Calum Dwyer (Community Engagement and Employability Graduate Trainee) interviews Manchester Met graduates Ryan O’Shea and Katt Perry, who will be performing in Concerto next month.
This season we are extremely excited to have Concerto by Michael Pinchbeck on Thursday 23rd of February. The show tells the story of the Infamous pianist Paul Wittgenstein who commissioned Ravel to write a concerto after he lost his right arm during the First World War. At the same moment, the assassin that triggered that conflict, Gavrilo Princip, was kept in shackles in prison where his right arm withered away, tied up with piano wire.
This show features the international Pianist Nicholas McCarthy alongside MMU Contemporary Theatre and Performance Graduates Ryan O’Shea and Katt Perry. We were lucky enough to have an interview with the MMU graduates and speak about the upcoming show.
(Note: Some answers have been edited for clarity.)
Tell us about Concerto, why does the project appeal to you as Artists?
Ryan: It’s basically a biography of a piece of music. We explore all the history and narratives that have happened in order for this piece of music to be commissioned and then written. It digs up a lot of history that happened a hundred years ago, but it has parallels to today as well.
I think it appeals to me as an artist because, well number one; it was making something, and I needed something to do. In a more artistic way the project appeals to me because it is exploring something, it’s investigating something, and questioning why we get so caught up in music. It also questions what goes on behind the music, what is needed to build a piece of classical music and I find that quite enlightening.
Katt: It appeals to me because I like the idea of making theatre that’s about something, that’s real, and about someone. This piece explores three different people and their relationship to each other, and how war kind of had a domino effect on each of their stories. The show is also interesting because it’s not just text. There’s a lot of other things we use. There’s a lot of movement, we play characters but we also play ourselves and there’s a lot of audience interaction.
Ryan: It’s also part concert.
Did you research the true story….
Katt: A lot.
Ryan: Well obviously to recreate factual situations a lot of research is necessary, so we looked at their relationship. Michael has been researching this project for years and years. A few years ago, he went to Paris to see Ravel’s grave and where Ravel lived. On his journey he made another show called Bolero and this is kind of a sister project. He has been researching all of these things for a long time, and has given us all these things to play with. There is a lot of text that he unearthed like these letters that Wittgenstein and Ravel sent to each other that are quite heated, so it is easy to immerse yourself in these situations because the dialogue has already been written for us, we’ve just edited and tweaked it. In terms of immersing us in those parts of the history, it has been quite simple, but the other parts, like the assassination of Franz Ferdinand by Gavrilo Princip has been quite well historically documented, and so we’ve tried quite hard to recreate that with historical accuracy, but not a lot is known about how Princip behaved in prison. There are Psychiatrist reports that we use in the show but with how his arm withers away, we have used our imagination and our poetic licence. It is a real mixture of research and imagination.
Katt: It’s really interesting to have Michael in the piece. Where he sits in the piece is in the seat of the 1st Violinist so he can watch what we’re doing. Which is useful because obviously he is the main director, he has done the research; he knows what it’s like in the museum in Ravel’s house. So I think for him it is probably an important role to actually watch us and have us do it how he wants and how he has imagined these characters. He has done more research than we have, he has been to Paris and it is great to have him there.
What have you done since leaving MMU?
Katt: So alongside this role working with Michael Pinchbeck, I’ve been preparing to start a PGCE in September, working towards becoming a performing arts teacher at College. So I’ve been getting experience working within a College environment to prepare for that. I’ve also had a little bit of a holiday, it’s been nice to have a break.
Having done Contemporary Theatre and Performance has been so helpful with that because I’ve been able to do some lessons teaching contemporary and innovative theatre. I’ve been working with 2nd years, teaching them all the contemporary theatre things I learned that they currently don’t know.
Ryan: I took my solo piece Sync to Emergency festival in Manchester, and have been developing it a little further with the hope of taking it somewhere else. I’ve applied to show it at a few places, so we’ll see where that goes. I’ve also been doing some technical work with Reckless Sleepers who I’ve been travelling up and down the country with, which has been an amazing opportunity. I’m also going to be doing some tech and production with for a festival in Bristol called ‘In Between Time’ in a few weeks, which is a really huge festival so I’m very excited for that. Lastly I have another small art project that I’ve started up, but that’s in the really early stages.
Everything I’m doing and have done has its roots in my time studying Contemporary Theatre and Performance. If we hadn’t worked with Michael in our third year artist project, he wouldn’t have gifted Katt and I this amazing opportunity. If I hadn’t volunteered to do tech work for Axis I would never have met Mole and Reckless Sleepers, so two of my jobs came directly from my time at university. The course itself is exactly geared towards what I want to do, and without it I wouldn’t have had the courage to work on making this my career, so I’ve registered as self-employed, I’m developing work and so far it’s working, more or less. We’ll see how it goes in a few years’ time.
If you could give a piece of advice to a 1st year just starting out here, what would it be?
Katt: I would say to appreciate every opportunity within the university. Volunteer, we volunteered to work at Axis both Front of House and technical work. It’s so important to appreciate what is going on around you, and paying attention to the visitors coming in because they can have a huge impact. If Michael had come in and we weren’t bothered or we didn’t try and we were late all the time then we wouldn’t be in this position. It’s about being respectful of people who are giving you a chance, enjoying yourself but also putting the time aside to work on your skills. Use the opportunity to develop yourself and bump up your CV at the same time.
Ryan: I think to get the best experience from studying CTP it’s so important to experience life. I think the course works best if you go out and give yourself to everything, then bring that back in to the rehearsal room. You have to work as hard as you play, but it is about giving yourself fully to both. Run with it.
Also though, you have to find your own way. There’s no one route to succeeding. Katt and I had different experiences to each other but we both got a first and we’re both working towards what we want to do. Find what works for you.
What is next for you?
Katt: I am studying part time to become a college teacher, so in two years’ time I’ll be qualified. While I’m doing that, I’m going to have a normal job alongside touring this show. I personally am not going to do a solo show, because it’s not for me, but if there are any opportunities that come up I’ll take them. I’ve had a message about possibly covering for someone in a few shows later in the year, so that could become something. Other than that, I’m just happy to go with the flow.
Ryan: More of this. More of this please. Being in shows, projects and making stuff. Getting to tour it across the country, going to other countries, applying for things and seeing what happens. I’ve also applied for a few producing roles, so I think that’s an area I’d like to be involved in more. More dramaturgy and producing roles as well as the performing roles.
Concerto will be appearing at Axis Arts Centre on Thursday 23 February.
You can read more about it axisartscentre.org.uk or at Michaelpinchbeck.co.uk
Tickets can be booked in person at the Box Office (open Monday-Friday 9am-4pm and an hour before each performance.)
They can also be booked by calling 0843 208 0500 (50p booking fee applies)
Or online at axisartscentre.org.uk/booktickets (50p booking fee)
Lastly, if you wish to reserve a ticket, you may email firstname.lastname@example.org. (Reserved tickets must be collected 15 minutes before the performance or may be resold. No booking fees.)