The first time it was reported that our friends were being butchered there was a cry of horror. Then a hundred were butchered. But when a thousand were butchered and there was no end to the butchery, a blanket of silence spread. When evil-doing comes like falling rain, nobody calls out “stop!” – Bertolt Brecht
We talked to playwright Catriona Kerridge about her inspirations, having to pick a side, Austrian writer Karl Kraus, and her favourite places in Vienna. Catriona’s satirical play Shoot I didn’t mean that is currently being performed at the Tristan Bates Theatre, London, alongside the epilogue to Kraus’ socio-critical The Last Days of Mankind.
Could you tell us a bit about your previous, as well as upcoming work?
I work both collaboratively and independently. My previous work includes shows such as: Occupied a show based on the graffiti found in London’s public toilets, set in real toilets presented and made collaboratively by Bad Host. I have been working with Bad Host on various projects from toilets to floods and game-shows. Recently I have been an associate artist on a project that took place in Lima, Peru with the international theatre company ‘In Transit’ resulting in the show They Call Me Nina inspired by El Niño and La Niña (the weather phenomena) – working both collaboratively and independently. I have written for Paines Plough and the Oxford Playhouse (Come to where I come from). National Theatre Studio (Aftershocks London), and have been supported by HighTide Theatre Escalator Playwrights and North Wall Oxford and the Arts Council England. I also write poetry and have been published by Mardibooks, The Dance is New.
October 2014 is a busy month with the performance of Fast Track at the North Wall 2-4th October, plus SWINES (a Bad Host production) at 47/49 Tanner Street 16-19th October and Come to where I’m from 10-12th October Paines Plough collaboration at the South Bank Centre Literary Festival and last but not least Shoot, I didn’t mean that (Time Zone Theatre) at the Tristan Bates Theatre.
When did you first come across Karl Kraus?
I had heard his name before, well I think I had but it wasn’t till I read about the project that I read his work. And I am grateful for that. He is a document of his time but he is also a document of our time. Like Brecht, his subjects and questions still resonate with today.
What inspired you to write Shoot, I didn’t mean that?
The brief combined with Kraus triggered a lot of different stories in my imagination. How do the different countries celebrate and commemorate wars? I started thinking about the different ways that I was taught about the First World War and Remembrance Day. I have family dotted around the place from Canada, Germany to Scotland and imagining a war – between them and ‘enemies’ has always made me question from a young age if those two minutes remembrance are for everyone or only for ‘our team’. The First World War wasn’t a football match but sometimes it feels like that, you have to pick a side. I wanted to explore the different ways we come to terms with the past.
Having read Kraus’ work I was up for the challenge of making some of his themes and questions resonate to a British audience of today.
Would you consider the issues raised by Kraus in The Last Days contemporary and thus important to people nowadays?
Kraus opens a jar of worms. He exposes people of the time, he names and shames, he satirises the world he was living in. But his humour and his way of depicting the war is still the same – except now we have a new kind of technology we can take selfies in warzones it just takes a #warzone for the world to see. Just change the place names or the name of the Kaiser with names of today and Kraus’ text becomes an echo of our time. I went through the British schooling system I had the chance to learn about War poetry, I went on a trip to the Imperial War Museum but I always saw nothing but trenches and I wish I had Kraus on my reading list. A man who dares to talk, to be a bit silly with it, laugh at it but most importantly talk about it. This style of writing has the ability to make you read, think and look around your own world and our ‘Last days of mankind’.
Why did you decide to make it an all-female cast?
In Kraus’ play there are genderless Gas-Masks and there is a female reporter and as I was reading it, it dawned on me that I did not expect there to be any women. I mean the text is old and wars aren’t usually associated with women. So I decided why not, why not have a female cast (with no love letters).
In what ways does the British approach to remembrance differ from the Austrian?
Even though I lived in Vienna for a year I never fully witnessed Remembrance Day there. I didn’t see the school kids line up and wreaths being laid and memorials or any poppies being sold. The British approach is romantic, beautiful but very British: the recruitment posters, the war poetry ‘To a doomed youth’, the fields of poppies, the Unknown Soldier and the ration cards. Somehow I felt far enough removed from it to feel that it was ‘quaint’ a time where everyone got together I never really saw the rest of the world in it – simply the trenches and togetherness.
You mentioned that you spent a year in Vienna. Could you tell us a bit more about that?
I spent a year at the University of Vienna on my Erasmus. It is a year that I will never forget. The university, the buildings, the theatre, the sub-cultures and the lifestyle, Vienna was buzzing and there was always something happening. I would happily move back.
What are your favourite places and memories of Vienna?
This is tough. Favourite places my list is endless but I love the Museums Quartier. On one of my first nights in Vienna the ‘Lange Nacht der Museen’ took place, a party atmosphere kicked in and with a glass of Grüner Veltliner in my hand we took to all the museums and ended up dancing in the Leopold. As for the café’s and places to hang out it’s endless! The best place to work was the Austrian Literature house. Oh and Café Drechler or Das Möbel Café were always great!
Shoot I didn’t mean that is being performed 23 Sep – 18 Oct. Tue – Sat, 7.30pm & Sun, 3pm. £14 / £12 concs.