Exclusive: Neil Bartlett talks to Unbound about his influences and inspirations

In the run up to the debut of his new project STELLA we have asked director, performer, writer and gay rights campaigner Neil Bartlett to pick a selection of Unbound Titles featuring artists that have inspired and influenced him over the years.

“When I am preparing myself to go into the room with colleagues to make a new piece - which is what I am currently doing, because I start rehearsals for my new theatre/performance/encounter piece STELLA in four weeks time - I try and make the time to remind myself that I have done this before. And this time, the particular "this" that I am doing is making a new, small-scale, self-produced, buy-the-props-in-a-boot-fair queer piece of the kind that I made with my company GLORIA back in the late eighties and early nineties.

The piece is of course being marketed under some well-established banners - LIFT, the Brighton Festival, the Holland Festival - but the scale of the piece - two performers, two chairs, some jewellery and some old lights  - and the amount of self-employed spadework involved are both reminding me of the old days. So, with that in mind, I want to direct you to the published work of three artists who were very significant influences on me when I was thirty something years younger than I am now.

Their inspiration was vital to me:

The Only Way Home Is Through the Show: Performance Work of Lois Weaver,
Eds. Lois Weaver and Jen Harvie

Watching LOIS WEAVER perform her infamous reverse strip routine - in a pub - was it the RVT in London ? - blew my young performance socks off with its physical wit, its physical intelligence and its sheer bloody queer raunchiness. 

Bobby Baker: 9 DVD Bumper Boxset
Bobby Baker

Watching BOBBY BAKER - who I met and saw while I was compere-ing the National Review of Live Art in its Glasgow manifestation in 1996 ( alongside Derek Jarman, R.I.P.) - taught me a great deal about how to creatively intertwine a persona with the personal.  And how to handle props. 

Abstract Vaudeville The Work of Rose English
Ed. Martha Fleming

Watching the incomparable ROSE ENGLISH, whose work I first saw in 1985 and who I have followed  ever since, made me understand that physical scale and metaphysical - or emotional - or political - scale are only at best tangentially related, and that one can never be too ambitious , and that poetry is the only option. I salute these three great performers, who did much to set me on my way, and warmly recommend their works to your attention.” - Neil Bartlett

Further Information 

Neil Bartlett has been one of Britain’s most individual theatre-makers for over thirty years. STELLA is his first original theatre piece in London for over three years and will be on at the Brighton Festival (May 27-28), LIFT, London (June 1-18) and the Holland Festival, Amsterdam (June 20-21)

His publications Who Was That Man? and Solo Voices are available to buy on Unbound. 

The entire Neil Bartlett collection is available to view for free at the Live Art Development Agency Study Room located in Hackney Wick, London.