Guided by swirling projections and a banging electronic soundtrack, the audience travel through new worlds and dimensions to experience catharsis, transformation, and a serious attack of the giggles. Dress to dance. Expect to sweat.
If we are talking rave - what era are you looking at? It sounds as if you are going for the early stages, the idealism: what attracts you to the environment it creates?
As far as I'm aware, people have been raving since the dawn of time. It's a big part of how we learnt to connect to and communicate with each other; it was something that unified a family and a tribe, ecstatic dance and drumming round a campfire – something that's been reinvented, rediscovered, reproduced with every generation. That's all we're doing here!
What about this word 'queer'? Can you tell me a little about what it means to you? I have a feeling it has been co-opted lately...
I consider myself an artist who's on the eccentric edge of the spectrum – and the queer community is one that values that kind of expression. It defines itself by resisting hegemony and conformity, but at heart has a creative culture and kind of hedonism that's mainly about finding and connecting to people.
'Queers' have been the vanguard at the cutting edge of art, fashion, design, music, dance, and literature throughout the ages. The pioneers of the 'Alternative scene' have become the norm with each passing generation.
'It's time to bring this to a mainstream audience'. Why? It's not like the mainstream did anything other than try to get it banned...
I come from a culture of festivals, communities, celebration and participation that used to be the norm for the majority of regular people. In my generation, I've seen folk traditions and a sense of community disappear behind an entertainment industry where 'the mainstream' is just the culture that can afford big PR budgets! Bringing this to a mainstream audience means they don't need to go to a dingy, underground warehouse or spend four days tripping in a field to find the magic and transformative ecstasy on offer there.
Does the rave side of things offer any particular approaches in terms of dramaturgy?
Absolutely. The devices of bacchanalian rite and choral theatre inherent in raving are probably the oldest forms of dramaturgy there are. The act of moving and playing in unison rhythms is a powerful thing. That kind of ancient group storytelling is something we still do – we just have speakers and house DJs instead of a shaman on a drum, projections instead of shadow puppets.
Is catharsis part of dance culture?
We know that our own brains fire motor neurones when we see someone move or dance – our bodies respond on a subconscious level so witnessing dance has the potential to move us in a visceral, direct way. Getting an audience on their feet and dancing themselves moves them physically as well as psychologically, releasing tension and creating empathy on as many levels as possible.
Would you point to other theatrical works that The Faun relates to: people who have inspired, shows that you have loved?
My background is in musical theatre, but I mash together as many influences as I can find. Rocky Horror, Hair, Artful Badger, Maria Abromovic, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, The Passion of Lady Vendredi... Punchdrunk or dance company DV8. Maybe every show ever???
My impression is that you have a strong 'Dionysian' vibe in the work: can this be contained within the Apollonian format of contemporary theatre?
I fucking hope so! I needed an Apollo in the show to keep the reins on me: we flew him in from 3000 miles away to make sure I show up to rehearsals on time after late night 'R&D'. But yes, I think that clash of passions, of community and love and losing yourself within a relatively sterile setting of a blackbox theatre – that's what makes it such a fascinating and exciting venture.
Andy Black trained at GSA Conservatoire, moving on to act in feature films and perform in Billy Elliot: The Musical in the West End before creating The Faun and performing at festivals across the UK, including Glastonbury, Secret Garden Party, Shambala and Morning Gloryville. He developed The Faun under the direction and mentorship of internationally renowned choreographer and dance teacher Molly Molloy.
Black is passionate about connecting these two worlds – the joyful energy of the rave scene, and the focus and narrative power of theatre – to create a transformative experience that cuts across traditional audience lines.
“I’m fascinated by the history of ecstatic music: tribal dance, spirituals,jazz, musical theatre, disco, right through to house music. Queer culture has often been at thecutting edge of these developments, particularly through the club scene – that hotbed of sweating bodies and hedonistic freedom provides a breeding ground for inspiring collaborations. Ecstatic music and culture has always been about the body/mind connection and celebrating through dance. It’s time to bring this to a mainstream audience.”
The production features original disco compositions by Richard Gallagher and a banging house soundtrack mixed exclusively for the show by DJ Mojo Filter (Ben Zaven Crane), who has worked with Fatboy Slim and BBC Radio 1’s Rob Da Bank, among many others.
Follow the Faun was originally produced as part of the Artful Badger’s Wild Worlds: Darksides, winning the “Spirit of the Festival Award” at The Vaults Festival 2015. The Faun has been consistently supported by his ever-growing ‘love tribe’ through crowdfunding and social media, garnering a strong following, selling out every show and amassing an army of supporters ready to join him in the dance as he showcases his work in the West End. After London, Black has his sights set on New York and San Francisco, as centres of progressive culture and cutting edge theatre.