John Paul Zaccarini earned rave reviews for Throat at the Edinburgh Festival last year, and is currently performing in this spectacular one-man display of theatre, acrobatics and dance at the Drill Hall. We went to meet him and Flick Ferdinando, his co-partner in theatre company F/Z, to talk about the show.
Throat sounds like a hard show to pin down in terms of categories? "Yes, but that's part of its appeal for us, and for the audiences. It's a blend of performance art, theatre and, up to a point, dance."
What's the show's theme? "It's about narcissism, the self-love of a person and of a performer. Acting or performing of any sort involves being the center of attention, of wanting to be loved by an audience, and of feeling that you deserve to be loved, too! So a solo show has an obvious resonance with the whole theme of narcissism."
Given that you perform suspended on ropes at one point, and there's water involved, and piles of dough, as well as lighting effects and so on, isn't this a very difficult show to stage? "Actually no! We create some very beautiful images, especially with the water, but creating them is fairly simple, which is helpful when we tour. The show was at Edinburgh last year, is going there again in August, and we have some other international dates — a couple in France and one in Chile!"
This show, and your theatre company in general, seem to be breaking the boundaries between different forms of performing arts. Are you planning on moving further in this direction, or are you happy with where you are? "We definitely want to move into an area that more people will recognize as 'theatre,' although that's how we think of what we do at the moment. For many people a definition of theatre is the use of words, and we want to be involved in a text-based show in the future — and we're working on something now. However, there will still be a very strong use of movement in whatever we do. "We are also interested in using different types of theatre space. At the moment, we tend to perform at festivals and on the Fringe, but we'd like to appear in bigger, more mainstream theatres, and we're interested in working at the Riverside Studios, for example. We also enjoy collaborating with other people to create new work for new spaces."
Do you have to keep a fanatical fitness regime to be able to perform as well as you do, especially in terms of the rope work, the acrobatic side of your performance? "I don't have a particular regime, but you do need to be fit, of course. Though it's actually a very intense burst of fitness and physical activity that's needed — a sprint rather than a long distance stamina. What I find really tiring is not so much the acrobatic, physical side of it, but the acting! When I get to the section of Throat where I'm working on the ropes, I feel relatively relaxed as that's where I just have to use physical energy, which is different to the intellectual sort. It's quite rare in any case to be able to combine the two types of energy in performance, which is another area where F/Z is unique."
Given that your sort of performance is very unusual, how do you hope audiences will see your work? "What we'd like is for them to enjoy the show in its own right, but also to feel more comfortable with what you can loosely term 'performance art.’ Because of the lack of a text, people often seem to think that what they're going to see is somehow strange, weird and trying to be cutting edge rather than accessible. When, in fact, we're not only attracting very good audiences, they're also audiences of a very wide age range, and they all react very well to the theatricality of the show. It may not have words, but it's definitely theatre!"
Throat is playing at the Drill Hall until Sunday, April 27.