Loose Canons: Virginia Frankovich
Loose Canons is a series where we invite artists we love to share five things that have informed their work. Meet the rest of our Loose Canons here.
Director and theatre-maker Virginia Frankovich (Bed, If There's No Dancing at the Revolution, I'm not Coming) returns to the Basement Theatre this month with an immersive performance piece set in two moving cars. Sprawling across Auckland's CBD, CAR is an explosive, absurd, intimate chase for an unknown kind of utopia.
I was first introduced to Trecartin’s work at the Venice biennale in 2013 and it really blew me away. I remember sitting in a hot stuffy arena, mesmerised and disturbed by his films. They were these oversaturated, fast-paced montages of a world that seemed so familiar yet so foreign. I love how his work transcends time, space, gender and sexuality. Someone described his work as ‘sci-fi theatre of the absurd for our manically paced YouTube era’ which sums it up nicely I think. His characters are larger than life and the relentless camera shots of often-grotesque subjects makes me feel kind of sick. I like art that elicits a physiological response.
Every show I’ve ever made draws influence from this film. At one point I contemplated CAR just being me driving people around with a projection of the film on the bonnet (the alternative would be Terry Gilliam’s Brazil). I think I love it so much because of my obsession with death and Catherine O’Hara. I fell in love with the idea that once you die, you’re given an incomprehensible manual that tells you all of the answers. It opened my imagination to what could exist in the afterlife. I love all the characters they meet and how they take on surreal qualities, like the man who smokes too much manifesting as a giant body made of ash. I really enjoy films that have theatricality to them. One day, I will create a stage version of this winner film.
I went to Europe for the first time in 2013 to go to clown school. It was so fantastic being in a foreign city where I didn’t know anyone. It was so appealing that I didn’t come home for about two years. I found myself living out all of the clichés of the Great European Getaway - dating French men named François who ordered escargots; living as a depressed nanny in London, writing journal entries from my attic room and sleeping on the floor; drinking gallons of beer in Prague; beach holidays in the Balearic islands, etc. etc.
I managed to create a nice new group of friends, had a boyfriend and mastered how to use the tube. But despite living out my fantasies, I’d still find myself sobbing into the Skype screen as I watched my family and friends at home. Finally returning to New Zealand due to a family illness, I returned with a completely new appreciation for our country. Being back, it wasn't long before I began dreaming of Europe again. I imagine I’ll always wrestle with this dilemma of wanting to be wherever I am not.
Punchdrunk/ Gob Squad
I clung onto the pages of Gob Squad and the Impossible Attempt To Make Sense of It All as my bible during the weeks leading up to CAR opening. Having not made immersive theatre before, it was comforting reading about a company who were dealing with the same things I was – abuse from the public, property and trespassing issues.
Reading about the relationship they foster between their work and ‘risk’ was inspiring and gave me confidence that what I was experiencing was exciting and would help inform the work. The immersive work of Punchdrunk has been similarly inspiring. They used to create shows for one audience member per night without sacrificing the epic-ness or grand-scale nature of the production. I’m in love with the idea of creating an intimate and personal experience for a small audience – blurring the lines between audience and performer. Within the intimacy of a car, the theatre very much becomes about the relationships between all of the individuals within the vehicle. They are a part of the show whether they like it or not.
Before I met this majestic theatre/life guru, I don’t think I knew how to make my own work. I don’t even think I knew that I wanted to make my own work. Studying with John opened my world up to my favourite genres of performance: clown, bouffon and melodrama. Every week we had to devise a new piece of work, perform it for him, and have it be critiqued, and then we were to chuck it away and start something fresh the following week. This process of constant creating was invaluable for me - and confirmed the importance of ‘doing’ as opposed to just thinking about things in my head. He taught me not to be precious and that you have to create a whole lot of shit before you find one tiny great piece of theatre. He also taught me to ‘go too far’ - words of advice I will cling onto forever.
CAR is at Basement Theatre