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Interview with Catherine Church

Platform 4’s Artistic Director, Catherine Church talks to us about Triffids!  A gig theatre adventure in music, sound and pictures.  Catherine tells us about bringing John Wyndham’s seminal post-apocalyptic novel to the stage and what theatre excites her.

Please tell us about your current project Triffids!?

It has been a very long time in coming! About 2 years from pre-pandemic, those innocent times…we had no idea when we were working on it at the start of 2020 that an ACTUAL germ would start to invade us – and parallel to a certain extent what happens in The Day of the Triffids. Although it was written in 1951 – it is bang up to date really – conspiracy theories / gm crops/ hysteria! It was also a chance for my sound designer and long-term musical partner, Jules Bushell to really go for the SCI FI instruments and make some really wacky (and also really beautiful) music with Bellowhead’s Pete Flood – so there is a Moog, a Theremin of course and Matt in our band has learnt how to play the cactus – yes, the cactus!  It tours in late Feb and all through March across the UK and we are all really excited to see what audiences think…music/text/B Movie Samples and much more!

What would you say to anyone thinking of booking to watch Triffids, what can they expect in this piece?

There are endless audiences for this show beyond usual theatre-goers including science fiction fans, book lovers, music fans, carnivorous plant fans, John Wyndham fans and Extinction Rebellion groups. The audience can expect: 

An extraordinary show of live unusual music
An amazing retelling of the well-known book The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
A show asking big and timely questions
A post-apocalyptic on-stage adventure in sound and music
Lots of surprises that will leave you thinking 

Catherine Church (c) Tom Houser
Catherine Church and Jules Bushell, Triffids! Image courtesy of Platform 4 (2)

Do you have a particular favourite line in the piece?

I think I would have to say it is a few samples that we recorded from people in my local allotment – there is a particular list of vegetables grown on their patch, spoken, repeated and looped over crazy music that I love – and I love my then 9-year-old shouting out TRIFFIDS! over music – but I also love the line from Wyndham: “Looking back the amount we did not know and did not care to know is somehow a bit shocking.” – This speaks to where we are now with Climate Change etc I guess and is so prescient. He was ahead of his time.

How did you become an Artistic Director?

I couldn’t get a job anywhere else doing it so I started my own company and started employing myself!

Can you tell us about Platform 4 for people that may have not heard of them before?

Platform 4 is an artist-led company that creates playful and unexpected worlds in which performers and participants can explore their creativity and the things that matter to them. The work is highly visual and musical, often intimate in scale and process. We were founded in 1997 so have made loads of work – but actually a lot of our best work has been since about 2009 – when our participatory work combined with our performance work with Memory Points at the Southbank Centre inspired by people living with early onset dementia and then most recently Invisible Music – inspired by people learning to lip read.

What production changed your life? 

Probably some of my very early memories of going to The Brewhouse Theatre in Taunton where I grew up – I remember seeing a production of Alice in Wonderland which really swept me away to another wonderful world of sound/light and magic – I fell down the rabbit hole and never really came back!

What kind of theatre excites you?

My work has gone so far towards music and digital projection that the ‘theatrical’ elements are a little bit taken over nowadays – I do like the challenge of adapting a text for the stage and mashing it together with other elements – so I guess any live performance that challenges you in terms of form. I loved some of the really intimate immersive shows in London that were around a few years ago.

What advice would you give to aspiring talent in the industry?

Make sure you can do EVERYTHING.

Who are your theatrical heroes?

I loved Theatre de Complicite  – Jerzy Grotowski the Polish theatre director and his Poor Theatre  – completely inspiring…in terms of people – Anna Maria Murphy the poet and ex-member of Kneehigh Theatre,  who I was lucky enough to work with – and all my current company members.

Where can people follow you and Platform 4 on socials?

Follow Platform 4 on: Instagram @platform4theatre, Twitter: @4platform, Facebook: Platform 4 and online at www.platform4.org

Catherine Church and Jules Bushell, Triffids! Image courtesy of Platform 4 (5)

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