Interview with Dominic Garfield —
Artistic Director of HighRise Theatre and co star of ‘Penny Lane’
The creative nature of hip-hop has long been acknowledged and the continued integration of the culture into other art forms has proved both exciting and engaging. This week ‘HighRise’ theatre company are showing their latest work, Hip Hop-era ‘Penny Lane’ at The Yard Theatre in Hackney Wick, a ‘hip-hop folk tale of a shattered community full of bad decisions and missed opportunity’. I caught up with co-writer and performer Dominic Garfield to get the low down on what looks set to be a revolutionary theatre experience…
Q. Tell us a bit about the ‘Penny Lane’ project…
Penny Lane is a Concept Concert – Basically a 2 handed Hip Hop-era with a live DJ…The piece is set in the form of a murder trial with flashbacks and narrations to tell the story of a turbulent relationship between two brothers. Hip hop, grime and dubstep tracks underscore the script and as performers we multirole between different characters. The piece is a work in progress and in collaboration with The Yard Theatre (Hackney Wick)
Q. What was the inspiration behind it?
We draw inspiration from many mediums and wacky sources. From Eminem to Eastenders, MF Doom to The Temple of Boom at Secret Garden Party. Rudyard Kipling, The Roots, Kendrick, Kate Tempest & Shakespeare. Most of all we take inspiration from people and the communities we come from.
Q. What can we expect from the live show?
Beats, tricky lyricism, twists and turns, a washed up kids TV presenter hooked on drugs, slimey lawyers, a screaming baby and a s*** load of energy!
Q. What are your backgrounds? Are you rappers?
Both me and Gerel have been writing and performing different forms of rap for over 20 collectively. Starting with Drum and Bass & garage before moving onto UK Hip Hop and Grime. We then both trained as actors and found a common ethos of wanting to bring rap into theatres and create ‘plays’ and narrative based scripts using heavy set rhyme. I am also a director and love to see new pieces come to life and explore how physicality can link to words and flows to create dynamic theatrical experiences.
Q. Are you involved in any other projects?
I have just finished a UK tour with theatre company CONEY who create interactive, immersive theatre. The piece was called ‘Early Days’ and puts the audience in a fictional country in 2035 that has been shattered by civil war and revolution. The audience then have the chance to act as politicians and rebuild the country. I also start work on a sketch show with company MUJU in June. The piece will harnesses the creative potency between UK Muslim and Jews and create a united response to events of 2014–15. As a collective HighRise have several projects that we are developing including ‘The Concrete Jungle Book’ — a contemporary twist on Rudyard Kipling’s classic, using live music and rap to tell the story of a young man going through the care system in urban England. The piece is in collaboration with The Arts Depot and we enter a second stage of development in September.
Q. What’s the story behind ‘HighRise’?
HighRise met whilst training at Drama School and the company gravitated to each other when finding a common goal of creating edgy theatre for young non-theatre goers, as well as your typical theatre punter. We also have a massive drive and thirst for teaching young people and facilitating workshops and social experiments.We are the Artistic Directors of Spotlight Youth Theatre in Poplar, East London and are a resident company at The Arts Depot.
Q. After these performances where do you intend to take ‘Penny Lane’?
After this work in progress at the Yard, we have secured a booking to perform the piece at a festival called ‘story city’ in Leicester. We are excited to see how we can further explore and develop the piece before this gig but in the further future i think we would like to get it up to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
For more information and tickets click here.
By Micky Roots