Spotlight on… Karl Quinn

Distance from the Event is the latest offering from Collapsing Horse, whose previous shows Monster/Clock and Human Child have incited rapturous reviews. Part of the 2013 Dublin Fringe Festival, Distance from the Event moves away from family theatre to a more mature audience, and into an Ireland somewhere in the future. Actor Karl Quinn talks to MEG about working with Collapsing Horse and what he would like most from a sci-fi future…

Quinn has a long list of theatrical credits to his name, and an Abbey regular with roles in productions from The Plough and The Stars to The Government Inspector. So what drew you to Collapsing Horse, a company that is just beginning to make a name for themselves?

“Heart and intelligence are what drew me to Collapsing Horse. Their shows have the innocence and playfulness of a child whilst being imbued with the intelligence and skills of an adult, and their style invites the audience to imagine the world of the play with the performers. This has always been the most magical type of theatre for me. Each performer and audience member will leave having imagined their very own unique world but we will all have imagined these worlds together. They become like really vivid dreams that linger.”

Quinn’s reasons are certainly poignant ones, and for anybody who has seen Monster/Clock or Human Child, quite accurate ones. “To be honest”, Quinn adds, “The play had not been written when I signed on so my decision was based on their previous shows and gut instinct. I liked the cut of their jib!”

The cut of Collapsing Horse’s jib has demonstrated a penchant for including other disciplines into their plays. Aaron Heffernan is the company’s resident puppet master, and musician Simon Bird is composing music for Distance from the Event. What is it like to work on a production that is more multi-disciplinary?

“Multi-disciplinary is a term that is bandied about a lot and I sometimes wonder what it means, it is similar to ‘physical theatre’. Is there a form of theatre that is not physical? Most theatre is multi-disciplinary, it is a collaborative medium; this is one of the reasons I love theatre. The willingness to give everything for a shared goal, for the creation of a theatrical event is exhilarating. I know of few other arenas where a group of people so unselfishly participate toward a common purpose.”

On the subject of the puppets (personally one of my favourite elements of Collapsing Horse’s shows), I’ve heard that there is less use of puppets in Distance but that they are used in a way we may not have seen before. How is it to work with inanimate objects rather than live actors?

“Working with puppets is similar to working with children or animals. They have a life of their own and very quickly start to instruct you as to how they wish to be treated. Most actors will do their best to work with you and are willing to compromise to varying degrees, but puppets are utterly unforgiving. The slightest wrong move and they die but get it right and they are fantastic.”

Distance is being described as ‘sci-fi meets Irish noir’, which is certainly an intriguing mélange. In a sci-fi world, what would you most like to see developed for humankind?

“Wings, pure and simple. I would like to put on a pair of hydraulic wings of a morning, step outside the door and fly at will whereever I fancied. Is that too much to ask for? Wouldn’t it be just great if we figured out a way of not being so needlessly cruel to each other. If each individual had a source of light which formed an essential component to a universal power grid and the destruction of even one of these light sources compromised the entire grid. That would be grand.”

I have to agree that indeed it would be grand.

Clara Kumagai

Distance from the Event is part of the Dublin Fringe Festival 2013
Venue: Samuel Beckett Centre
Dates: 7 Sept – Sept 21 2013 (2 weeks only)
Previews: 5 and 6th of September
Start time: 8.45pm

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