On until December 11, in London’s Shoreditch Town Hall, the chillingly dark site-specific theatre work 'The New World Order' expertly intertwines scenes from five of Nobel Prize-winner Harold Pinter’s plays. Co-produced by Hydrocracker and the Barbican, the show takes its audience down into the building’s bowels, uncomfortably eliminating distance between us and Kafkaesque goings-on as we’re forced to inhabit the space with torture victims and government officials bearing folders marked 'Disappeared' and 'Incinerate'. Director Ellie Jones discussed the aim behind the interactive approach to the excerpts from 'One For the Road', 'The New World Order', 'Precisely', 'Mountain Language' and 'Press Conference'.
Dazed Digital: How does the site-specific nature of the piece and its design work to create a world?
Ellie Jones: We definitely needed a basement that looked dangerous and an upstairs that looked administerial, so people of power could be inhabiting it. When we first did the show it was in 2007. We were doing it for the Brighton Festival. They suggested we look at the town hall because there were cells there, and that we do the torture play The New World Order in one of the cells. The more we walked around the building the show sort of grew, combining plays which could fit some of the spaces there. At the time there was a lot of talk of the behaviour that was happening in our name. It made sense to stage the play in an English environment. Even though you wouldn't necessarily find that in the town hall of your local community, if your government's doing that in your name it might as well be in your town hall.
DD: The viewer is not just sitting passively watching, but is made complicit. Is this form of theatre more effective?
Ellie Jones: I hope that it's more effective. Specifically on this subject we see a lot of news reports but they’re in a black box and there's something between us and the people it affects. If you feel you could touch that person or stop someone doing something to that person, and yet you're not because it's a play and that's not the rules of an audience, we hopefully then wonder why we aren’t stopping that in real life. We could have just told someone not to do it, we could sign a petition. The idea is that our audience feel much closer to the events and therefore much more responsible for them, and the aim is to galvanise them to get involved in their world in a different way.
DD: Did you want to draw distinct parallels between the show’s themes of human rights, torture and oppression and what's going on in the world today?
Ellie Jones: Pinter in his plays doesn't draw any distinct parallels, he's very allusive and elliptical. While we are looking at our world now, again we don't mention those things specifically, so you can relate them to lots of those crises, events. But absolutely, the protesting laws that are being brought in, freedom of speech, the things that have come out about the way that we treat prisoners of war, you can't stop reading those things in the paper.
And Occupy Wall Street, it's just a continuation of the things our government and other governments are prepared to do to their people in order to control them. Some of it may be right, but I know lots of people don't look at that very closely, and I didn’t before. My big thought is what if Pinter was still alive, what might he say? And I think he would say this is still going on, and what took you so long to notice?
'The New World Order', Barbican & Hydrocracker, 16 November 2011 - 11 December 2011 / 19:00, 21:15, Shoreditch Town Hall. More info HERE