When you start to make a piece of theatre do you ask yourself why you are doing this? What is the point of it? What do you really want to say? What needs to be said? Why? Why now? And….have I got my facts right?

These are questions that are addressed by Complicite when they start their devising process, another area that Simon Mc Burney brings up, in his interview at the Barbican, is exploring the things we don’t understand. He says:

‘I’m fascinated by the things that I’m hopeless at….I see my life as a continuous exploration of things I don’t understand.’

For Complicite the process involves a lot of research. Once the starting point has been found, the ‘text’ is created. This is the research, the words, the ideas, the images. As Brook says, this ‘text is the map’. The company then explores ways to interpret this text – experiment with the plasticity of the body, cut up the text, improvise, play. The ultimate aim of the piece being that the performance impacts the audience in such a way that the performance infects them like a disease.

To hear more about Complicite and their process watch the interview with Simon McBurney and Judith Dimant:

Would you dare to address issues that we don’t want to talk about? Would you choose to address any of the following:

  • Child abuse
  • Immigration control
  • Eating disorders
  • Depression in men
  • Discrimination in the work place
  • Cancer

If you do choose any of the above, then it is essential that you get your facts right. Complicite’s recent production ‘A Pacifist’s Guide to the War on Cancer’ (A Complicite Associates and National Theatre co-production in association with HOME Manchester) has a list in the programme of things you need to know to be a good friend to someone who has cancer (written by collaborator Lara Veitch who has Li Fraumeni Syndrome, a rare inherited genetic predisposition towards cancer). Some of the things she wrote that that struck me are:

‘1. Try not to say ‘What can I do?’ or ‘How can I help?’ Those are too open ended and it’s too easy to reply ‘Don’t worry, I’m fine.’ What you can say is: ‘I’m coming over, and I’m going to make dinner and I’m going to clean your kitchen, is that OK?

7. Please just stay present and there. Don’t disappear. Don’t be scared of saying the wrong thing. It’s so much better to be a friend and be accidentally insensitive than just to not be there at all.’

If you want to know more about the show and the devising process and research see the following video and other links to ‘The Pacifist’s Guide on Cancer’ on youtube: