The Secret to Being Weightless: An Interview with LEO’s Creative Producer, Gregg Park

[For WeLoveBrighton.com]

From the Edinburgh Festival Fringe to New York, Moscow and Hong Kong, the multi-award winning show, LEO, arrives on our humble shores in April. For those intrigued about defying gravity, get booking – because this one man, one-of-a-kind physical theatre piece not only defies theatrical convention, but it also challenges our sense of gravity and reality through the clever interplay of superlative acrobatic performance and high tech video projection. Universally appealing to adults and children alike, this is the funny, intriguing and moving journey of a seemingly ordinary man whose world becomes physically unhinged.

LEO_Credit_HeikoKalmbach_11

Having caught a sneak peek, thanks to the preview video, I was uber-keen to speak to Y2D Productions Inc. Creative Producer, Gregg Park, to find out more. Y2D Productions Inc. is a Montréal-based Production Company, whose principal focus is to create and tour original, innovative and entertaining shows for the international performing arts market. Parks has toured the world as an onstage performer and gradually became fascinated with production and its extraordinary possibilities. And, from the praise LEO has received, this breath-taking level of ‘extraordinary’ has resulted in a mind-bending, spellbinding, gasp-evoking, dazzler of a show. I caught up with Gregg to see if I could get any trade secrets out of him…

Without spoiling the surprise, can you tell us a bit about the show?

GP: First and foremost, the audience will be surprised. The techniques that the show uses are very simple but they are totally unexpected. They can expect to laugh as there are many funny sections in the show and many audiences also find the show surprisingly touching. The show presents the story of a character, LEO, who finds himself in what is, at first, a pretty impossible situation but slowly, as the situation evolves and as LEO continues to try to figure out what is going on, the audience tends to relate emotionally to LEO more and more.
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What inspired you to take on gravity and where did the idea for this show come from?

The story of LEO is that we find this character, trapped in a single room. First he discovers that the gravity has changed and as he tries to understand, the more he figures it out, the more he starts to have fun with it. It is through all of this exploration and discovery that the different elements of the show come into play.The idea to try playing with a camera turned on its side came from the original performer Tobias Wegner and it was first incorporated into the production myLIFE that played in Berlin for a year. As a result of the evolution of the ideas during the year, it was decided to experiment further with the ideas that had developed, to see if it was possible to create a longer work. The result of that work is LEO.
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Were there any bumps in the road? Or any surprises along the way?

There were many bumps in the road. We tried huge sets with furniture built onto the sides of walls and a trampoline. We had at one moment the entire set covered in green screen fabric held in place by electromagnets. But at each step the show wanted to stay simple. Each time we had a really complicated idea, it didn’t really work that well, but each time we found a simple solution it worked better.
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Tell us about the training; how long did it take to become weightless?!

The training to be weightless is both more and less than one would expect. Maintaining the positions and the movements that are required for over an hour place significant demands on the body. To date, all of the performers who have performed LEO have had a circus artist background. While the show does not incorporate very many acrobatics specifically the training itself is important in allowing the performer to keep track of his orientation in space and to maintain the positions needed for over an hour.
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What would you suggest to those who want to train and work in physical theatre? What’s the best way of developing such unique performance skills? 

The best way to go for anyone wanting to do physical theatre is to take all types of physical training. Dance classes, martial arts, acrobatics, ball room dancing, resistance training….. anything and everything physical will help. The point is not to ever underestimate the benefit to be gained by exposure to a different training/movement style or form.
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You’ve toured the world with this show – tell us, who was the toughest crowd to please? 

So far I think the toughest audience was in Moscow. They have a very deep theatrical history and they are used to seeing a lot of theatre. Also, their natural reactions are quite different than western audiences. They were, frequently, much quieter during the show but their reactions at the end were really, really satisfying. In fact LEO went back to Moscow twice last year.
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Have you performed in Brighton before? If so, what do you think of Brighton? If not, what have you heard about our beloved city?

No this will be both the show’s and the team’s first time in Brighton. We are really looking forward to it. Brighton has such a long history we are hoping that we can leave a little mark of our own.
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Ok, come on then, tell us – “HOW DO YOU DO IT?!” 

Well, we don’t like to talk too much about the techniques used in the show because even though we hide nothing and it is very clear to the audience from the very first seconds what we are doing and how we are doing it, we like to maintain a bit of mystery about it before audiences come into the theatre so as to maintain their curiosity. However, I would say that there isn’t just one thing in the show that is surprising – there are many. In fact many audiences and critics have noted that just as you are about to ask the question what can possibly come next, something else, completely unexpected happens.
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www.facebook.com/theleoshow

 

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Fashion Wars: Brighton vs London

[For WeLoveBrighton.com]

London Fashion Week has been and gone and as designers and stylists up and down the country set the fashion trends for the latter half of 2014, us guys at WeLoveBrighton.com thought it prudent to interview a few fashion folk about their take on current styles in order to figure out how our beloved city’s fashion scene differs from the capital’s… And what with Brighton Fashion Week on the way in June (the Summer’s nearly here, gang!), we thought we’d share a few hints and tips from the experts for any budding fashionistas out there!

So what buzz words do our panel of dreamy designers use to describe Brighton’s fashion scene? Here goes…

“Artistic”, “Bohemian”, “Creative”, “Eccentric”, “Eclectic, “Experimental”
“Festive”, “Free”, “Individual”, “Vibrant”, “Vintage”, “Vintage”

Gabrielle designer two

The Emperor’s Old Clothes, a Brighton based clothing brand, believe “Brighton is full of creatives with a real eye for vintage tailoring, individual taste & flair”. Brighton born & bred designer, Gabrielle Vary states that “there is a real sense of anything goes” here. In agreement, Clare and Mary Burgess, sisters and co-founders of Brighton based label, AlliumB.com, say that “Brighton has an anything goes vibe and creative feel” and Sara Rhys, a metalsmith, applied artist and jewellery designer from Hove, believes that “Brighton’s such a tolerant place where it’s really possible to be and wear whatever you fancy.” …And it’s not just the Brightonians that are biggin’ up our city – London stylist, Stephen Kelly notes that Brighton is home to a “real artistic melting pot” thanks to an abundance of creative types.

London, on the other hand, has been described with the following adjectives:

“Ahead”, “Bold”, “Cool”, “Diverse”, “Forward-thinking”, “Fun”
“Glitzy”, “Hipster”, “Influential”, “International”, “Modern”, “Urban”

Stephen-Kelly-gqKelly states that “London is at the forefront of ideas and creativity across the Globe” and that the capital’s“streets have the most diverse styles, trends and individuality of anywhere across the world”. Nodding his head in agreement is Senior Designer and denim extraordinaire from DC Shoes, Niklas Vila Karpe. Jet-setting around the globe as part of his job (lucky thing!), Vila Karpe knows enough to know that his city’s mix of “old and new, fast trends and staple brands” is what keeps London ahead of the game. And it seems Brighton agrees. Founder and director of Vagabond Couture, Karen Vagabond concurs and states that the capital’s “glitzy, urban, cool” trends are thanks to “a great mix of cultures/sub cultures”Allium B states that“London is one of the international fashion capitals of the world.”

So who does it better: Brighton or London? “London, oh please…” declares Niklas Vila Karpe, “…more brands, more movement, more excitement!”, whereas TheEmperorsOldClothes.co.uk argues that Brighton is the gold medallist when it comes to“creativity, character and charm”. Perhaps the less biased of the bunch is Allium B who believe both Cities deserve equal praise for their individual style but notes that “London does high end designer brilliantly, whereas Brighton is great for individual style.”

Eliza

With Brighton Fashion Week mere months away, how can wannabe fashion designers get their fashionable feet on the first rung of the ladder? Well, in terms of inspiration, the general consensus is look around! Vagabondcouture.com isn’t alone in believing that “inspiration is everywhere”and Gabrielle Vary, states that for her, “nature plays a big part in designing”. Vary loves that “in Brighton you can be on the South Downs one minute, in the middle of nowhere in complete isolation, and then be in a vibrant and busy city the next…” So since us lot are lucky enough to live by the coast, there’s ample ways of getting the creative juices flowing – soak in the buzz of the city and the serenity of the beach for a start. Likewise, Sara Rhys often gets inspiration from the world around her and when designing jewellery for her own label, sara-rhys.co.uk, she looks out for the “the little, often overlooked details in life”. Encapsulating all these ideas is Allium B who offers the following advice to budding designers: “Look at the people around you and at nature and the changing seasons – your next great idea can come from anywhere – be an observer!”

For those keen to get out into the world of fashion, Londoner Stephen Kelly and Brightonian Karen Graves, both recent attendees of London Fashion Week, suggest you should take networking seriously. In my book, there’s nothing like a bit of schmoozing to get yourself noticed… and, on that note, I went to London Fashion Week and got to meet palmer//harding who gave us the scoop on this year’s Autumn / Winter fashion trends; here they are telling us about it…

[Click here to view London Fashion Week Video]

palmer//harding are one example of a successful fashion brand and our panel of experts think highly of their style, including Gabrielle Vary who loves “the idea of a twist on a classic”Allium B who state the dreamy duo “have a great directional twist on a what can be perceived as a conventional classic garment”, Stephen Kelly who thinkspalmer//harding’s simple yet clever concept “… is a great nucleus for a brand”, and Karen Graves who loves “the innovative treatment” and states that “it’s a great makeover of a tired and type cast garment into something new, exciting and ultimately wearable.”

So if you want to show off your creations on a catwalk or as part of exhibition, what better place to start than June’s Brighton Fashion Week? Details can be found here: www.brightonfashionweek.com and look out for more on We Love Brighton nearer the time!

Image 1: Fashion by Gabrielle Vary
Image 2:  Stylist Stephen Kelly from blog.nigelclare.com
Image 3: Fashion by Allium B