Writer and Performer Daniel Oliver talks about latest show ‘The Egg Show’ to show as part of NOW23 at The Yard

Courtesy of Emma Sheldrick.

The world of the imagination is a wonderful thing, something prevalent within our earlier years and encouraged, but fades as we grow older. Inspired by her time at the Yard Theatre’s Young Artist Club, 10 year old Mazvita would become enthralled by the idea of transforming into an egg – something picked up on by the Yard, who would then go onto contact performance artist Daniel Oliver who in turn would help to materialise this initial idea into The Egg Show – a show about… you’ve guessed it…  eggs! Due to show as part of NOW23 at the Yard Theatre from 21st to 23rd April, Daniel tells us more about what to expect!

Hi Daniel, you’ll be presenting your show The Egg Show as part of the Yard Theatre’s NOW23 Festival from the 21st to 23rd April. How are you feeling ahead of the festival?

I am nercited. This is a word my 10-year-old collaborator Mazvita made up. It’s a mix of nervous and excited. I’m really really excited because with the help of Mazvita and her child friends and my grownup friends we have made a really cracking show. It’s wild and weird and multi-layered but accessible for all. I can’t wait to get it in front of an audience. I’m nervous because it’s a real first for us all – my first-time making a show with children, the children’s first time being in a professional show. But that also means I’m feeling very curious about how it is all going to play out – we’ve created a really unique little world for ourselves and I can’t wait to bring more people into it.

The Egg Show is a show about eggs…eggs that want to become superstars. Along with their egg pal, Jessica, Daniel and Mazvita weave together stories taking audiences on a gloriously chaotic trip into a yolk-covered world of egg dancing, egg acting and egg singing. What inspired you to create this show?

It’s all Mazvita’s idea really. She was spending her time at the Yard’s Young Artist club (‘The Yardlings’) pulling her jumper up over her head and declaring that she was an egg. She was so committed to it and she was performing this egg in such a compelling and engaging way that the Yard contacted me to see if I wanted to try and make a show with Mazvita about it. I was totally inspired by Mazvita because of our shared obsessions with world-building, with rigorous mucking about, with being a bit cheeky, and with stubbornly indulging in activities that might be deemed daft or disruptive in other contexts.

The show stars 10 year old Mazvita and yourself. How have you worked with the team to realise the show?

We started with lots of drawing and chatting with Mazvita and her friends about this egg and its world. I’d ask questions about different things the egg might do and how it might do them- simple things like shopping or going to school, or who its friends are, or what kind of trouble it might find itself in. Then I’d ask questions about what a show is, what makes a good show, what should be in a show, what should or shouldn’t be allowed to happen in a show. I put together a rough script that wove together those two worlds – the egg world and the show-making world. Then we’d rehearse that script in a loose and exploratory way that allowed for me to follow and integrate the digressions, mishaps, improvements, and light-tensions that emerged. We played around with our disagreements about what the show could or should be – with our different ideas about what is cool or what is interesting for an audience and these discussions made themselves into the narrative(s) of The Egg Show. So we try to be continually adapt and tweak and interweave the stories of the egg, the stories of the egg show, and the stories of us being in a room together trying to make something we all like.

The Yard Theatre are renowned for supporting new work, having staged their NOW Festival for nearly a decade now. What does it mean to you to form part of their latest edition?

It’s my third time performing in the Yard Theatre’s NOW Festival and I’m always super proud to be showing my work alongside the great theatre makers and performers that get programmed. The audiences are always super curious and up for risks and new ideas and ways of doing things. I feel like there’s a really generative tension with the Yard between desires for proper Theatre and desires for Live Art, parties, cabaret, and other weird performance things that don’t have an obvious home. It’s got fixed raked seating and a lighting rig, but also feels like the kinds of DIY artist-led warehouse spaces that I started out in (and still perform in!). I feel like my own performances always play with that tension, so it’s an ideal context.

What have you learned/taken away from creating the show?

I’ve learnt not to take anything for granted when working with children. I’ve learnt that their feelings about what is cool, about what is fun, about what they want to do now or not do now, about what is embarrassing (or ‘cringe’), about what is too tiring, about when snack time is, about how this line should be said, about whether actually they just want to play grandma’s footsteps or football today, about whether this needs rehearsing or not, about whether being a youtuber is actually more interesting than being an egg… keep changing. I’ve got two sons, 8 and 10, so I kind of knew this already but I underestimated the mega challenge and mega fun of making a show that aims to celebrate these emerging and waning desires, energy levels, and interests.

What can audiences expect from the show?

It’s really funny and there are great songs and great dancing, just like all great shows. There’s a real focus on playfulness that is essential to working with and for children– but I’m an overthinker and I’m compulsive in my layering of stories and references. Hencethere is also real complexity in there for those of us of all ages that like that sort of thing. It’s a bit meta but only in the ways that kids are always a bit meta when they do pretendingbeing experts at total immersion in fantasy worlds but also being totally open to pausing and generously explaining what is going on to the newcomers or the idiot mums and dads and carers and teachers and grown up performance artists that want to play too.

What would you like for audiences to take away from the show?

Straight away I’d like them to feel warm and fuzzy and tender and excited and really impressed. And then I’d like them think to themselves that actually oh it’s also quite clever. I’d like them to feel inspired to wear their own clothes in a way that stretches them but feels nice and then to create a character from that and then create a world for that character. Or if they already do that then I’d like them to feel even greater about doing it. I’d like the grown-ups who like my grown-up shows to say “Oh it’s just like your grown-up shows” and everyone else to say “Well it’s clear you really let the kids make the decisions”.

Questions by Lucy Basaba.

The Egg Show will show from Friday 21st until Sunday 23rd April 2023 at The Yard Theatre as part of NOW23. To find out more about the production, visit here…

Written by Theatrefullstop