Interview: Eddie Ladd Q&A

Tuesday 6 April 2010

Eddie Ladd Eddie Ladd’s Ras Goffa Bobby Sands/The Bobby Sands Memorial Race, which was a must see of the recent British Dance Edition in Birmingham opens the new Spring Loaded season at The Place on 10 April.

The solo piece is set on a twelve by six foot running machine and is inspired by the final years of Bobby Sands, who died on hunger strike in Belfast’s infamous H Blocks in 1981. He was a keen runner – and an article he wrote about running was one of the starting points for Eddie’s remarkable piece…

What was your starting point for Ras Goffa Bobby Sands/The Bobby Sands Memorial Race – running, or Bobby Sands?
One lead to the other, both ways. George Sheehan, a running philosopher, once said, “Trust no thought arrived at sitting down”. I was on my feet, training for an “artistic” 18 mile run and remembered that Bobby Sands was a runner. I’d seen his name on a website for runners and couldn’t put the name and the activity together. I ran on, remembered some more, thought some more, read some more and every time I trained after that the idea came back and ran itself.

Is there a Bobby Sands Memorial Race – or is it your title? **Yes there is. The last news of it was in 2007 and it was run in Cambridge, Massachusetts in the US. The full title is the Bobby Sands Memorial 2.6 miler. The winner ran it in about 17 minutes.

Eddie Ladd Does running have political connotations for you? **I’ve tried to fix political connotations to it but I’m not sure they fit! Running works in the piece and the theatre space because it collapses time and refers to other experiences and places. Nearly avoided the word “metaphor” there!

You’ve worked with sound artist Nick Rothwell on this piece – can you talk about how that partnership works – and what the sound contributes…. **One of the ideas was to commission music from the Welsh composer Guto Puw. As I’d talked of using sensors he suggested that he should work with someone who knew something about the subject! Eventually we were directed towards Nick. He collaborated with our technical manager Giles Parbery, on making a responsive sound environment system. All the sensors are set at foot level and I trigger them as I run or dance. Guto produced an electro-acoustic score from field recordings and these are divided into minute-long sections in the main. Nick set these in the environment and used some of Guto’s themes for his own processing. He also added his own sections made from the field recordings that Guto used. The music creates the atmosphere of the piece and I sometimes think it influences how you actually see what’s going on. I rehearsed without music for the first (well, the only) month. Once the music was set, the choreography took on a different shape.

How did you first get in to dance? **I started late (at the age dancers retire!) though I’d really wanted to do ballet as an eight-year-old. I was in school a long time ago and at the time dance wasn’t on the curriculum. There was plenty of culture in the area but it didn’t centre around movement. I also had a bad chest and was in and out of hospital a bit. So it was college courses and being taught and trained by the almost legendary Welsh experimental theatre company Brith Gof that introduced me to movement and I was delighted to find I could run about. Brith Gof wasn’t a dance company but it made me interested in dance. I’d go to dance performances and wonder why I was there as I didn’t understand anything, then go to some more.

Where did you train/study in dance/movement? **I trained in Aberystwyth University although I was a walking and talking actor for a while (that’s not nice to actors is it!) We had a good deal of physical theatre as well, studying Grotowski and others in some classes, and we were taught at other times by Brith Gof. They had a big influence, and I worked with them for ten years from 1990, which was a university in itself.

How does your Welshness shape your work? **It’s become the subject of my work. It wasn’t always but my awareness grew from the mid nineties on. I’ve thought some horrendous things about my own culture and doing the work both exposes this and looks at what can be done. So it’s the subject and directs the form too.

You perform your own work – do you ever choreograph movement for other artists? Will you do so in the future? **I’ve choreographed for Sarah Williams from Montreal, and the piece was called Patty, Tania, Paige. It was a text and movement piece on the newspaper heiress Patty Hearst and Sarah did a very good job! Doubt if I’ll choreograph for anybody else as I don’t think my, er, gifts, lie in that direction. Think I’ll concentrate on being a really old dancer. Mike Pearson of Brith Gof, who’s been performing since the early seventies, said that he’ll pack it in the day he hears someone in the audience say, “Aw, bless.”

Who/what have/has influenced your development as an artist? **It’s a long list and includes my family and community, the totality of Welsh history and its present culture and people, and Al Pacino

You had a NESTA award recently – what did you do with it? Did it help you develop in new ways? **The plan was to make work for the web and three pieces were the result. As a collection they’re called stafell A+B+C, and each piece is staged on the same three-room set (”‘stafell” means “room” in Welsh). There are several narratives in each and perhaps the most successful is stafellB – it’s still live on the interweb and now runs without the people who made it.

What comes next after you’ve toured this work/performed it at The Place next month? **There’s another date in May for *Ras goffa* and I’m chasing some more. There’s a site-specific piece in west Wales in July, so the prep starts in the last week of March. The year’s filling up now which is good as showbiz was looking a bit quiet a while ago.

If you weren’t making dance works, what would your life’s work be? **I’d be a farmer or an agricultural contractor or an astronaut or a rally driver.

See Eddie Ladd in Ras Goffa Bobby Sands/The Bobby Sands Memorial Race at The Place, Sat 10 April 2010 **“”:Ras%20Goffa%20Bobby%20Sands%20/%20The%20Bobby%20Sands%20Memorial%20Race

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