‘They Live Next Door’ is a beautifully observed dance and theatre piece about a turbulent relationship between two men created by Lithuanian choreographer Ieva Kuniskis and performed by Nicholas Minns and Mark Boldin which comes to RICH MIX on October 27th as a one-off London show.
The men’s relationship is at once combative, loving, conflicted, tender. Minns and Boldin use Kuniskis’ nuanced movement vocabulary to present the audience with an emotional roller-coaster. As the relationship between them unravels, the audience is inevitably sucked into their world and our fascination for other people’s lives is given its full rein.
“I am interested in social psychology and in exploring what makes us who we are,” says Ieva. “I observe how stereotypes and social labelling affects our identity and relationships. In ‘They Live Next Door’ the two central characters are stuck…they don’t communicate any more yet they’re co-dependent, weighed down by duty, expectation and longing and they simply can’t bring themselves to break away from each other. We’re drawn into their world and wonder how and why they got to this stage; we might judge, empathise or even recognise aspects of our own lives.”
‘They Live Next Door’ taps into the everyday thoughts: they may live next door to us but apart from the odd hello, how much do we really know about our next door neighbours’ lives?
Ieva’s choreography draws on contemporary dance, physical theatre, and folk dances to create a unique, physical and theatrical language. Nuanced movement narrates snapshots of scenarios played out alongside an original soundtrack composed by Dougie Evans. “We wanted to create nostalgic melodies that feel like a background soundtrack to the men’s lives,” says Ieva. “Inspirations include Russian waltzes and romance songs; the music is lovely all the way through. It was a conscious decision to keep the piano and guitar quite whimsical as a counterpoint to the tensions in the men’s relationship.”
What inspired you to make ‘They Live Next Door’?
I: I love observing how people interact and I love finding beauty in everyday stories. In this particular show, through a story of these two men, I set out to explore how stereotypes and social labelling affects our identity and relationships, and at our preconceptions around maleness and masculinity.
How did you cast it?
I: I am interested in seeing more diversity on stage. In choosing to work with mature performers for this show, both men, was part of my questioning of labels and stereotypes – what do we expect to see on stage…usually young dancers. What stories can we tell with two men? Falling outside of expectation they already bring stories onto the stage.
A few years ago I saw Nicholas Minns’ work onstage and thought he was one of the most charismatic performers I’d ever seen! So when I came to casting ‘They Live Next Door’, he was at the top of my wish list. In the audition I paired him with Mark and their chemistry was amazing – it would be a completely different show without these two.
Tell us about the music
I: Dougie Evans is a longstanding collaborator. We wanted music to add to the narrative to create a sense of longing. I wanted it to have a mix of old Russian classical piano waltzes and nostalgic guitar melodies to create a backdrop to the life of these two men, as a counterpoint to the intensity of their relationship. I also wanted to keep the music ‘down’ so it didn’t change with the drama – you feel like your world is falling apart but around you life still goes on so the melody keeps going too.
What do you think audiences will take away after seeing ‘They Live Next Door’?
I: I hope they will find empathy for these two people and recognise something of themselves and the people around them. I hope that each audience member will see a unique story that is recognisable to them. I create emotive landscape with very specific characters and clear emotional context but I don’t tell a linear narrative. Instead I hope that each audience member will be able to discover their own story by filling in the gaps, so that if you asked them, each one would see something different.