Imaginary kicks

They once toured a show round the beaches of Britain, and now they’re re-designing the Tramway. Stephen Chester investigates the unique philosophy of IOU Theatre.

There‘s trouble in Derry. The theatre there has given IOU Theatre an extra couple of days to set up their show Boundary, which is currently being prepared in Glasgow. It's a generous enough time for a small scale touring company to set up for a performance, only IOU aren‘t. as the gutted interior ofthe Tramway reveals, a small scale toun‘ng company. Well actually they are, at least some of the time, its just they seem to have a strange attraction to ‘the sort of location that theatre doesn‘t normally happen in,’ as they demurer put it, and all too often the temptation of a railway siding, a disused house or a river is too much. ‘Site specific‘ is the technical term for some of the things they do, the Tramway being one site and Derry another. and in-between, much to the chagrin of an lrish theatre manager, is IOU‘s philosophy of an organic theatre. ‘it’s very hard to leave a show alone,‘ they explain, ‘they sort of have a life of their own there’s always something you want to expand upon or re-work or re-think.‘

It’s the sort of vision created by mixing Hieronymous Bosch, Carl Jung and Isemhard Kingdom Brunei.

Theatre‘s a bit of a misleading word for their shows, which may or may not happen in theatres. and usually dispense with narrative and frequently do without words, employing images and music instead. lOU have been doing whatever you want to call what they do since 1976, when a group of art and music college graduates found that putting ideas together for an audience was far more satisfying than working in galleries or concert halls. Writer/creator Louise Oliver explains their shows as resulting from the view that ‘theatre was somewhere where sculpture and music and poetry and painting and dance and puppetry and mechanical inventions came together and interracted with equal weight.‘

it‘s director David Wheeler who finishes off this definition, as the interview is with four members of the group. all of whom seem to be engaged in a sort of conversational round which demands no single individual begin or finish an answer. If there‘s one explanation of who or what IOU are then it isn't long before it gets contradicted the suggestion that The Weather/muse wasn‘t a typical lOU show met with a long discussion as to whether any i O U show was typical, which goes on until administrator Fi


Godfrey-Faussett retracts her original opinion. Unfortunater by this point musician Clive Bell has

Franit Chicken , Kamo Rikki. enjoys a dip with IOU putting them together because it gives them a son of

resonance that makes it twice as interesting. though

confessed that the first time he saw them they were in I

a swimming pool in Yorkshire, and that he wouldn‘t be surprised to see them in a swimming pool now, so - he thinks they‘re consistent in that respect.

Such amiable argumentativeness is at the heart of IOU‘s working method. They continued for a long time (they‘ve now knocked out 70 or 80 shows) without a director, until the size ofthe production ~ Boundary has sixteen people working on it began to demand an outside eye be brought to bear. Even now Dave Wheeler‘s directing role is considered more as a focal point for ideas and discussions than a dictorial position, as he explains: ‘We try to make it as collaborative as we can; we‘re providing a framework, but we‘re hoping that everyone who comes in feels the show won't be complete until they‘ve given what they have to give.‘

It‘s a charming set-up suggestive of the collectives of the early 70s. and it‘s impossible to imagine the rich imagery apparent in Boundary being produced in any other way. Rather than explain the show lOU screen a video of the performance: as the publicity claims, it‘s the sort of vision created by mixing Hieronymous Bosch. Carl Jung and isembard Kingdom Brunei. The opening act consists of a huge canvas sheet stretched taut and criss-crossed by zips. Fingers, hands and faces appear and disappear: it‘s unnerving but aesthetically seductive Cronenberg Goes Kantor might be an equally just simile.

Wheeler suggests a musical analogy to describe the construction ofthe show. ‘You know if notes work together and you don‘t question what a piece of music means. We use images in the same way. if we know what two images together mean then it‘s a disappointment, because it limits them. You‘re

you‘re not quite sure why.‘

‘But it‘s not as difficult as we‘re making it sound. It sounds horribly inacessiblc and complicated but I don‘t think it is.‘

Producers of resonance include sad songs from bath tubs, seemingly decapitated heads and motorised lawnmowcrs. Bell thinks it‘s ‘sad‘, whereas the outdoor show 2 .x' 'lable. which is currently touring

1 outdoor spaces in Glasgow, he prefers to think of as ‘vicious‘. Ifyou want to find out what it all means


then there‘s an exhibition of l()U‘s work on at Tramway. But don‘t expect to stop resonating. Boundary. 'l'ramii'ay. Glasgow; Sat ll—Sat [8 Sept; 2 .t‘ 'lable. various locations. until Sun [2 Sept; IOU Ifx/tiln'tt'mt. 'l‘ramit'ay. Sun [2—Star 26 Sept.

IOU: Cronenberg Goes Kantor?

The List 1M3 September 1993 47