Published: September 21, 2017
Jack Nurse enjoys fond memories of his studies at the Royal Conservatoire. A graduate of the Contemporary Performance Practice course, the 22-year-old has co-founded theatre company Wonder Fools along with fellow graduate, Robbie Gordon.
The pair enjoy tackling real-life social issues and their latest production addresses a topic which is regularly hitting the headlines in what is a multimedia-dominant world: pornography.
Tell me about Wonder Fools.
JN: Wonder Fools is a theatre company that creates contemporary new work based on a diverse range of current and historical real life stories. During our short history, we have sought unknown and forgotten stories lost in the evolving social landscape of modern Britain that we are able to reshape and make theatre from. From these stories we have taken theatre productions, performance installations and drama workshops to more than 2,000 people across Scotland. Wonder Fools is one of six Graduate Emerging Companies on attachment at the New Diorama Theatre, London 2017.
How did inspiration for The Coolidge Effect come about?
JN: After watching a TED Talk on Youtube (Gary Wilson’s The Great Porn Experiment), we learned about the theory of The Coolidge Effect, which says that it’s not the act of sex that is crucial to human arousal, but variety. The advent of the internet means that for people watching pornography there is an unlimited amount to watch. This makes pornography addiction a really important, pressing issue. We knew we had to combine our own experiences with this science and bring attention to this important topic on stage.
What is it particularly interests you about its subject matter?
JN: As young adults, Robbie and I have grown up with the creation of the internet and at the beginnings of the mass consumption of pornography that this new media has allowed. In the UK alone, 10 million porn videos are consumed every day. In this performance we really wanted to challenge (the taboos) in an enlightening way.
What is your starting point when it comes to devising a piece of theatre?
JN: We try to change our creative process with each new project and let each individual subject matter shape how we make our shows. For The Coolidge Effect, we knew we were dealing with a really complex subject matter and so we set about trying to speak to as many different people as we could to get a firm grasp on all angles. We spoke to porn producers who really advocated pornography and people who think that it should be banned. We spoke to porn performers. We spoke to porn consumers. We spoke to loads of scientists and theorists, including Gary Wilson. After this process we spent weeks at all our research and questioning what we wanted to say with the show. Then we started to develop narratives and find the form that best suited the topic.
How do you reflect upon your studies on the Contemporary Performance Practice degree at the Royal Conservatoire?
JN: We loved being students at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Without our time there, Wonder Fools wouldn’t exist. The emphasis on collaboration has really informed the way we have developed working as Wonder Fools. Also, the degree show that acts as the culmination of the CPP course allowed us three months of time to research and develop The Coolidge Effect. The fact that our RCS degree show is now our first properly staged production as a company is a testament to the space and support we were given as artists to develop at RCS.
Are there any particular pieces of work / performances that remain highlights from your studies?
JN: I loved Kidnapped, directed by Graham McLaren. It was such an ambitious piece of work by anyone’s standards, so for a drama school to be pushing that was inspiring. Burial at Thebes, directed by Gareth Nicholls, stands out as a great production.
How did your time at the Royal Conservatoire help lay the foundations for your career?
JN: My training in Contemporary Performance Practice was a great foundation in thinking about theatre in a different way. It was instrumental in allowing me to become confident as a director and theatre-maker and providing me a toolkit distinct from my peers with a traditional grounding in directing. The CPP programme is different to my own contemporary theatre sensibilities but it has given me a skillset that, when applied to my own practice, gives me a unique angle on the work I create. During my training, there was a firm emphasis on collaboration, which I have taken into my professional practice.
Who has been a major influence on your development?
JN: During my final year I was able to go on secondment to the Citizens Theatre, where I assisted Gareth Nicholls and Dominic Hill. Both have been instrumental in giving me the experience and support to develop as a young director. I have assisted Dominic on two further occasions and he has been generous in his support for both my own development and Wonder Fools. I have learned lots and he has been influential in how I have developed my director’s craft. Also, Andrew Panton – Artistic Director of Musical Theatre at RCS – was a real inspiration and influence to me when I worked as his assistant.
How are things shaping up over the coming weeks and months?
We can’t wait to take The Coolidge Effect to Scottish audiences. We have had successful performances earlier this year at Camden People’s Theatre and PULSE Festival at the New Wolsey Theatre, where it received a Special Commendation. We are really excited to be back in Scotland with the show. Following Coolidge, I am directing Lampedusa, by Anders Lustgarten in the Citz Studio. It’s being presented by the Citizens Theatre in association with Wonder Fools and it’s the first time both myself and the company will have worked professionally with an existing text. I can’t wait.
When is The Coolidge Effect taking to the stage?
The show makes its Scottish premiere at Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre from 20 – 22 September, moving to Glasgow’s Tron Theatre from 27 – 30 September, Stirling’s Macrobert Arts Centre on 20 October and London’s New Diorama on 15 November.
Would you like to go under the spotlight?
Contact Mark Good, Communications Officer (Alumni):
Phone: 0141 270 8367