Whilst their playful and surreal performance style is the very opposite of worthy, at the heart of all of Made In China’s work is a wish to engage their audience in big social and political questions. “If you hit people over the head with them they’ll run a mile basically and we’re just very conscious of that.” They view this as a challenge, something to be conquered. As Cowbury clarifies: “I like to talk about what you do to the audience rather than what you should show them. It sounds quite aggressive but then you see our shows and it’s not. You want to do stuff to them, you want to manipulate them and put them in positions where they’re unsettled. We don’t want to shock but we do want to unsettle and make them question themselves.” Latowicki agrees, but also stresses the accessibility of their work: “If you make people laugh they’ll listen to what you’ve got to say.”
The idea of consumption is central to their new work. “Consuming and being a consumer is a responsibility in our society, it’s bizarre when you think about it but it’s a real responsibility,” Cowbury says. Latowicki is typically more forthright: “Go out support England, buy more shit.” This point is rammed home in the piece itself as Jess and co-performer Chris Bailey devour ice creams, beers and, perhaps most eerily, as they stare out at their audience, shovelling handfuls of popcorn into their mouths. With its repetitive dance sequences and glitter balls, the piece is designed to catch an audience off-guard, to warm them up, make them relax, before – finally – making them think.
“We’re not geniuses who have something deeply revelatory to say on these things but we just want to open up a space in which these things can be considered as well as people having a good time and laughing,” Cowbury continues, as Latowicki nods in agreement. “Everyone needs to engage in social issues, it can’t be just people at a certain level of intelligence or power.”
After We Hope That You’re Happy where will the company go next, I ask, anticipating an answer about their next show at the National Theatre, which has been inspired by the London riots. Do they have a five year plan?
Latowicki “Well we’d like to make a show with five Davids”
Cowbury “That’s the pinnacle…”
Latowicki “That’s the pinnacle.”
Cowbury “In 2018…the five Davids – David Shrigley, David Bowie…
Latowicki “David Lynch”
Cowbury “David Attenborough”
Latowicki “David um, David Byrne”
Cowbury “The guy from Talking Heads…”
Latowicki “David Byrne.”
Cowbury “Yeah that’s…
Latowicki “And we’d like to make a show with all of them and it’s called Made In China: The Five Davids. So if any of you are reading get in touch with us.”
They grin, clearly playing with me, but I know that if anyone could pull off such a show, it would be these guys, and it would be silly and energetic and thought-provoking and exciting in equal measure. Now who’s got David Shrigley’s number…
Made in China’s We Hope That You’re Happy (Why Would We Lie?) is at BAC until 24th March 2012. For tickets and further details, visit the BAC website.