A Brief History of Evil is a duet about lies and where they can lead us. Who hasn’t embroidered the truth, or pretended to be someone they’re not? When all the lies are stripped away, who is left? When we look in the mirror, who looks back? Which version is really us?
Created and performed by Ewan Downie (Winner:
Herald Archangel award, Jury Prize: Eurotopiques Festival) and Jonathan Peck, with directorial assistance from Al Seed (Winner: Fringe First and Herald Angel awards), A Brief History of Evil combines Company of Wolves’ electrifying movement style with the vulnerability, mockery, and satire of clown and buffon. The result is a performance that is dangerous, relentless, and very, very funny.
Simultaneously absurd, hilarious and terrifying, A Brief History of Evil fuses satirical spoken word with thrilling movement in a lyrical, physical and dynamic exploration of greed, dishonesty, and the darker depths of our desires. The show exposes the violence and conflict that can lie under the best of intentions and the best of friendships. It is a hybrid show, drawing on a huge range of theatrical disciplines - experimental, but accessible and immediate, with a compelling narrative and unforgettable characters.
It is a show for audiences who are curious, enjoy humour, and are ready to try something a little different, inspired by the action-filled entertainment of Manga, martial arts and comic books. A dark, wildly entertaining comedy with an edge of surrealism - ‘Waiting for Godot’ meets ‘The League of Gentlemen.’
What was the inspiration for this performance?
We wanted to work with each other, to create our own piece of theatre. We wanted to work without a director, which was new to both of us.
We wanted to make a show about the lies we tell each other and ourselves. We’d met many years ago, and we’d both had the experience of losing ourselves. We found that even though we’ve known each other a long time, our underlying fears and insecurities and the tendency to deceive was always there.
And we felt there was a show in there somewhere.
Is theatre still a good space for the public discussion of ideas?
Yes, because in theatre the presence of the audience affects how the performance unfolds. This means that urgent, human questions can be asked afresh in each performance.
Theatre is in real time, and as performers we can respond to our own success or failure, we can listen to the audiences responses, and let this shape the show.
So theatre is a dialogue.
Audience and performers share in an experience. A great piece of theatre can reverberate after we’ve seen it in a different way to other forms of art. Theatre is imperfection.
How did you become interested in making performance?
Ewan: I always loved the theatre growing up and my family went often to the Citzens Theatre. But it wasn’t until university I began to think about it as a career. I was lucky enough to do an exchange to Dartmouth College in the USA, where I studied non-fiction performance. The rigour and depth of the work totally changed how I thought about theatre, and inspired me to write and train as an actor, and eventually, to direct.
J: It started with an amazing drama teacher at school who inspired
me and simply taught us to explore our imaginations. I had so much fun, my confidence grew and performing soon became my main focus. I then decided to go to drama school, which was life changing and solidified lots of things for me. I have been performing and making theatre since then.
Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?
We talked a lot, improvised a lot, and slowly over time material began to emerge. As we’ve continued to perform and develop the show, the structure has become more solid. It’s a been a bit like writing a play in reverse.
It’s worth saying that we didn’t decide how we’d approach the material in advance. We just started and let ourselves get totally lost and confused before some small glimmers of light began to appear.
What do you hope that the audience will experience?
We hope they’ll fall down a twisting rabbit hole of thoughts along with us. And occasionally surface for air.
What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
We connect to the audience live, we don’t pretend they aren’t there.
We also allow the show to pose questions without providing answers:
We don’t have the answers.
We try to give the experience of getting lost in lies a physical form, so the audience can see and experience it.
Thurs 20 & Fri 21 October, 19:30 at Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh
> Sat 22 & Sun 23 Oct, 19:30 at Scottish Youth Theatre, Glasgow
> Thursday 27 October, 19:30 at Harbour Arts Centre, Irvine
> Sunday 30 October, 19:00 at Village Hall Lochgoilhead
> Friday 4 November, 19:30 at Wigtown County Buildings
> Saturday 5 November. 19:30 at Theatre Royal Dumfries