Brian: I grew up in North London and studied at Central School of Art because I didn’t pass the exams to get into university. I became a partner in a prop making company called Small Works and worked as a theatre designer for four years, including with Lindsay Kemp. I enjoyed working with Lindsay and other directors but not theatre designing, so I decided instead to go to acting school to become a performer. I joined an experimental theatre group, Lumiere and Son, which offered a marvellous realisation that there were a bunch of people who liked doing the sort of things I did and thought the same things were funny and interesting.
I worked in experimental theatre in the 70s and 80s with two companies that I helped to form, Liquid Rational Theatre and Hidden Grin. It was a very exciting time in British experimental theatre, but it came to a crashing halt when I (and many other artists) lost our grant during the Thatcher years. I started to diversify into straight acting, performing at The Royal Court and The National Theatre, but I kept up my independent work.
I came to Australia 21 years ago and developed a solo show, A Large Attendance in the Antechamber. It did very well, touring to Edinburgh Festival and major festivals around the world. I’ve since worked at most of the theatre companies in Australia like Melbourne Theatre Company, Malthouse, Sydney Theatre Company and La Boite, but I always maintained my practice as an experimental theatre maker.
I received an Australia Council Fellowship in 2011, offered to artists only once in their career, which provides financial support for two years. I decided to work with 25 different artists that I admired and had worked with previously, half of them based in Australia and the other half in the UK. I worked for a week with each person with a completely open brief.
I first met Gideon when I was part of Chunky Move’s ‘Two Faced Bastard’ and I really enjoyed working with him as a director and choreographer. Gideon’s a really terrific artist and I’ve always admired his work. Lucy Guerin, Gideon’s partner (and the director of Two Jews) is a great director and choreographer herself. The idea of collaborating with those two, well, I can’t think of anybody I’d rather work with.
It’s been an interesting exercise getting to know Gideon through his father who I didn’t know anything about before we did that first improvisation at Arts House in Melbourne. I had no idea that Gideon had grown up on a Kibbutz in Israel and English is his second language.
We’ve both had difficult relationships with our parents and our fathers in particular, who we disapprove of.
Like Gideon’s father, my father Lawrence was also a socialist and Jew, although he had a very different relationship to Judaism and felt very angry about being saddled with the ‘affliction’ of being Jewish. I’ve never felt particularly passionate about being Jewish, although I did have a Bar Mitzvah to please the relatives, much to his chagrin.
I’ve become more fond of my father since his death. I felt rather overwhelmed by him, he was a very successful man in some ways, good at sports and school, and very ambitious for me. He was very disappointed that he didn’t get to fulfil his dreams of going to university because of the war and ended up working for his father, which he hated. I think he felt I would do all the things he’d hoped to, but I was a terrible student at school and ended up doing these embarrassing things on stage as an experimental performer.
Had my father seen the work, I think he would have been very embarrassed and disturbed, although I think he would have been pleased with its success and positive reviews on my behalf. He’s not as thick skinned as Gideon’s father who loves the show and thinks of it as a mouthpiece for his ideas and prejudices. I suppose my father would like it for that reason too, but he would also find it really embarrassing.