INTERVIEW: Tim Carlsen on One Day Moko and more

One Day Moko
Tim Carlsen acts opposite a TV Screen in 'One Day Moko'

Remember this name [by James Wenley]

You might not know who Tim Carlsen is yet, but by the end of the year Auckland Theatregoers will certainly be able to put a face to the name.

One Day Moko
Tim Carlsen acts opposite a TV Screen in 'One Day Moko'

The second half of the year is a big one for the 2009 Toi Whakaari Acting graduate, as he not only brings his solo theatre creation ‘One Day Moko’ to the Basement on June 28th, but will be seen in roles in Silo Theatre’s ‘I Love You Bro’ and ‘Tartuffe’, and Auckland Theatre Company’s ‘End of the Golden Weather’. That’s a big achievement for someone not long out of Drama School.

Tim recognises that it “its either going to be feast or famine when it comes to this sort of work”.  Of this current feast he says “It’s great, I’m going to relish it all. It’s fantastic.” Up first is a personal labour of love for Tim, his solo show One Day Moko which follows the day in a life of a homeless person: “We follow him around Auckland city and see what he gets up to and who he meets along the way.”

It’s been a long journey to bring Moko to Auckland, having begun working on the play while still at Drama School. Tim’s first inspiration for the piece was in New York, where he worked with the Wooster Group, whose members and alumni include names like Steve Buscemi and Willem Defoe. Working with the Wooster Group “was a big part of finding the form of the show in terms of using technology, particularly film and video, and incorporating that into the show.”

“And then also while I was in New York I was aware that I’d be coming back to Drama School and having to make a 20minute solo, I was also hunting around for content as well and noticing in New York a lot of homelessness, and suddenly made me ask myself what it is to be homeless in New Zealand. When I returned back to Wellington I decided to learn more about homelessness, and started volunteering at a drop-in centre at Courtney place, and from there realised that some of the clients there had really, really rigid routines and I’d have never thought that – my impression of homelessness was that you were all over the show and had no place to be, and nothing to do – but I was completely wrong. That’s where my whole fascination came about with routines and habits, and also learning that in a generalised way that the routine of a homeless person isn’t all that different from myself, they still need to eat, sleep, find shelter – the raw human things that everyone needs – in that way I sort of connected to that community, as a way to understand that sort of lifestyle.”

Tim used these experiences to create a 20-minute solo show, which was directed by Sophie Roberts (who also directs the new version) and given a small season at Drama School. Tim continued his relationship with the Wooster Group, performing the show over Skype and developing certain sections of the show with them – “which was interesting when you’ve got bad Skype reception!”

After finishing Drama School, Tim moved up to Auckland and got in touch with the City Mission. “Again I was wanting to get an understanding of what homelessness was in Auckland, to see the differences, and if I could learn any more (which I did). I spent a year doing that, and at the start of the year I decided to make the sucker, and use what I made in my Drama School solo and build from that, to see where Moko could go.”

And with that sucker opening on not that far away now from performance, I asked Tim about the show and his busy year ahead.

What tips and insights did you get working with the Wooster Group and their processes in the work that they do?

I thing the big thing for me was time, they really take their time when making a show. The first day I was there they spent a full 6-7 hours on just a couple of minutes of the show they were working on at the time. It’s a luxury they have because they have support, the money to do that sort of thing, but it’s something I aspire to, in just taking my time when it comes to creating work. And being clear when I’m procrastinating versus taking my time as well.

I think the other thing as well is how specific they are when making rules for themselves when onstage. There work comes across sometimes as quite chaotic, but within the chaos are really well formed rules and really clear games the actors are playing. Why I enjoyed their work so much when I was over there was you could see the actors really playing games onstage, there was always something they were driving towards, which I found really attractive.

The Television plays a big part in the performance of One Day Moko. What’s it like to act opposite a television screen?

Just talking about Wooster using games… it’s very much like a game. Basically I make a DVD which starts at the top of the show, and there will be no fast-forwarding, no stopping, and no pausing of that video so I have to be very clear, for example, when a character pops up on the screen – my performance has to be in time with that cue. Within the video I’ve got sound cues and small things which give an idea of what’s happening, and the great thing is if I miss it and the video gets in front of me, that’s part of the game too in playing with the footage in that way.

The interesting thing, what it gives the work as well, is seeing a homeless man with a trolley which is full of technology. Something about having technology and homelessness to me is a great juxtaposition.

Why is this important story for you to tell?

I think it’s trying to raise awareness about ourselves and our lives. It’s a broad, broad statement, but being aware of our habits and routines…  and not just honing in on one particular community, but being aware of our universal habits and routines, and really to highlight that we’re not all that different when it comes to those things.

What is your take on homelessness after going through all the research and experiences you have had with it now?

I still really grapple with the question of choice, and how much choice one has over homelessness or not. It’s a very complex question, and something I still ponder a lot over. I think at this point in time the homeless world is very much of the part of the show but over time I’ve slowly drifted away a bit from that as I’ve been making new sections of the show, again I’ve been looking at how far I can stretch this idea of homelessness and I guess I’ve sort of started with this idea of routines and habits, and now I’m looking at fantasy and escape from those things. I’ve learned that I can discover a lot about myself by looking through a specific community and homelessness highlights habits and routines so extremely.

Let’s talk about some of your upcoming roles… you’ll next appear in ‘I Love You Bro’. I thought that looks like quite a remarkable play/story. Tell me about that one?

It’s based on a true story, it happened in 2007 in Manchester. It’s about a 14-year-old boy who incites his own murder online, so throughout the course of the show we learn that he creates all these different personas all to manipulate this other teenage boy who he meets online and to get certain things from him… to provoke him and incite him to kill him. Which is quite a remarkable story, and the fact that it’s a true story is even more amazing. So quite profound for a 14-year-old, a very intelligent lad.

What do you think the play says about the world today and how we experience it?

I think the thing with the show that gets me very curious is the responsibility that technology can give us, in that we can send a txt message or be chatting to someone online, and sometimes we can take bigger risks because there’s not so much responsibility for where that message can go, or we don’t actually see the person that it goes to, so we don’t feel attached to them in anyway. I think at the moment that’s what the show speaks to me, and perhaps that will resonate with other people.

It shares some similarities with Moko where you’re being directed by Sophie Roberts again, and you’re acting solo. How did you get to work with Sophie again?

The collaboration with Sophie started at Drama school, and it’s continued with One Day Moko. In terms of I Love You Bro I auditioned for that end of last year with Shane and Sophie and just so happened to get cast in the part. It’s great because I’m working with Sophie again, that was an organised collaboration in that sense.

How do you find working solo, is it something you really enjoy as an actor?

It can be lonely sometimes, not so much onstage but when you’re working by yourself a lot, and that moment when you’re in the green room by yourself, it’s nice to have a company to share some of that preshow atmosphere. I really do enjoy it. Like any show, but particularly solo shows I have to have a lot to work with, which doesn’t necessarily have to be visible, but I have to be very clear about who I am and where I am, because you have no-one else onstage with you, those are the things that will really support you, and won’t leave you floundering around stage by yourself.

Later on you’ll be appearing with larger companies in ‘Tartuffe’ and ‘End of the Golden Weather’? What are you looking forward to about these shows?

I’m really curious about the End of the Golden Weather to see how it will stand as an ensemble show, I’ve only seen it as a solo show, I’m excited to see that whole story come to life with a group of actors, and see how we’ll create the world and all those characters, as there is quite a few in that story, I find that really exciting.

With Tartuffe I’m really looking forward to the really heightened style, and the larger-than-life characters and also the fact that we’ll be performing in Q Theatre

One Day Moko plays June 28th until July 2nd at the Basement Theatre. Tickets from iticket Express

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