Peter Groom is an actor, dancer, choreographer and theatre maker based between Newcastle and London. After training in dance from a young age and graduating from Guilford School of Acting, Groom has enjoyed an exciting international career, collaborating with celebrated artists including Akram Khan and Geraldo Si Loureiro of Pina Bausch. He has received commissions from IdeasTap, Royal Philharmonic Society, Random Acts and Battersea Arts Centre as well as having been an Associate Choreographic dance maker for Dance City. This month he’ll be bringing his latest work ‘Go Away Johnny’ to the stage, exploring the complexity of memory and its ability to bring people together.
What have you been up to lately?
I’ve been touring a show I made that premiered in London last year, it’s called Dietrich: Natural Duty and I play Marlene Dietrich. She left her native Germany and joined the American army to fight against Hitler so I was interested in her ideas of duty, she’s a fascinating person to me. It’s been great so far. When I first started (drag), lots of my dance colleagues said ‘of course’ because there’s so much drag in your work. Not so much in its stereotypical sense but in terms of playing with illusion and questioning what is real and what not real, assumed identities. I’ve taken time out the last two weeks to revisit Go Away Johnny with the original cast at the new Dance City studios in Sunderland ahead of our performance at the end of the month.
Who or what inspired you to pursue a dance/ theatre career?
The practice itself had always been natural to me but I think as an artist it had to be a piece I saw in Germany when I was 17. I can’t even remember what it was called but it was created by a guy called Jorge Puerta Armenta who dances for Pina Bausch. It ran for a week and I remember watching this piece and thinking at the start it was terrible, no one was dancing, no one was doing anything, it didn’t make any sense. By the end of the week I was just so emotional and so connected to what was happening on stage. Seeing something you haven’t seen before will shock you and make you feel uneasy because you don’t know quite how to engage with it, watching this piece I just thought ‘I want to dance like that!’ I want to create a shared experience as a group of people as opposed to just displaying technique.
All of your works so far have been very different, where do your ideas come from?
They come from a combination of things, thoughts and feelings in day to day life, what I’m doing, what I’m reading and watching, what’s going on in the world around me. I think, often when an idea touches a few of those things its worth pursuing. For Go Away Johnny we first talked about the concept of ‘Quiet’. There’s a book called ‘The Book of Silence’ by Sarah Maitland which I was reading at the time which explores the rarity of silence and the idea that only in silence can lost memories return to us, in fragmented form. I don’t think there’s anything else we have the same relationship with as memory, the more you think about it, the harder it is to find clarity. When you lose a memory even if it’s just a simple word the harder you search the more buried it becomes. I think this felt particularly relevant at the moment with us being constantly bombarded with information from the media from every angle.
Go Away Johnny premiered in its early stages at Dance City last year. How has the work changed and developed since then?
We’re in the process of revisiting the work to a full length piece at the moment and we haven’t yet gone back to any of the original work. We will, but I was keen to find (the concept were exploring), again I didn’t want to just recreate it. So much of the piece is about working as a collective and looking what inspires each individual which changes over time and requires you to work in the present. When you’re creating or devising within a set structure, then you’re already limited so this week we haven’t looked at the original piece we haven’t talked about the piece, we haven’t listened to the music. So far it’s felt more like we’re exploring the world which we had created and the moods that that world has to go through, how the space needs to move and so we spent a lot of this week asking what doesn’t exist yet in this world, what haven’t we explored and then I guess how you bring those two things together. At the time it was a present thing, we were making it to show it there. Now we’re making a piece about memory and trying to remember what we did so the process we’re exploring we are actually doing.
What are you excited for in the future?
I’m really excited to do this show actually, I’m excited because I feel that there’s another side of Go Away Johnny that we haven’t yet explored. It’s always good to play with the boundaries of your work and challenge what is possible. I think that’s one of the most exciting things about performance.
Go Away Johnny will be performed at Dance City on Saturday 20th of October at 7.30pm. Tickets £9.50, £8.00 for students and under 18s. Book your ticket here or contact the box office on 0191 261 0505.