Ephemeral Ensemble co-founder Ramon Ayres tells Giverny Masso about the company’s first full-length work Offstage, which compassionately explores suicide and the mask we put up to hide our struggles…
What inspired Offstage?
We were interested about loneliness in general because we started to notice that many people on the planet feel very lonely, even when they live in densely populated cities. We thought that loneliness was too big a subject to tackle and that we need to be more specific, so we started to research it. We saw the statistic that suicide is the biggest killer of men aged 20 to 49 and decided to make a show about it because we thought it was so important, and that information is not being shared – it’s a taboo.
How did you make sure the subject was handled sensitively?
Offstage was created in collaboration with the charity Papyrus (Prevention of Young Suicide), LAS (Life After Suicide) and School of Oriental and African Studies social anthropology professor David Mosse, who lost his son to suicide. We interviewed many parents who had lost children to suicide, and other people who have been affected. We invited them to give feedback on the content, to check that it was respectful enough and to ensure we were not communicating details that could trigger someone. They collaborated really closely with us.
What is the play about?
It’s a performance within a performance: the show is about two performers who have known each other since they were kids. One of them is struggling with depression. Although they’re good friends, they don’t talk about feelings during the performance. The big message is: “Let’s talk about it.” Our vision is that suicidal feelings should not end in suicide. We need to break the stigma and talk through the taboo. Silence is killing people.
Tell me about Ephemeral Ensemble.
Co-founder Eyglo Belafonte and I met each other at the International School of Corporeal Mime, which used to be in London but has now moved to the US. We chose the name because one thing that stands out in theatre is the ephemeral moment of the performance: it’s never the same, and the audience is never the same. This is the first work we’ve done as a full-length performance. We’ve previously done a work in progress that involved interviewing London taxi drivers. The shows we do are physical theatre.
How did you get into theatre?
The school I studied at wasn’t the best and we had a lot of trouble. My physics teacher also did theatre and he wanted to open a theatre company in the school, as a social project. I went to the theatre and I loved it – I couldn’t stop it. Soon afterwards, my teacher had to leave, but he invited me and another person to keep it going.
Offstage runs at the Tristan Bates Theatre, London, from June 17-22. Ephemeral Ensemble is running a workshop on the corporeal mime technique for solo theatre at the Actors Centre on June 8 and 9. ephemeralensemble.com, actorscentre.co.uk/workshops