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The Creative Issue – News for Creatives | September 19, 2019

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Interview with Marcus Lilley - The Artist behind Something Perfectly Innocent

Ratu Lewis

Headshot of Marcus Lilley

This year the Anywhere Theatre Festival has included some fun and fascinating theatre that have been local and international. One of them included Something Perfectly Innocent which was an interactive drama that took place over social media. We talked to the man behind the production, Marcus Lilley, after the conclusion of the five day performance and got all the insights on the performance.

CD: So tell us about yourself – who you are, where you’re from, what you do.

MARCUS: My name is Marcus Lilley and I am based in the South West of England, UK.  I am a theatre maker creating durational and immersive pieces of theatre that integrate social and mobile technologies such as Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook to tell narratives.  I also run a business in social media consultancy.  The two overlap really nicely so I can explore technologies such as Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest in creative ways to explore the interesting ways in which to use them and communicate with people.

CD: You’ve just finished your production for the Anywhere Theatre Festival, Something Perfectly Innocent. How did you think it went?

MARCUS: It went really well thank you, it was a really interesting experience to be curating a performance in England for an Australian audience who are nine hours ahead! The audience participation was fantastic and overall it was wonderful to create a performance which people can be involved with which was I what I really wanted to achieve from the outset.

CD: So why the Anywhere Theatre Festival?

MARCUS: I received a tweet from Paul Osuch (@thepaulosuch)  on Twitter in January 2012 about the festival and the reason that it was so appealing was the ‘anywhere’ concept.  I thought this was an extremely exciting idea because it seemed nothing was off limits in terms of scope or ideas which to an artist is wonderful because you can truly let your imagination run wild!

CD: Did you enjoy being a part of the Festival?

MARCUS: I have throughly enjoyed being part of the Festival, it has been a great opportunity to get experience of being part of a truly international Festival and get to see how other artists work.

CD: Tell us a bit about Something Perfectly Innocent. The idea, the formation, the character/s…

MARCUS: Something Perfectly Innocent is a story about a man called Claude Nixon

Pinterest, Twitter, Maps & internet iPhone iconswho is in his early 20s who is moving to a new city somewhere in the world and tells the audience his experiences entirely from an Iphone.  He is a collector of vintage artefacts and vinyl records.  He has set up a Pinterest account where he is curating his collection of vinyl and other products. He tweets about his activities on an hourly basis from the train journey he is on to meals at a local steakhouse.  He is in effect a commentator on the environment he is in.  On the first night a woman disappears from a bar he is sat in and as the performance develops he becomes the police’s main suspect in the case and the beatings he receives from the police and the pressure of being a suspect forces him over the edge.    The performance consists of Claude Nixon’s Twitter page and his Pinterest page.

CD: Did you have set things you wanted to achieve and occur at certain times or did you just let it run its course?

MARCUS: Before the performance started I wrote a script for each of the five days including what times individual tweets went out and which photographs to upload.  However due to the nature of it being interactive you have to be prepared to improvise which is the most exciting part because you have no idea what people are going to respond with so it makes the performance even more enjoyable to produce!

CD: Were you worried that not many people would interact with the performance or maybe get a little confused about it?

MARCUS: Yes as a producer of a theatre performance you are always worried that people might be a little confused by what you are making but audiences are extremely knowledgable and they may get excited by something in the performance which you might think is not the most important thing in the show.   For me what was important that the audience could have time to see the performance in their own time and interact when or if they wanted to.

CD: Tell us a bit about your favourite/proudest moment in the performance.

MARCUS: My favourite moment in the performance was the ending because I really wanted to leave the audience wanting more from the character as it is unclear as to where he ends up, rather than having a specific ending.  Overall though my favourite thing about doing this performance was to give the audience something where they could truly be involved with all aspects of the performance,  having the opportunity to speak to the character and see his inner most thoughts.

CD: How did you originally envision Something Perfectly Innocent happening and how did that differ to what actually happened?

MARCUS: I originally wanted to the performance all to be done on a mobile device to reflect the fact that Claude was a) moving to a new city and b) always on the move.    I also wanted to use Pinterest and Audioboo as tools in the story Claude was telling so that there would be content for the audience to read.  In the end it involved more into a mainly Twitter based performance with links to his Pinterest account.

CD: What was your biggest fear about the performance?

MARCUS: My biggest fear about the performance was making something that was exciting and engaging on such a diverse platform as Twitter.   However this was more of a motivation to work harder to create a world that was three dimensional rather than just a stream of tweets from one individual to try and create a world that this character lived in.

CD: Would you do anything differently?

MARCUS: Making the city that Claude was visiting to be more interactive such as having a Twitter account for the ‘The Swinger Bar & Grill’ and website links to the newspaper articles Claude was reading such as ‘The City Mayor bribed to change policies’  for the audience to read themselves so that they can be fully immersed into this world that Claude is involved with.

CD: You said that the production was inspired by films Double Indemnity and Sweet Smell of Success. So I am guessing you are a big fan of Film Noir. Tell us a bit about your passion for this – what’s your favourite?

MARCUS: Film Noir to me is a fascinating genre of film making because of the very distinct look (black / white / shadows), the themes and narrative structure but also of the political / cultural backdrop of when these films were made in the 1940s and 1950s Hollywood.   My favourite film noir is Double Indemnity because it brings together all the great elements of the genre: the male protagonist, the glamourous femme fatale, the city landscape and a wonderfully simple narrative which exposes the confusion of the male protagonist.

CD: Who/what else inspire you?

MARCUS: Other films that are inspirational are: ‘The Artist’ (2011) ‘Good Night and Good Luck’ (2005) ‘The Dark Night’ (2008) ‘Batman Returns’ (2005) ‘Sin City’ (2005) ‘Shutter Island’ (2008) all because they create a very distinct world on screen whether it is through the visual look or the narrative and that is very engaging as a viewer because it is not just the characters you become involved with but the entire world.  Similarly the American television series ‘Mad Men’ is also very inspirational for very similar reasons because it is investigating the development of America in the late 1950’s and 1960’s which is a period I am very fond of anyway and with it produces some very interesting issues surrounding sexism, smoking and advertising which became topics which Claude talked about in his tweets.

Other inspirations come from photographers Arthur ‘Weegee’ Fellig and Gregory Crewdson for their portrayals of realism, the graphic scenes of violence that Arthur Fellig became famous for in the 1930s and 1940s and Gregory Crewdson’s cinematic quality images of American suburbia.

CD: We are a networking company for creatives. How important has industry networking been for you and your career?

MARCUS: Extremely important! Networking and talking to people involved in my line of work has lead me to be able to get work without necessarily spending vast amounts on marketing.

CD: Do you have any advice for networking in the industry?

MARCUS: Networking is not simply going to a networking event after a conference it is about being involved in your sector by engaging in debates online and meeting people in person over coffee or meal.  With tools such such as Twitter and LinkedIn you can become an ‘author’ on a subject by linking and sharing articles to which others can read.   People like talking to people about ideas  and possible projects so always be involved with conversations and talking to people whether it is online or in person, you never know who is looking at you!

CD: So what’s next for you?

MARCUS: I am working on two projects that are taking place in July 2012: The Marlborough International Jazz Festival and Contacting the World 2012 which is an International theatre exchange festival taking place in Manchester.

For my business I will be launching a brand new website in the coming weeks which is very exciting to help expand our global reach. Our website is: www.mmldigital.com (watch this space).

CD: For those who missed the five day performance is there any way that they can get their Something Perfectly Innocent fix?

MARCUS: Claude Nixon’s Twitter feed is online:

@claude_nixon

https://twitter.com/#!/claude_nixon where you can see how the performance developed.

CD: Finally here in Australia we also have a Lilley in the industry. Are you familiar with the comedian/actor/writer Chris Lilley and his work? What do you think?

MARCUS: I am very sorry I haven’t heard of Chris Lilley.

CD: Thank you so much for your time.

If you would like to talk to Marcus about anything in the project, you can do this via:

Twitter: @marcuslilley

LinkedIN: Marcus Lilley

Company Website: www.mmldigital.com

Artist blog: marcuslilley.tumblr.com

If you are interested in Marcus’s upcoming projects you can find them here:

Marlborough International Jazz Festival: www.marlboroughjazz.com

Contacting the World 2012: contactmcr.com/projects/festivals/contacting-the-world/ctw2012

Make sure you keep looking out for the other remaining productions of the Anywhere Theatre Festival. There’s still four days left!