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Performance artist Greg Wohead: ‘I’d make myself do a solo show – you book it, then you do it’

Greg Wohead. Photo: Paul Blakemore Greg Wohead. Photo: Paul Blakemore

With his previous work including a show about Elvis Presley and an exploration of serial killer Ted Bundy, Greg Wohead tells Giverny Masso about his latest project, which is based on a conversation with an Amish couple that took place 10 years ago…

How did you get into theatre?

I moved from Texas to London to do an MA in acting at East 15. That was a more traditional style of acting than what I do now. I started to watch more contemporary work presented at events such as Forest Fringe and became a huge fan. My first solo show was at the Yard in London in 2011, following an open call for new ideas. I’d never done anything on my own before, but I started off doing straightforward autobiographical work and then transitioned.

What are your career highlights?

The Ted Bundy Project, about the serial killer and morbid curiosity, was the first show I did that was trying to explore something through form, and that was one of my highlights. Also another solo show called Comeback Special, re-enacted Elvis Presley’s 1968 comeback special – it explored the concepts of comebacks and re-enactment.

Comeback Special review at Shoreditch Town Hall, London – ‘uncanny’

Tell me about your latest project?

Call It a Day comes from a conversation in 2009 between me and my partner at the time and an Amish couple from rural Illinois. I have some family members who live near an Amish community, and the relatives had organised for us to meet the couple, who were their friends. We had a conversation asking about each others’ lives. It was quite mundane and polite – it wasn’t delving into huge issues. This happened 10 years ago and it wasn’t recorded, but it’s more about the idea of the conversation with my partner and me, who were based in London, working in the arts, living this creative, liberal, progressive life. This couple were not much older than us, but they had seven kids and strong faith. It makes me think about the current political climate.

What is your advice for creating solo work?

For me, it was about finding confidence in my own capabilities. It was also about putting myself in a position where I had to step out and perform the work. No matter how much I doubted myself, I’d make myself do something. You book it, and then you do it.

What have you got coming up?

Yes: Celebration, Florida, which involves two unrehearsed performers being guided through the show through headphones, which is continuing to tour. A lot of future stuff I have coming up involves collaborations with other artists. Also, there are two versions of Call It a Day: the theatre version and also a durational version for gallery spaces that takes place over a day. We re-imagine the conversation and play it on a loop from sunrise to sunset. We did one in Cardiff that was 14 hours and another one that was 11 hours. We incorporate meals into the performance, and go to the bathroom when we need to. The audience come and go. Hopefully, we will have more of those durational performances.

CV:  Greg Wohead

Training: BA in theatre, Austin College, Texas (2002-05); MA in acting, East 15 (2005-06)
First professional role: Ocean of Fear, Discovery Channel (2007)
Agent: None

Call It a Day runs at South Street in Reading on January 24, London’s Yard Theatre from January 29 to February 2 and the House in Plymouth on January 5

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