Name: Patrick Morris
Name of Edinburgh show: bloominauschwitz
Venue: Just Festival @ St John’s (Venue 127)
Performance time: 17.10
Show length: 80 minutes
Ticket price: £12/10
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your performing background?
I am Co-Artistic Director of Menagerie Theatre Company, Cambridge. All our work is new and proudly text-led! I have been a performer for over 25 years in the USA and in the UK. I like to work with texts that stray into territory that can’t always be fixed, yet which clearly have something to say to the public. I’ve performed new plays, experimental work, classical work and I get the strongest thrills from pieces which can’t be so easily classified. I’ve performed at New York’s Public Theatre, San Francisco’s Magic Theatre, worked with Joseph Chaikin, Tom Stoppard, and now seek out new plays to produce with Menagerie. And ‘bloominauschwitz’ is our latest venture
Tell me about your show, what it is all about?
bloominauschwitz asks questions about identity, belonging, and collective memory. It is both an elegy to those lost to grief & conflict and the incredible human ability to continually imagine new futures. It’s about Leopold Bloom, the central character of James Joyce’s classic novel, ‘Ulysses’, set on June 16th 1904. Bloom escapes from the book to go in search of his true Jewish identity, in the company of his nemesis: his future self from 2018. It is a time-travelling odyssey which takes Bloom through the 20th century, discovering just what that identity means, and whether he truly wants to choose it. Resisting the obvious implication of its title, the play has an exuberance and a life force which is truly surprising and worth celebrating.
How long have you been working on this show and what is it that makes it relevant to audiences in 2018?
We have been developing this show for 4 years, from ideas stage via previews to final production. In that time, we have entered the migrant era, we have seen the rise of right-wing nationalism in Europe and America, and arguments rage about identity, belonging & memory: these are the key themes and questions which form the DNA of ‘bloominauschwitz’.
They are embodied in the character of Bloom who wrestles with different versions of himself as he journeys back to his father’s homeland of Hungary, forward to Auschwitz and ultimately on to the present day.
Bloom, in his creative exuberance, simultaneously embodies the antidotes to the narrow-thinking nationalists, with his open-hearted vision. And this is why we have made this a one-person show: the contradictions of the contemporary age burst forth from one body. This is what makes the show alive, unpredictable and thrilling to watch.
Do you have any top tips for surviving the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – both for performers and visitors to the event?
Performers – focus on your show(s). It’s easy to get distracted by other people’s successes and failures. The people I admire most are those who are constantly working on their show, either selling it, rehearsing it, performing it or talking about it.
Eat well – that’s a note to self more than anything.
Take at least one walk up Arthur’s Seat or Salisbury Crags to get away from the hustle and bustle to remind yourself that the world is still turning!
Visitors: top tip is to come and see ‘bloominauschwitz’! Next top tip is to talk to as many other visitors as you can. We all know that ‘word of mouth’ is a great way of selling shows, and it also makes your visit to the festival more enjoyable. It’s an unavoidably social affair, which really is its biggest thrill.
What has been the funniest or most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
My first ever performance at the age of 7 – when I wet myself as the innkeeper in the nativity play.
Who are your biggest inspirations in the industry and why?
He’s a dead one – Dario Fo. Because he wrote, directed and performed beautiful, popular, intelligent, political theatre for decades. Because he always did it with a huge smile on his face. Because he loved to pull down pomposity wherever he saw it.
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
I always dedicate a performance to someone – a friend, colleague, lover, child, mentor – just before I go on.
What other acts are you looking forward to seeing at Edinburgh Fringe?
‘Ulster American’ and ‘The Underground Railroad Game’ at the Traverse Theatre
‘The Last Straw’, ‘Trojan Horse’ and ‘Daughter’ at Summerhall.
Why do you think people should come and see your show over the thousands of others on at the fringe?
Because it is a true epic tale for today – you get laughter, tears, horror, celebration, the breadth of human experience – in one body, in one show. If you like great writing, it’s got it – it won the ‘Best New Play’ award at the Brighton Fringe. If you like sumptuous direction, it’s got it. And it’s got something urgent to ask audience members without banging them over the head – it’s got dramatic depth to accompany the exuberant comedy.