Named as one of the UK’s best young companies by The Guardian and featured in Lyn Gardner’s recommendations, performance duo Emergency Chorus make their debut at London’s VAULT Festival this week with their new show, Landscape (1989).
The pair, made up of recent Warwick graduates Clara Potter-Sweet and Ben Kulvicht, burst onto the scene in 2017 with their debut show Celebration. The show won three awards at the National Student Drama Festival, including the Sunday Times Playwriting Award. Celebration went on to a successful run at Edinburgh Fringe, before playing at New Diorama and Lyric Hammersmith.
The initial show came after the results of the EU referendum in 2016, and coincided with a deadline for funding for shows at their university. “We wanted to make a show which was an hour of joy in the current climate”, says Ben. “It wasn’t until the show got into NSDF we thought, “oh”, we have to be people and come up with a company name”, so Emergency Chorus was born.
Landscape (1989) holds a different atmosphere to Celebration. The show, put simply, is about mushrooms. “The wild kind, not the magic kind” Clara quickly adds, “It’s about endings and beginnings, the apocalypse and ecological disaster, and what it means to live in the ruins of something – and it turns out wild mushrooms are good at that”
Is the show similar to Celebration in any way?
Ben – “It’s quite different in tone. We didn’t want to be stuck in the same style. Celebration was vibrant and lively and fun but Landscape is more subdued” Clara concurs, noting that the piece is “more intricate – more care has gone into constructing it. We have less to do to make the piece GO. Celebration had our personalities in it so if one of us was having a bad day it was a hard show, but Landscape works as a piece. Now I want my friends to see the show itself, rather than seeing me in a show – does that make sense?”
Of course, in true Emergency Chorus style the show contains a concoction of verbatim, dancing, and music (with underscoring by Nat Norland), and it can be tricky deciding what goes in to the piece. So if they’re having a hard time deciding what set pieces go in to the show, they flip a ‘dramaturgical coin’.
Ben [laughing]: We just flip it and one of the sides is simply ‘just because’, the bit works just because and the other side we come up with a sound reason as to why that bit is part of the show.
It may sound funny, but it’s definitely a good way to stop overthinking the making process, which for the pair usually involves a lot of research, and periods of time making lots of different material before piecing it together on cards before filling in the gaps with extra bits.
The show has been previously performed at Warwick Arts Centre and New Diorama Theatre, and has received a variety of comments from audiences “One of our friends said they felt like they’d been to church” says Clara.
Celebration was made and performed the first time in quick succession, whereas Landscape (1989) has been created over the duration of a year “it’s the whole student drama ecology versus being part of the big machine” says Clara, and the pair hope to continue with the show touring, or perhaps at Edinburgh Fringe, two years after they took their debut show.
But for now, VAULT.