Superfan, a theatrical collaboration made up of Ellie Dubois, Kim Donohoe and Pete Lannon, create exciting, intelligent theatre that takes on big ideas about life, death and everything in between. They’re also disarmingly funny. SNACK caught up with Lead Artist and Director, Pete, to find out more about their new show Stuntman, featuring two men wrestling, literally and metaphorically, with violence.
What was the original jumping-off point for Stuntman?
The show started from a desire to figure out my complicated relationship with violence. I hate real violence, and I hate that as a man it feels like your interactions with other men often have the threat of violence underneath them. But at the same time, there is an allure or a problematic macho fantasy of being a hero using violence to protect your loved ones. I love a really violent action movie, or playing a video game where the main action is killing things.
The show came from wanting to make sense of that, to reconcile how I feel and think about violence and the attraction it has, and what that says about masculinity. My work is often about the problem of masculinity and patriarchy, and how men can work to undo some of the harm it causes (to themselves as well as others).
Has the direction of the piece changed with the rise of divisive figures like Andrew Tate?
Not really to be honest – not because I don’t think Tate is incredibly dangerous – but it does feel increasingly urgent. And also increasingly important that it’s a good night out! Lots of people who see the show will already know that figures like Tate are poison, but if there are people in the audience who don’t feel that way, we aren’t going to change that by shouting at them about how wrong they are.
We never set out to lecture people about what we think is the right way to be a man or to tell the audience that they should feel a certain way about violence. My hope is that the piece asks questions that stay with the audience afterwards, and particularly encourage men in the audience to think about their own relationship to masculinity and violence. I think people are more receptive to those questions when they’ve had a good time.
Why do you think there’s such an appetite for violence in film, TV and the arts in general?
It’s a big question – it’s one of the key questions at the heart of the show! I don’t know if I have a definitive answer, because even after making the show I’m not sure I know why I find violence in art to be so compelling, or fun.
If I had to try and give a big-picture answer, I think it’s because violence in all its different forms is a part of life whether we like it or not.
Reactions to work are interesting. Why do you think something like Peaky Blinders is considered high art, but action films are not?
I don’t know, I hate the idea of ‘high’ versus ‘low’ art. I want to make work that is trying to say something about the world but that is also accessible, and I suppose I like other work that also does that.
I suppose it’s about the context, and what the work is trying to do around the violence within it (and how it portrays that violence). The way something like The Sopranos uses violence is very different to how John Wick does, and for me, it’s about what the creators are trying to say about something very complex – is the main purpose of the work to entertain or to try and make sense of something?
There are absolutely action movies that are also super interesting, and sometimes an action movie is just an escapist fantasy that you watch to chuckle at how corny it is, and that’s fine too!
Can you watch violent content in the same way since working on Stuntman?
It has slightly spoiled bad action movies for me in a way, because often they’re a fun thing to watch to just switch off your brain (especially when they hit that sweet spot of just good enough to be engaging but bad enough to not care too much about). But now there’s a part of my brain analysing them and thinking ‘Oh that’s good death, maybe we should do that one,’ which was a big part of my research for this show. And then I’m thinking about the themes and the ethics of it all and what the movie is saying about masculinity, and suddenly it’s not quite as relaxing as it used to be! But I think the show was worth it.
Stuntman is at Summerhall 2nd till 25th August (excluding 7th, 14th & 21st). Tickets here.