Olivia Zerphy and Paul Lofferon are part of Voloz Collective, who bring their new show, The Man Who Thought He Knew Too Much to Edinburgh Fringe this August.
“We all met at L’École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq in Paris, which is a school that really encourages and provides a lot of tools for collaborative work,” says Olivia, “we definitely just had an affinity for each other’s creative worlds, and then we decided to continue working together after graduating”.
The company they formed was Voloz Collective and the way they put their shows together differs to how other theatre companies might work, “we don’t delineate between writer, director, actor, producer roles,” explains Olivia, “the four of us really collaborate on everything.”
Paul points out that doesn’t mean all four members have the same ideas, “it’s good that we are very different in many ways, for example, Emily likes comedy, and Olivia and I prefer drama, but we are all in the same place together that we love film, and we want to show movies in theatre.”
Indeed, the unique selling point of The Man Who Thought He Knew Too Much, is that it recreates cinema live on stage, Olivia says, “I asked myself, ‘why are people so drawn to movies and television as an art form?’ we have all these streaming platforms, yet it’s quite hard to motivate people to go to the theatre.”
It’s partly ease and accessibility, Olivia admits, but says it’s also about the “visual dynamism that we can have in TV and in movies, in the sense that you have a shot, and you can change it in a second. You’re not limited by geography, and physics, and biology in the way that you are by a human body on a stage.”
“We wanted to recreate that on stage, that is what inspired us to create this style of physical theatre, it’s really a blending of physical theatre and object theatre, that allows us to transition in a split second. So, Roger can see a plane and then like that, he’s in the plane, and that’s because we construct the image around him with our bodies, it’s all visual cues that can happen in a split second.”
Roger is the main character in The Man Who Thought He Knew Too Much, “he lives in 1960s, New York, and he’s a man that really follows a routine, he has quite a regulated day, it’s a trope that we see a lot in cinema,” explains Paul, who plays Roger.
“One day a series of seemingly unconnected events save him from an explosion that blows up his office building and kills his friends and colleagues, and this just completely causes a change. It’s like the awakening of the hero, another cinematic trope from film noir that we’re taking. He chases who he believes are his would-be assassins across the world. He goes to Paris, to London, to a Siberian space station, into outer space, into the American West, trying to figure out who did it and why.”
Paul has fallen in love with the character of Roger, I like the fact that the story changes him, at the end, he’s not the same man he was at the beginning of this show, and that’s what drives me to work on this character, because at the beginning, he’s just a normal guy, maybe even a bit cocky, but by the end he’s completely different because he’s realised he’s not actually in control of his life.”
Bringing this cinematic style to theatre is no easy task, “It’s exhausting,” laughs Olivia, “in the same way that in cinema, you can have thirty frames in a minute, we have the same, we can have thirty images in one minute. So, the story is moving, moving, moving. He sees the plane, he’s on the plane, he’s in Paris. He sees the cafe, he’s in the café and so on.”
Paul adds, “in a way, it feels like a new generation of theatre style, because now we have Instagram and Tik Tok, and everything is faster and faster. Our style is like this, but actually we’re trying to do both, we’re very excited by this idea of fast-paced, virtuosic, dynamic images, but at the same time, the reason that we work in theatre and not in film, and we’re not Tik Tok creators, is because we want people to be in a space with us for an hour and not have any distractions.”
“So we’ve created a tension for ourselves, we’re asking people to slow down and sit with us for an hour, and then we give them a fast-paced adventure, but that’s what’s so exciting about this show, it will give people something they haven’t seen before and we’re really excited to share it with them.”
Olivia thinks that all the hard work they have poured into this show will be worth it, “to make the show takes a lot of time, because we’re making the story, we’re writing it, but we’re also sculpting all these images second by second by second. There’s no moment that’s unaccounted for where you don’t know exactly where your hand has to be, or what kind of material you have to have in your body or where you have to look. We’re very precise about that.”
The show was supposed to debut in Edinburgh in 2020, but when that couldn’t happen , the company toured and refined the show, “during COVID, we were really lucky to have mentorship from Les Enfants Terribles and Greenwich Theatre,” says Olivia, “because we had won the LET Greenwich Theatre Award back in 2020.”
Ultimately though, the company believe this show is perfect for Edinburgh Fringe, “since it’s so visual, it really is quite accessible to people who don’t have English as a first language,” says Olivia, “our primary language of storytelling is visual rather than textual, so we’re really excited about sharing it with the people from all over the world who come to Edinburgh Fringe.”
The Man Who Thought He Knew Too Much is at Pleasance Dome Wednesday 3rd – Monday 29th August 2022 (not 17th) at 13:10