Deb Pugh tells us about “the rare privilege of being able to make work I care about”

Tell us about your own theatre-making practice.

I am a performer, director & practitioner, trained at the Lecoq school in Paris. My approach to theatre making is invariably a physical one, even if the end result is standing still and delivering a soliloquy the process is always physical, finding the shape/dynamic/material of the character, of the space, of the spoken word and how they all inform one another.

Tell us about your work with Theatre Ad Infinitum? 

I’ve been making work with Ad Inf since 2007. It all started off with ‘Behind The Mirror’, a bizarre love triangle between a man, his fiancée and his evil mirror reflection. It was a straight-outta-drama-school, throw-everything-you’ve-got-at-it, sweaty slapstick-a-thon, rehearsed in any space we could find and played out in a portacabin in Edinburgh through perhaps the rainiest August in memory. But in spite of the weather and the flyers, which quickly turned to papier-mâché people came, and people liked it so we carried on….

In the next show, ‘Translunar Paradise’, I was promoted from fiancée to wife but then promptly killed off within the first 15 minutes of each performance. Undeterred, I returned as the ghost of my wifely self to dance, mask and mime my way through this gorgeous, wordless piece for the best part of three years, touring throughout Europe and North & South America.

After so long in the warm, tender cuddle that was Translunar the only thing to do next was make Ballad of the Burning Star- an explosive, ferocious, dragged-up, sexy-scary tank ride through the Middle East which let me flex my high-octane mourning muscles along with every other fibre in my body. I have never been so fit in my life, which was a good job, given the skimpiness of the costumes. Then, just as we were getting used to the Middle Eastern heat, along came the icy, dystopian vision of the future that is ‘Light’, the graphic novel inspired, self-lit sci-fi in which I played genius scientist (naturally) turned rebel leader, Cassandra, on a mission to save the world from the nightmare she created.

How do you connect with the company and it’s (way of) theatre-making?

I love making work with Ad Inf. It offers me the rare privilege of being able to make work I care about with the most talented human beings I know who also happen to be some of my closest friends. Having two artistic directors with such different approaches keeps at bay any risk of stagnation- each new project is so different you have to keep inventing, keep learning, keep developing your craft.

How would you describe your experience in the creation of Bucket List so far?

Like having a big, stern word with myself. I can’t exempt myself from my culpability in the suffering of others if I buy shampoo/clothes/ chocolate from corporations who willingly exploit human beings, even when those human beings are really far away, and those products are so cheap, and even if those companies hide behind clever branding or package things in green and call them organic. I can no longer kid myself that I’m conscientious just because I recycle and I’ve never punched a dolphin, time to get smart.

What advice would you offer theatre makers at the beginning of their careers?

DON’T DO IT! Don’t do it. Don’t do it. You live out of a suitcase, 50% of your diet comes from motorway service stations, you’ve either no time or no money, whenever you go to parties people with proper jobs ask you too many questions and expect you to be entertaining. It’s not too late! You can still become a dentist!

…But if you still want to do it, be brilliant, the world doesn’t need crap theatre.

– Deb Pugh, actor, director & practitioner

Ad Infinitum

Provoke. Move. Inspire.