Two men - either side of a metal fence - one dressed in a suit and the other in a large green coat

Interview with Daniel Bye

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Daniel Bye is a theatre maker from Middlesbrough, now based in Lancaster. This Autumn, he heads to Warwick Arts Centre with his show, Instructions for Border Crossing. Here we share an interview with Daniel which took place earlier this year for The Vile Blog

What was the inspiration for this performance?
I’m not sure that this question buys into it exactly, but I have a bugbear with the idea that a finished performance is simply the realisation of an unadulterated original impulse. You know, the “vision” of the artist, the Archimedean revelation that gave rise to its creation. My experience isn’t like that. Any number of things rub against each other in the world and in my mind, and gradually the dialogue between those things begins to appear fruitful.

By the time I have something I can call a show, it might have little or nothing left of the original impulse that got me started. I might start off thinking I’m going to walk to Livingstone, but if I don’t discover somewhere I didn’t know existed then I’ve no business telling you about the journey.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas?
Maybe not, but it’s better than the alternatives.

How did you become interested in making performance?
I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t. I was making shows with my sister and my cousins when I was eight or nine. Coming from Middlesbrough it was a long time after that when I realised that this was a viable career option, or even an augmentable skillset. But it’s always been there in some form. In this respect I suspect I’m unusual not for having had that early impulse, but in not having lost it.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?
Scrabble around in the dirt until something turns up. Polish it until it’s almost disappeared. Repeat.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?
Anyone who’s seen my work before will probably recognise a few tropes and gestures. They’ll also be surprised by some new ones and by recasting of some of those old ones. But basically it’s me, the same bloke, talking to a group of strangers. There’s only so different that can be.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
Laughter, self-disgust, hurtling down an intellectual hill without brakes, lacerating politicised fury, the sense that art might make a difference even if not this art, a galvanised sense of hope and possibility.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
At the time of writing* I’m about to redraft a few sections taking out several layers of irony. It was getting in the way and letting everyone off the hook. The next (and hopefully final) draft aims to take everyone a bit more seriously. Whether in the final show you think there’s too much irony doesn’t mean I didn’t succeed in this aim. You just don’t know what it was like before.

There was an experiment at one point with me not doing my usual thing of chatting to the audience early in the show. It was useful to learn that this is as fundamental part of my practice as I’d thought, and integral to this show, so we put it back in.
I don’t know if this is what you mean by “strategies”, or indeed if you’re principally interested in those considered then jettisoned. But there you goI won’t spend time describing the things I actually do in the show. You’ll have to watch the show for that.

(*prior to the show opening at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival)

Daniel’s show – Instructions for Border Crossing comes to Warwick Arts Centre on Thu 9 and Fri 10 Nov 2017.

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