Director and founder of Optik.
Below is an outline of the topics covered in our interview with Barry Edwards in 2013, recorded to assist with the construction of the Optik company webpage.
Barry’s Unfinished Histories interview is now deposited with the British Library Sound Archive, V&A Theatre Collections and Sheffield University. Please see Viewing Interviews for further details.
Interviewer: Xi-mali Kadeena
Interview content includes: Optik formed in 1980. Barry (BE) working at Crewe and Alsager College. How company came together – approached a group of graduate students working as Performance Artists, Paul Bown, Adrian Rawlins and Heather Ackroyd. Clive Bell brought in to do music. BE’s partner Marjie was a singer, also joined. BE had two previous companies – Apple Theatre and Ritual. This was a new beginning into a visual style – props, set, objects. Used company name as springboard into 1st production, One Spectacle. Opened at a conference BE set up at the college, ‘Physical and Visual Theatre Conference’. Second Spectacle – description of show and props used. The kind of music they wrote and used – ballads with classical pieces (often Mahler). Gives examples of staged scenes. Liked playing with illusion, evoking period, reflective, melancholic.
BE liked to move from one contrasting scene to another either by slow fade or through absolute cuts. Sculptress Cornelia Parker joined for 3rd and 4th shows. Description of one of her sets. Short Sighted. This was a little more literary. Inspired by Beaucharmais’ Marriage of Figaro. Description of show. About funding – hand to mouth, dole (critical funding support), some ACE project funding, used college facilities for rehearsals, some income from performances. A Short Tour of Ancient Sites, starting points: Memories of the Camel Corps in Africa and a woman who travelled down the Nile in Victorian times alone, Suez 1953 and Look Back in Anger. Description of piece. Optik took a break after this. Reformed for Stranded, loosely based on Tempest. Bit about audiences – ranged from university students (colleges & unis) to local, general mixed audiences (Art Centres). Reflections on work – very interesting as he is still drawn to that kind of work. Uses it in his teaching but can’t see such work being turned into public shows nowadays (not sure why). Optik critic quote: ‘Not a spectacle, a way of mind’. Quirky and different. Influence of Black Country humour.