22 November 2019
We spoke to artist Paul Kindersley about his experience performing his play ‘Ship of Fools’ at Kettle’s Yard this October as part of our exhibition, ‘The Cambridge Show’. After the exhibition, a photoshoot was staged in the Kettle’s Yard House. Here’s what he had to say:
‘Ship of Fools’ is a performance based loosely on the allegorical painting by Hieronymus Bosch of the same title. The play looks at themes of personal autonomy, group dynamics, ecology and responsibility, whilst also being silly, exuberant and confusing. I wrote the play, made the costumes and backdrops and worked with a group of friends, family, actors and collaborators. Each element informed another: the costumes became characters, the backdrops became plot points, the monologues became drawings. Each performance had a different configuration of performers, most of whom had never read the script before, meaning each performance was a unique work, a spontaneous mix of rehearsal and performance.
It was an honour to present the work at Kettle’s Yard, after performing it with Skip Gallery in Selfridges and at a group show in The Arts Building, London. Kettle’s Yard has been part of my life since before I was born. I grew up just around the corner and my father was a friend of Jim Ede. Kettle’s Yard has always been a place for interacting with art – so a performance piece seemed natural, as a piece of interactive and living art. The painted backdrops contain imagery from a myriad of sources. They were inspired by family members and Hieronymus Bosch, but also contain a nod to Cambridge’s own artistic culture through a few figures from a print made by 20th-century Cambridge wood engraver, Gwen Raverat.
The House is a magical place. I can remember visiting as a child – either on a school trip or just popping in on my way to town. It’s full of fascinating museum objects yet remains welcoming and cosy like a home. Our merry troupe, though disruptive and loud, sat well amongst the artworks. I immediately saw connections with the intricate and complicated David Jones pencil drawings. I also thought of Jim Ede inviting students to visit in the early days, and the exciting and loud discussions that must have been sparked. Larger than life characters such as Gaudier-Brzeska and Christopher Wood can be seen at Kettle’s Yard and our intervention helped bring the craziness of living artists to the surface too!
I wanted to thank My Linh Le for doing the photos. She’s an incredible photographer and really managed to capture the essence of our shoot. I love the one of me mimicking the Brzeska dancer – its my favourite corner of the House. My other favourites include myself and Oliver Warren (as the Pancake Eater character) in front of the Wrestlers relief, another favourite artwork of mine. We take the two characters fighting, or perhaps lovemaking? And expand them into a physical tableau where ambiguous storylines emerge. I also love the image of us all around the small dining table as we have the look of a Dutch old master painting splashed with neon. I would like to thank all the amazing performers who participated in the Ship, especially Marina Scott, Oliver Warren, Henry Page, Neil Ogden and Mercedes Baptiste Halliday who were also in the House photo shoot.
I have just been up in Scotland shooting my third feature length film, The Burning Baby, which I am now in the process of editing. Like ‘Ship of Fools’ I worked with a cast of friends and actors. The filming was a series of performances, during which we were all living and working together. I am interested in alternative utopian living and this film explores this through fairytale and community. Its also a psychological horror film that explores non verbal communication and nature vs. nurture. Ideas and costumes and wigs and backdrops and shoes from ‘Ship of Fools’ all feature in the film, as all of my work can be seen as one continued project… watch this space… coming soon to a cinema near you!
All photographs were taken by My Linh Le.