspiring performers?
Can do. Say yes. Do it. Do it again. That sort of thing.
What does Southampton mean to you? Do you have a favourite place or memory of the city?
Well, it’s my home. For about 20 years now. And it’s the people here that mean the most. After that it depends on the weather, what mood I’m in, etc, as what it all means or how I feel about the city. It’s not perfect. But where is. One of my favourite places are the parks in the city centre. Especially if I’ve just experienced the hell of West Quay…But then again there is a Waterstones in there.
What other Southampton Fringe event will you be looking forward to?
I’m hoping to catch as much as I can really. From the little I know – there was lots to choose from and go and see, and all new work. So it wouldn’t be fair to single out any one – especially as some of it hasn’t been created yet. Try first. Decide later, I reckon.
Finally what do you think the presence of British Art Show 8 and accompanying Southampton Fringe will mean for Southampton and its cultural scene? What does it mean for you?
I think and hope it will mean a continuation and a sign of more to come. Got to keep on keeping on. Southampton has been a bit stop – start for too long – and too often people talking about potential this or that. It’s time to just get on with it – Do it. See it. Hear all about it – and let people see what’s possible and allow things to grow. For me the Fringe is an opportunity to have a go.
Finally I would like to take the opportunity to thank CRANBURYS for their lovely big van.