#FE365 Paul Allender

POSTED 21.08.2014

In 1997, I went to see Pleasure at a theatre in London. I lived there at the time and went to see them because they were based in my hometown, Sheffield, and because the short blurb about the show in Time Out sounded interesting.

I was totally blown away! I had never seen theatre like this. I was so excited and inspired. Highlights were Richard Lowdon’s weird and dangerous D.J. playing records at a sluggishly slow speed, Robin Arthur’s naked body with a dumb horses’ head drinking vodka (?), Cathy Naden’s sexually provocative statements on a blackboard and Terry O’Connor’s hesitant and stumbling monologue in front of a stage curtain. A gun was involved. And the line I remember from the show likened capitalism to a tangle of wire.

I was hooked and for the next 10-15 years saw everything that they did, both in London and then later in Coventry, at Warwick Arts Centre. I loved everything. A great highlight was Speak Bitterness which I think is probably the best show the company has ever done.

In 2003, I was lucky to get the opportunity to perform with the company in The Voices at Sheffield’s Lyceum Theatre, for 2 nights. I was on the stage with Richard, Cathy, Terry, Robin and Claire! Tim Etchells directed me! It was a dream come true. And the experience led me to think about, and then do, performance and direction. I moved to Coventry at the end of that year and started a performance group and also ran weekly open performance sessions. Over the next 5 years I directed and performed a lot, in Coventry, Sheffield and Oxford.

In 2009 I moved back to Sheffield and began my own performance group Other Things. Ironically, the period since then has been one where I have seen the company’s shows less than ever. They perform less in Sheffield than elsewhere. In recent times, there have been opportunities to critically analyse their work a little and I have enjoyed this.

I guess though, for me, they will always be the company that broke huge barriers. The one that I watched in awe back in 1997. Indeed, it has been a pleasure.

Paul Allender