Nick Field presents
Playground 1, ZOO Playground
11 – 26 August (not 18)
FRINGE FIRST ELIGIBLE
“A celebrated performer, writer and artist” Total Theatre on Nick Field
A hilarious, surreal and razor-sharp solo performance full of inventive satire and modified power ballads. Unicorn Party features a reimagined dystopian Britain, comedy, visual poetry, rituals and spells to explore the ways in which fascism can creep into our lives when we’re encouraged to look away. Following the ramifications of our actions across centuries, Unicorn Party looks at how escapism traps us.
Unicorn Party hunts the omnipresent one-horned icon across civilisations to explore the spread of this cultural obsession, selling everything from socks to sex toys with far right politics also selling like hot cakes. What if the unicorns have been planning a totalitarian takeover all along and now they’re calling the shots? Performer Nick Field envisions a dystopian Unicorn Fascist State Britain, and when the unicorns take control, the only thing to do is bring out copious amounts of glitter, throw a joyous party.
You are interrogating the idea of ‘how escapism traps us’. Could you please expand on this?
Unicorn Party questions and unpicks fantasy as a distraction we use from the world around us, and a tool of those trying to distract us for their own gain. As extreme right wing politics and facism become increasingly predominant factors in mainstream politics, I noticed that unicorns seemed to also be everywhere in some form or other. I’d see them all over the place, not physically obviously, but as an idea, or a marketing strategy or a symbol. So the show took as its starting point what these two rising, and seemingly polar-opposite phenomenons tell us about each other, and the zeitgeist. After I began exploring this, it turned out, quite a lot. Unicorns as a product of imagination and culture have been around since civilisations began, and have been passed on and reinvented by empires. For me as a theatre maker they offer an amazing opportunity to explore how ideologies spread, and how our imaginations are capitalised. They also, lend the chance to interrogate purity as a central principle of facism, and how that has unwittingly shaped our lives, because they have been associated with purity across history. In the show I’m seeking to explore questions of the dangers that arise from fantasy becoming a part of how politics operates.
Is cross-pollination work the best way to get the multiplicity of ideas across?
For me, absolutely. This is a big complex subject, and I have approached it with all the dramaturgical and formal tools at my disposal. I also love playing with things, like unicorns, that might seem throwaway or kitsch as a way into exploring knotty, urgent topics and confounding expectations. My background is in playwriting and theatre dramaturgy, but as a performer and artist I’ve explored forms such as music, stand up comedy, digital artforms and one to one performance. This has enabled me to take a cross form approach to dramaturgy in my work and I am really interested in exploring the spaces between forms. So Unicorn Party mashes together repurposed power ballads and political quotes, takes us on a dextorus, stand-upesque trip through the contemporary rise of unicorns in our culture, and reimagines the recent history of Britain as a Unicorn totalitarian state. Shifts in dramaturgy and dramaturgical perspective are an integral part of how creeping loss of power and threats to personal agency is interrogated. There’s also rituals, a unicorn seance and an informercial for the unique unicorn product I’ve created. Cross-pollination of forms in Unicorn Party is very much about reflecting and responding to the questions and themes in the show.
How has it been collaborating with Billy Barrett and Rachel Mars?
It’s been fantastic. The show has been on quite a journey and having theatre makers whose work I respect and who I appreciate as human beings along for that ride has been so important. The reflection, challenge and feedback they’ve offered, particularly Billy who has taken a directorial role, has been brilliant. There’s a lot that’s really exciting about making work as a solo artist, you get to create your own navigation of theatre making with each show. But, I think collaboration is also key in making solo work, and I’ve both enjoyed the collaborative making that’s happened on this show, and feel that it’s enriched it greatly.
Who are your influences, in terms of both satire and theatre?
One of the primary influences in making solo theatre work for me was PJ Harvey’s one-person tour. I had never seen someone hold a stage and create such palpable dramatic tension like that before. It was compelling, and one of the key moments that led me to make solo work. Another was Taylor Mac’s The Be(a)st Of Taylor Mac, which opened up a lot of possibilities for me as someone making a move out of just writing, and into writing and performing my work. The work of Samuel Beckett continues to be a theatre influence for me, Billie Whitlaw’s performance in Happy Days was a point of reference in rehearsing Unicorn Party. Caryl Churchill was one of the main playwrights who really got me excited about theatre and I am influenced by the playful approach of companies such as Forced Entertainment and makers like Jamie Wood.
I have a more complex relationship with current political satire, which was one of the reasons I wanted to draw on it. I think in the current climate, a lot of satire is kind of problematic, like the Borowitz Report in the New Yorker which functions to create amusingly bizarre depictions of the White House, which is already bizarre, so it just kind of muddies the already muddy waters. More interesting for me was Kathy Griffin’s recent stand up tour Laugh Your Head Off, which hilariously satirised her run in with Trump, but underpinned that with very real tears from the aftermath of her experience. But, I love the potential of satire to pop the bubble of power and institutions, and all time faves include the original The Wicker Man, Best in Show, Chris Morris’ work, and Rodger from American Dad is one of my favourite satirical characters.