Q&A with Shock Therapy Productions
Co-founders of Shock Therapy Productions, Hayden Jones and Sam Foster, provide insight into their creative practice and what to expect from their upcoming production, Locked In.
Creating transformative arts experiences
Can you start by telling us a bit about Shock Therapy Productions and its history?
We founded Shock Therapy Productions on the Gold Coast in January 2015. Shock Therapy’s vision is to create Transformative Arts Experiences. We do this through telling stories that explore what it is to be human — provocative, challenging, uplifting, impactful. Creatively, Shock Therapy’s work is very diverse; writing, directing and performing works that span conventional theatre spaces, site specific work, immersive experiences, performance art, installation, physical theatre, issue-based youth theatre, children's theatre, digital media and workshop facilitation.
You are both writers, directors, and actors (just to list a few!) How do you manage your multidisciplinary practice? What are the joys? What are the challenges?
The key is to be a student of the artform, remain curious, learn from the people around you, and drink lots of coffee! One of the biggest challenges is having the capacity to manage all of the things that come with running an organization, while still having the space to be creative and produce new work. Our output over the past 7 years has been quite prolific for a small company. Dreaming up new creations and seeing them become real is a very fulfilling process. We tend not to define ourselves by specific roles as such, instead we focus on the work itself and then figure out which roles we need to play for each project.
When the only key is imagination
We are incredibly excited to be hosting the Australian premiere of Locked In! What has been your favourite part about re-mounting this production at Queensland Theatre?
This work is very close to our hearts and something that we have had on the shelf for a few years now so to finally have the opportunity to revisit and rework this show is very exciting for us. After we created the first version of the show back in 2017 we always felt like there was more to explore so it’s great to be able to do this now. Specifically, we felt like there was the capacity for the work to push further into the dance/theatre space so to have Hsin-Ju come on board and bring her contemporary dance experience to the piece has been inspiring.
Can you tell us a bit about its original conception and what it was like premiering this production in Denmark and Norway in 2017? Has the story been developed further over these past years?
The show was originally created and performed as an international collaboration for the Vinterlysfestival in Norway. We thought it would be an interesting creative challenge to create a piece of physical theatre centered around a character that could not move. We wanted the show to be universal by relying on movement as the primary mode of communication as opposed to spoken dialogue. As a result, we found the piece transcended language barriers and cultural differences and tapped into the deeper human aspects. In this new redevelopment, we have added some new scenes, deleted others, reworked some, added a new character and taken the cast from two performers to three. We have also had the luxury of refining the technical design elements, so although it is essentially the same story the show feels a lot different, more refined and more complex.
Leading on from this, can you give us an insight into what inspired this story?
Locked In was inspired by two books, The Diving Bell and The Butterfly and Ghost Boy. Both books are personal memoirs of people who have lived with the rare and terrifying medical condition known as 'Locked In Syndrome'. The books are equal parts harrowing and inspiring as they give the reader an insight into what living with Locked In is like. The Diving Bell and The Butterfly were also made into French films many years ago but our production focuses on a different aspect of the books. We wanted to capture the feeling of being Locked In while also showing the impact that a condition like this can have on loved ones, but at the same time, we wanted to show how the mind is capable of creating our reality despite our physical circumstances.
Existential, poetic, harrowing, beautiful and innovative
Relying on movement over words, can you explain how physical theatre and dance is woven into the story?
Our production is a multidisciplinary, physical performance exploring human connection, communication, hope and loss, and weaves together physical theatre, magic realism, contemporary dance and visual theatre. Locked In follows the experience of a man who is a prisoner inside a useless body and his wife who cares for him at his bedside. The scene shifts between the harsh and painful reality of the hospital and the vibrant, heightened reality of his internal world. The contrast of the two realities the man experiences (external and internal) is highlighted by a distinct contrast in movement between paralysis, as he lies in the hospital bed, and highly dynamic physical movement.
What sort of discussions do you hope Locked In prompts its audience to have after their viewing experience?
We hope that Locked In makes people think about our human condition and how we communicate with each other. The work touches on themes of how we treat people in hospice care and no doubt this will be a talking point for audiences. The show is also deeply existential which will likely make people reflect on their own lives and the meaning we assign to our existence.
Shock Therapy Production's Locked In, directed by Veronica Neave will make its Australian premiere at Queensland Theatre's Diane Cilento Studio from 2 – 11 December.