Arts Week 2017: Andy Smith dematerialising theatre


An Oak Tree

Evening. The room is white and hung with a lighting rig, the lights are not switched on. There is wine and jaffa cakes coming to room temperature at the back. The performances of Andy Smith are often performed in a space very similar to this. Daragh Carville has just introduced Andy Smith to a room of students, performers and academics.

Andy Smith

Find simple questions, if you just let them hang in the air a little bit/

The entrance of a late arrival interrupts the thought. Andy Smith, who is not a professional actor, has been told that he does not do theatre. Whatever others may say about what it is  that Andy Smith does, or indeed does not do, he is completely clear.

Andy Smith I’m the first audience.

Andy Smith is the ultimate collaborator-facilitator. Whether that is as part of his ongoing work with Tim Crouch or in his own productions, which he hesitatingly refers to as solo work, Andy Smith makes it clear that the audience is very much an active element in his process.

Andy Smith

I can think of millions of examples of theatre where things are taken away. Can anybody give me an example of a theatre that hasn’t got an audience?

The audience remains silent.

Andy Smith

It is inside the audience where the dilemma or the ideas happen. You are what is making this.

It is this logic that informed the dematerialised theatre.

Andy Smith

I’m aesthetically interested in doing more with less.

The act of being present with one another is enough to make theatre.

Andy Smith

I step away up here to make more space for you there. Inviting the audience and making a suggestion about something. Theatre happens inside an audience.

Andy Smith finds that the acknowledgement that theatre is occurring demands recognising, using and manipulating traditions and forms in order to make it real, tangible. Storytelling is central to all of Andy Smith’s work.

Andy Smith

It’s not a very fashionable thing to say but I’m ok with that.

Andy Smith makes the presentation into a piece of theatre. To demonstrate this he brings up a willing volunteer (the writer of this piece) to perform a dialogue that accompanies the artwork ‘An Oak Tree’, the piece that inspired the play ‘An Oak Tree’. In giving his definition of his vision of theatre, dematerialised, an academic forum would be the best form.


Jonathan Parr is studying jointly at Birkbeck and RADA on the Text and Performance MA


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