Lauren Hendry talks about coming last and coming back for more at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Name: Lauren Hendry
Name of Edinburgh show: Tetra-Decathlon
Venue: Summerhall – Cairns Lecture Theatre
Performance time: 11.55am
Show length: 60 mins
Ticket price: £12/ £10 conc.

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your performing background?
I originally trained in contemporary circus at the National Centre for Circus Arts. After graduating, I co-founded So & So Circus Theatre, with whom I made and toured narrative acrobatic-theatre shows, Backgammon For Beginners and The Hot Dots between 2008-13.

Tell me about your show, what it is all about?
A couple of years ago, I found out about Tetra-Decathlon. It’s like a heptathlon, but with twice as many events and far, far fewer competitors. Smelling an opportunity to compete in the next World Ultra-Multi Event Championships just 20 months later, I contacted my local athletics club immediately. The only problem? I’d never run, thrown, jumped or hurdled before. I’d never even been for a jog around the park.

Tetra-Decathlon is about coming last and coming back for more. It’s about competition, commitment and what drives us to take on immense challenges.

How long have you been working on this show and what is it that makes it relevant to audiences in 2018?
I’ve been sweating over this show since 1st January 2016, when I began my athletics training with a jog in the woods which reduced me to tears as I failed to get up a seemingly never-ending hill.

The work on the show itself began in June 2017, with R&D with director Jenna Watt thanks to support from Tron Lab. The show has now also been supported by Macrobert Arts Centre, Festival 2018 and Creative Scotland (thanks everyone!). The very brilliant Showroom have come on board to produce Tetra-Decathlon. I’m so lucky to have such an awesome team.

There’s been a huge rise in popularity over recent years for events such as triathlons, ultra-marathons and obstacle races. Perhaps sitting down for most of our working lives has pushed people to question what their bodies (and minds) might be capable of. Whether or not people have just signed up to a huge physical challenge, I hope this show asks a more universal question of how we set our own goals and keep pushing towards them with nobody pushing but ourselves.

Do you have any top tips for surviving the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – both for performers and visitors to the event?
It’s the same as athletics competitions: trainers, sunscreen and a raincoat.

What has been the funniest or most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
Acrobatics can be hard on costumes. I’ve had a lot of wardrobe malfunctions. Burst zips have meant finishing shows in my pants.

Who are your biggest inspirations in the industry and why?
One of the shows which has really shaped how I want to make work is Honour Bound by Nigel Jamieson. I love how the performers worked physically to offer a visceral insight into a true story, and how the show used documentary materials seamlessly with the bodies on stage.

Sam Green’s The Measure of All Things is a live documentary, which slips between direct address and documentary film, narrated and underscored live. I saw this just before I started training for Tetra-Decathlon, and it was very much in the forefront of my mind when approaching the subject.

I love love love Joan Clevillé’s work. The North had me crying with laughter and then continuing to cry because it was just so darned beautiful.

I’m equally as inspired by work such as that of Compagnie XY. The simplicity and virtuosity of their performances leave me breathless. Sometimes when I get caught up in making shows more and more complicated, I take myself back to watching their work, and remember how brilliant something so bare can be.

My favourite show I’ve seen this year was the gloriously silly Baba Yaga at the Edinburgh International Children’s Festival. The performances, writing, costuming and projection were ridiculously good. Not a day has gone by since that I haven’t quoted from the show, “I’m always hungry.”

Do you have any pre-show rituals?
When life on the road gets hard and something has inevitably gone wrong, I like to whack on D:Ream’s Things Can Only Get Better over the theatre’s sound system and dance on stage like an idiot. Not popular with my touring technician.

What other acts are you looking forward to seeing at Edinburgh Fringe?
I’m really looking forward to seeing Paper Doll Militia’s Egg, based on first-hand experience of egg donation. The work-in-progress was really interesting and I’m dead keen to see how it’s developed. How to Keep Time: A Drum Solo For Dementia looks like a super interesting mash-up of genres. I’ll be fascinated to see What I Talk About When I Talk About Running – there’s a lot of cross-over with the themes within Tetra-Decathlon, but looks like it’ll be a really different stylistically.

Why do you think people should come and see your show over the thousands of others on at the fringe?
It’s a classic “hero’s journey” tale. Or is it? There’ll definitely be a montage. Or will there be? It’s directed by Jenna Watt, who is a force of nature. If you’ve seen either of her Fringe First-winning shows before, you’ll know what I mean. And you’ll never know if I made it to the World Championships if you don’t come.


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