Focus: Alex Elliott | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Enlightenment 3 by Susan Aldworth & Andrew Carnie

A brand new production Deep Mind And The Great Puzzle which responds to cutting edge research from Newcastle University is being performed during Brain Awareness Week at Alphabetti Theatre, Newcastle (17th-19th March) and Ushaw Historic House, Durham (20th March). It was written by Alex Elliott who tells us more about himself and the production.

Who are you?
My name is Alex Elliott. I am the Artistic Director of Operating Theatre and an Associate Artist and long time collaborator of Unfolding Theatre. I have lived in the region since 1999. I came up to join Northern Stage’s Ensemble created by Alan Lyddiard, and I am once again part of an ensemble created by Alan called the Performance Ensemble, based in Leeds. The members are all older, some have toured the world with professional dance companies, others are coming to perform for the first time.

What is it you do?
I perform, direct, devise and write for the stage and for film. A lot of the work I do is inspired by people’s personal stories and ideas about life. 

How long have you been doing it?
I trained when I was 26 after studying Spanish and French and have worked for thirty years. 

What inspires you?
Other people. From my Japanese neighbour who has created a beautiful sanctuary for birds in her front garden, to people I see walking down the street. Random words or intriguing ideas that can appear in any form; a poem or an overheard phrase. Really good storytelling; whether it be a personal anecdote or a highly crafted film. All of the incredible things human beings are capable of; the good and the not so good. The sea, even when it’s 7 degrees and I can’t really feel my fingers.

Tell us about your work.
I try to find the authentic in the work I make. I am aware of how that might come across. That doesn’t mean I avoid artifice. Artifice can be useful sometimes, but within every performative act I feel there has to be a desire to be authentic. Direct communication is important to me. I don’t like saying or asking people to say things that I don’t consider to be true in some sense. A dream is a form of truth. Regrets, hopes and impulses are all truths in their own way. What comes in the moment can be a very powerful truth. That is why I love devising so much. If you are given the freedom to explore in the moment, perhaps around a key idea, then a lot of interesting responses begin to appear. It is the careful and considered curation of those ideas, as well as room to explore that direct presence in each performance that can make for very exciting work. Annie Rigby, with whom I have worked for quite some time, seems to have that in her DNA.

What have you got coming up in the future?
I am very excited about Deep Mind and the Great Puzzle (Alphabetti Theatre, 17th-19th March and Ushaw College, Durham on the 20th). It’s a completely new piece that stars Arabella Arnott and Matt Jamie and is followed by a discussion about the future of medical technology and who will benefit. I feel very strongly that we should all have a say in who has access to emerging technologies. Inequality in all of its forms is the scourge of our society. Some people, because of their status or the school they went to, are making decisions about who lives and who dies. That is truly terrifying and something we need to fight against in whatever way we can.

Where can people find out more about you?

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