Harry Clayton-Wright presents a fortnight of durational performances in collaboration with The Spire. Every day for fourteen days, a new work, character, act or ritual is created and performed in front of audiences over an 8 hour period. No day the same. The only constant is Harry.
Hey Harry thanks for talking to TNC, are you all set for Brighton Fringe?
An absolute pleasure. Very nearly ready! It’s all coming together nicely.
How do you start prepping for a festival like Brighton Fringe?
Initial conversations about The Fortnight first started taking place as early as October last year. We knew we wanted to do something unique, ambitious and exciting as part of the festival. I’ve been working with The Spire (an arts centre in Kemptown which exists in a gorgeous grade two listed deconsecrated church space), with a subsequent development period at the Marlborough, to make this first outing of The Fortnight as stunning and epic as possible.
What does it mean for you to be bringing The Fortnight the fringe?
I’ve been lucky enough to have two premieres as part of Brighton Fringe. Sex Education, my debut solo theatre show commissioned by the Marlborough Theatre and now The Fortnight commissioned by The Spire. It’s one of my favourite festivals to be part of in one of my favourite cities in the world, so to be able to get to debut new work here - in front of wonderfully supportive audiences - feels incredibly exciting.
Can you tell me about The Fortnight, how did the show come about?
I’ve always loved durational performance as a platform for crafting new ideas and making really interesting discoveries. I made a piece at Glastonbury in 2015 called The Slumber Party, a 107-hour performance where I exist as a teenage girl who won’t leave her bedroom. Day or night you can visit her and see what she’s getting up to. We remounted the show in Australia in 2018 which received some really wonderful feedback, it had grown exponentially, so I knew I wanted to experiment within the form again. But instead of making one new persona or idea happen, we thought it would be fun to create a framework to play within, so over 14 days I will consecutively premiere 14 brand new 8-hour performances.
What was the inspiration behind The Fortnight?
The Fortnight is a show about show business. A series of performances about the performance itself. It’s inspired by my history of growing up in Blackpool (a town ubiquitous with working-class entertainment) and also my biography as a professional performer. Each piece experiments with the different ways in which people stage themselves over time.
This is an epic show, 14 8 hour shows, what made you want to do a show like this?
Make the work you want to see in the world. I loved the idea of crafting something where the audience has to come back every day to see all fourteen performances and collect the set. They’ve been curated with The Fortnight as a two-week experience in mind, but you’d also be able to see just one and have a good time and understand what it’s all about. One of the key aspects was that we made the work free to attend. I wanted people who might never have seen this kind of work, from so many backgrounds, to be able to access it. That’s such a thrill to know we’ll reach people who might never have seen queer durational performance art before.
"Brighton Fringe is such a great festival to be a part of in such a wonderful city."
What have been the most challenging aspects of bringing The Fortnight to life?
Each piece involves its own persona, its own world, so one of the most challenging aspects of creating fourteen performances consisting of multiple personalities is coordinating bringing that many different people to life. You want to make them feel as real as possible.
Have you always had a passion for performing?
I was part of nativities, school plays, church pantomimes, but I was also quite a nervous performer at first. Auditions terrify me. So when I went to study performing arts at Blackpool and the Fylde College, I knew that I wasn’t destined for a conventional career in the arts, which is evident in the career I’ve had in the arts for nearly twelve years now. Making things has always been my passion - a cheat code for avoiding auditions, I guess - and what I make can take many forms, but I’ve always loved performance as a tool in helping bring a story or an idea to life.
How much has your approach to your shows changed since your debut show?
It does shift with each project, its needs and who is involved, but I think if I’m still doing this then I need to be pushing myself every time I’m presenting something new, and I want audiences to feel they’re pushed as well. That we’re growing together. I’m not content to be resting on what I know.
What inspires your work?
Queer politics. The notion of Camp. Blackpool. Family history. Modern art. Wigs. My love of finding amazing things in charity shops and wondering who they belonged to and then putting that persona on stage.
In theatre how important is the collaborative process for you when you're creating a show?
Collaboration is such a massively important part of the process, even when you’re crafting a solo work, there are many people behind the scenes helping you get everything to the point it’s ready to present in front of an audience, even if it’s moral support from your friends. I’ve been really lucky to work with some new collaborators as part of this project, brilliant set designer Ryan Dawson Laight who has such a wonderful energy, incredible artist Melanie Jame Wolf, who came over from Berlin to help me with performance development, as well as reuniting with lighting and technical wizard Simon Booth and my amazing producer David Sheppeard. It takes a village.
What has been the best piece of advice you've been given?
Don’t be a dick.
For anyone making their debut this year do you have any advice you would offer them?
Be prepared and have fun. Brighton Fringe is such a great festival to be a part of in such a wonderful city. The audiences are wonderfully supportive here.
What 3 words best describe your show?
Rule-breaking, fun, intense.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from your show?
I hope they’ll be as intrigued as they are entertained.