Interview: Emily Ayres, co-director of Kindle Theatre

Hannah Greenstreet 8 March 2013

Three eccentrically clad women erupt through an audience that is clutching drinks and swaying awkwardly to drums and rock guitar, scattering people with their demoniacal cackles. No, this is not your average gig but The Furies, an inventive reimagining of Aeschylus’ Agamemnon by Kindle Theatre.

The ensemble Kindle Theatre, led by Emily Ayres, Samantha Fox and Olivia Winteringham, declares on its website that it aims to “create performances that seek to playfully reinvent the theatrical experience; exploring intimate exchanges within the live event.” Their recent work has included theatrical banquets, performing in churches and caves and even a live-streamed ‘Pasta Vagina Masterclass’ at PILOT festival.

The three co-directors all come from different training backgrounds and they wanted to make a form of performance in which they could combine their interests and skills: visual art and painting for Olivia, dance for Emily, and music for Samantha. Samantha’s interest in the extended voice technique, developed by Roy Hart in the 1960s, particularly informs The Furies, as the ensemble devise all of their pieces themselves, including the music. The extended voice technique uses the body as an instrument to create a plethora of weird and wonderful sounds. In The Furies, the company give a virtuosic demonstration, often ranging over several octaves in one swoop, switching from the polished timbre of a classically trained singer to the deliberate ugliness of cackles and sobs. Seeing the show, which was almost entirely through sung but never appeared contrived, makes one realise that traditional theatre could be doing a lot more to harness the power of voice. The emotions are visceral and real.

Emotional intensity is, Emily says in our interview, what often attracts them to explore mythic subject matter in their shows. Myths are “easy to access” but also “epic” in their scope and themes. Their first show, at Edinburgh in 2005, explored “the behaviour of groups of women and how they treat each other on a more folkloric scale.” The Furies depicts Clytemnestra seeking revenge on her husband Agamemnon, for returning from war with Cassandra, whom he has raped and abducted (although it omits the fact that Clytemnestra had also been having an affair with Aegisthus). Clytemnestra’s anger is split into three personified furies: envy, revenge and rage. Emily insists upon “the importance of letting these emotions out and making them public when normally they are sort of covered over or hidden”, as society dictates that “women are not supposed to be angry.” It is refreshing to see a show that can embrace and harness female anger.

As well as tackling visceral emotions, Emily stresses the importance of craft in their approach, adding that she is often frustrated by the apparent lack of craft in contemporary theatre. Devising is a skill and their approach is always performer led. Nonetheless, Kindle Theatre is able to maintain a playful tone. Emily delights in the fact that “the audience are not sitting down and being quiet and turning their phones off.” They are “able to mosh if they want to, able to leave if they want to and able to throw their beer at us.” She argues that theatre has to adapt to attract new audiences, particularly young people, and that there is great value in “innovating theatre by chucking loads of stuff at it.” Because of the influence of TV and film, theatre has to be inventive to get people in and so “we make the most of the live form of theatre which is the only thing it has going for it .”

The furies are fierce, feisty and, of course, furious. I can agree with Emily in declaring the show a “celebration of what performance can be and what performance can do.”

Hannah Greenstreet