Friday, March 6, 2015

FRIGID New York Interview - Matt Panesh of "300 to 1"

By Byrne Harrison

Show: 300 to 1
Photo credit: Susie Cavill

As Monkey Poet, Matt Panesh is a regular on the fringe circuit, writing and performing solo theatre plays (Welcome to Afghanistan, Murder Mystery, LOVEhurtsACTUALLY and 300 to 1) and stand up poetry (Monkey poet, Welcome to the UK, Shit-flinging!) and has won 8 awards including an Editors' Award at the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe. Mixing solo-theatre with poetry he presents double-bill shows which regularly tour the UK and North America. He's published two collections and a retrospective of his work “Tribe: Collective Monkey 2007-14” is to be published this year with Burning Eye Books.

He has directed several shows including Around the World in 8 Mistakes written and performed by Sophia Walker (BBC Slam Champion 2013) which won the Best UK Spoken Word show (Sabateur Awards).

He is currently Artistic Director of Spoken Word for PBH FreeFringe at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. 

Tell me a little about your show. 

A schoolboy re-enacts the blood & biceps epic film “300” to the ghosts of Wilfred Owen & Siegfried Sassoon, homosexual First World War poets. Audiences have backed me up by agreeing it's way funnier than it sounds, honest!  

What inspired you to create it?

First off, I got mistaken for Gerard Butler at the Edinburgh Fringe...seriously, and no, I couldn't believe it either. I've been wanting to look at how we treat veterans, and the UK and the US are very similar in the fact that we treat them like shit, if you die, you get all these services and stuff, but if you survive, you get cast aside and ignored. More veterans of the our Falklands War have committed suicide than died on the battlefield. 20% of all serving men and women will develop mental health problems. Up to 30% of the homeless in the UK are ex-servicemen and women.  The Centenary of WW1 was coming up, and I saw that as an opportunity to make this point, and I can't stress this enough, it is a comedy, it is funny, I want to entertain not beat the audience around the head with a big moral stick. Finally, I wanted to look both at the homoerotic undercurrent in action films and how we sell war and violence to kids. 

Who else is helping you bring the show to FRIGID?

On my lonesome buddy! But you're never on your own at a fringe! Dandy Darkly is here from Edinburgh Fringe, Artem Yatsunov I met last year is a lovely guy, and I'm looking forward to both their shows, so there's beers, laughs, plenty of entertainment, even professional development, and wonderful know, a fringe!

Who would be your dream audience for this show?

Any one over the age of 14. Really. I've performed for veterans, I've performed for comedy fans, I've performed for fans of the war poetry of Wilfred Owen, fans of the film 300, this is the most diversely crowd pleasing show I've ever done (and here I have to thank the Director, Gareth Armstrong, as the fact this is the best show I've done had an awful lot to do with his amazing input, and Andy McQuade, the dramaturg, who over the years we've worked together has been a constant source of inspiration and education.)

As a theatre artist, who are your biggest influences?

Dario Fo, Brecht and Stephen Berkoff.

What shows are you planning to see at FRIGID?

AS MANY AS I CAN! Last year I think I saw 29. I know I missed a couple because they were starting after I'd left, and a couple clashed, aside from that I got everything else in.  The thing with Fringe is that it's time to gorge yourself. None of this, “well I think that looks like I'll enjoy I'll agree with everything the artist it'll pamper me into a coma,”. You want the Theatre to rock your world, slap your sensibilities, shit in your bath. And that's what fringe is for. In my opinion of course.

What is next for you in 2015?

A 3-week London run of the show followed by a 2 month UK tour. Then I start work on my two new solo projects for Edinburgh, and directing 3 shows for Edinburgh. I pretty much don't have a day off till September.

Lightning round

Favorite theatre professional? Gerard Logan (actor Rape of Lucrece, the best Shakespeare I've seen...ever) 

Current show you would love to be involved with? This one. Wouldn't change a thing at the mo.

Your dream show to be involved with? Fo's Accidental Death of an Anarchist.

Who would you most like to have a chance to work with? Dario Fo

Your best theatre experience? See above, Rape of Lucrece.

Your worst theatre experience? Seeing a show that was soooooooo pisspoor I couldn't even commend the lighting. Names are irrelevant. If you're doing Theatre right, everyone should have this experience. And more than once!

Person you’d most like to thank for getting you where you are today? Mark Makin of makin projects. He mentored me for two years in tour booking and artistic sustainability (...getting cash from your art).

If you'd like to find out more about "300 to 1," visit the FRIGID New York website.

No comments: