Image credit: John Watts
Dynamic duo Becka McFadden and Scheherazaad of Beautiful Confusion Collective met whilst studying at Goldsmiths University – McFadden humorously described themselves as “two Americans living in London” – before explaining how the idea for BackStories actually came to be. “It was something we discovered almost completely by accident” whilst working on a project where Scheherazaad was McFadden’s Co-collaborator at the time. “I was responding to a piece of music whilst sat on a stool. She came and watched me from behind and suddenly the piece became more interesting because she wasn’t able to see my face and the front of my body.” As with most ideas – McFadden and Scheherazaad jumped on the concept and developed it with different pieces of music and methods of movement. “We thought the idea had a lot of potential” – McFadden continued. “It was something we really wanted to explore. The more we thought about it, the more we found things about the back the we were particularly interested in.”
What it is about the back that is so fascinating? After all – it’s not what most people consider on a general basis – let alone in theatre! “ Scheherazaad has a strong ability to be able to look at and read a persons back and how it can communicate to us”. Their background in dance, previous experience in theatre and interest in sociology and observational choreography made such a project even more fun and interesting for the pair.
“The back is one of the most neglected parts of the body when you consider posture etc. So it’s a good way to understand how our bodies are shaped and sculpted by the back” After all, our spine is the central, yet somewhat overlooked part of the body so I understand why it’s interesting…
However – isn’t the concept of having your back to the audience take away what theatre is all about – thus making it a risk? Or is it a form of progression, experimentation and extension of theatre? McFadden was keen to back up the cause; “It’s risky in the sense that we’ve removed the way which we communicate but removing the face was was a big challenge but its also been very rewarding.”
I can imagine that you’re as intrigued as I was during the interview about this project and concept and are probably wondering exactly what the show is about. “It begins with us creating the ambience of a bar and is basically about two people who are isolated but are in social situations. Over a course of solo’s and duets; these two individuals approach each other and see what it’d be like to have an encounter.”
In the UK – the show has been programmed as dance rather than a piece of theatre. But the two definitely intertwine. “I want (the show) to leave you much more aware of backs – you’re own and backs of others.”
As well as working in mainly educational establishments such as Goldsmiths; McFadden and Scheherazaad have spent a lot of time working abroad. At on the date of the initial interview Scheherazaad was in Canada and the pair are currently in Athens with the 15 minute segment of the show and will be going on to Prague next month before returning to the UK to tour at the end of April. “It’s good to travel” McFadden began. Working abroad as a theatre maker is a really good idea because when you spend so much time working in a particular scene – you can sometimes lose perspective” Although our backs were turned for the entirety of the interview, her passion and desire to make me understand the fact people work differently can be useful for British theatre makers and open our eyes up to ideas and things that can really help change the dynamics of your own work. “it’s creatively enlightening.” She continued before explaining how she loves returning to London after travelling and doing workshops and creating new work with all that’s she learned.
Be it in the UK or internationally – residencies play a very important part in the goals McFadden and Scheherazaad have for the project “They’re practical – because they allow you to have other commitments. Being able to come together and focus wholly on BackStories for a few days during a residency is really fruitful” Residencies have also allowed the pair to network, exchange ideas & tips and affiliate themselves with people who are interested in BackStories project and support the concept.
With seemingly exciting stuff going on for Scheherazaad and McFadden, I couldn’t help but wonder what the rest of 2015 had in store; “After Athens” – where by then the duo hope to have decided where next to take the BackStories project; “We’ll be heading to Prague in April to premier the show at Alfred ve dvoře d have a residency there. From 20 April, we shall be touring in the UK then embarking on a European tour after that which will include a second residency in the Chez Republic.” They both have individual projects in the pipeline too with Becka working on a solo piece.
To find out more – check out BackStories on twitter or their tumblr page