Becca Gill and Jay Kerry are founders and artistic directors of Bristol-based Mercurial Wrestler, creating work that places the audience at the centre of the performance and create worlds through which participants can create their own journey.
Their next show, Magna Mysteria, will premiere at Mayfest 2012. Tugging at the corners of the cloak of mystery for TB is Claire Skelcey…
Magna Mysteria. What’s that all about then?
Magna Mysteria is the product of research that we have carried out at the Pervasive Media Studio. We were commissioned through the Arts Council Digital Futures fund to be based at the studio and research the use of pervasive media technologies in recreating magical illusions from the1860s – 1920s. From our research we developed The Magician's Desk that toured as a testing piece for us on how people respond in a sensor-driven environment. It toured to Watershed, Bristol Old Vic (through Bristol Ferment), d-construct Brighton and Shift Happens in York. The feedback from this piece allowed us to develop the basis for the technological elements of Magna Mysteria.
Ooh, tell me more… (if you’re not breaking some Magicians’ Circle code or something…)
Magna Mysteria begins with an invitation to a magic show and then unravels around you. Stories emerge from out of nowhere, characters tell conflicting tales, and you, the audience, choose who - or what - to believe. It's not a game, there's no right or wrong... but there are many paths, and not everyone will experience Magna Mysteria in the same way.
The world of Magna Mysteria is one where Victorian-style magic mixes with digital technology, with ghosts in the machine. Psychics send text messages. Immortals tweet. And a mysterious carnival caravan stands waiting for you outside the theatre. The Magician has been walking the earth for a long, long time, and he's left many traces. There are those that say he's a prophet; some are convinced he's a charlatan.
Count me in!
We want to engineer an experience that doesn’t just take place once and disappear. We want it to form part of people's lives over a long period of time and alter their perception of the world around them for moments, days, weeks maybe even years to come, and that allows people to live with in the manufactured fiction as it blurs with everyday reality. By making use of the pervasive nature of the media around us we want to make the impossible, possible.
I have to ask, why the fascination with magic?
“[Magic is] The theatrical linking of a cause with an effect that has no basis in physical reality, but that — in our hearts — ought to.” Teller of Penn and Teller
As artists and as humans we are fascinated by interpreting the world around us and cognitively establishing how our experiences create our reality. Through magic we can reveal the everyday fraud of perception so that people become aware of the tension between what is and what seems to be.
Our curiosity and natural attraction to 'the unknown' and our desire to use our imagination and create associations which go against the law of nature leads to our desire to suspend disbelief and that's where the magic comes in.
Magna Mysteria plays on this desire to be mistaken about how the world works and recheck our standards of reality.
“If we want to let the rest of the world in on the tricks, we should do well to present the universe as a magical place.”
And if there weren’t already enough reasons to go, you’re working with writer Tim X Atack. How did that come about?
We saw Tim's piece that was part of Paines Plough's Come To Where I'm From project at Bristol Old Vic in 2010 and were blown away by his style. He has the ability to create a world for the audience that seems utterly real, yet set off centre. He exploded a moment into fragments and made you feel that you were there, living with him in it. His style and ability to render the everyday into the impossible meant that he was the only writer we wanted to work with on Magna Mysteria. This was DEFINITELY the right decision!
Looking into the magician’s crystal ball, what do you see Mercurial Wrestler doing in the future?
To keep pushing the illusionary potential of Magna Mysteria with new audiences all over the world. To always consider what our next trick will be.
So, let me guess, you started out as magicians’ assistants, right?
Becca: I graduated from Central School of Speech and Drama in 2002 and went on to be Assistant Director for productions at National Theatre and Soho Theatre with Caird Company, worked with shunt on Tropicana and founded London based Fervent Theatre Company who presented work in a number of locations including at Camden People's Theatre's Sprint Festival. I worked in arts development through Total Theatre as their Projects Officer and was Theatre Development Co-ordinator for Activate in Dorset.
I was on the board of b-side and produced Periplum's Arquiem as part of Inside Out Festival in 2007, and was subsequently Site Manager for Inside Out 2010 in Bournemouth. Whilst in Dorset, I was one of the founders of 2nd Birthday, who created site responsive art works in disused spaces in Bournemouth and managed the Sideshow Festival that presented work in 13 empty shops, a large old car showroom and six beach huts.
Later, in 2009 I directed the South West tour of Paradise, produced by Salt Factory and written by Nell Leyshon that toured to major venues in the South West. In early 2010 we formed Mercurial Wrestler and developed The Magician's Desk that toured nationally.
Jay: I am a trained technician performance artist. I have presented live art and performance in a variety of spaces including Bodmin Jail, Crownhill Fort, Plymouth Aquarium, Trevanno Gardens, Rougemont Gardens, Phoenix Arts Centre and Exeter Northcott. I worked as Lighting Designer with Salt Factory on their South West tour of Paradise which is where I met Becca.
OK, this is a bit random, but I really want to know: If you could meet anyone from history, who would it be?
Becca: Fevvers from Angela Carter's Night at The Circus, to see if she really did have buds where her wings were.
Jay: Quick’s Smoked Goats (more specific!)
Custard or ice-cream?
Becca: Definitely ice cream – with honeycomb (custard is grim)
Jay: That's ridiculous - each in their rightful place
Becca and Jay
Magna Mysteria will premiere at Mayfest 2012.
To book tickets visit www.magnamysteria.com
The project is funded by Arts Council England, commissioned by Bristol City Council Neighbourhood Arts and Bristol Ferment with support from Pervasive Media Studio, Theatre Bristol and Mayfest.