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  • A chat with… Joanna Dudley

Stage

A chat with… Joanna Dudley

From classically trained musician to Javanese pop sensation to performance artist, Joanna Dudley's interests stretch far and wide. This week, she brings her new show, Louis & Bebe, to Plan C festival.

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Photo courtesy of Joanna Dudley

Born in London and based in Australia, Joanna Dudley has taken her background as a classically trained musician and transformed it into an international career as a performance artist.

A collaboration with the designer Rufus Didwiszus and electronic musician Schneider TM a.k.a. Dirk Dresselhaus, Louis & Bebe at IETM’s Plan C festival marks Dudley’s return to Berlin.

Before working on this project, you were a Javanese pop sensation. Can you explain how that came about?

After two years of touring with Les Ballets C. de la B., I wanted to go to Indonesia to study the traditional music and dancing. While I was there, I met a woman called “Waldjinah”, who is easily the most famous popular music diva in Java. She’s really cool. She became huge in the 1960s and is still considered a national treasure. She taught me a lot of the songs and we toured everywhere together, and did a lot of television. It was the pop music of the 1960s, but it’s still sung now and is still very important to these people. I was the only foreigner who’d come to actually learn this stuff, so I became very popular.

Was the title of your show inspired by Louis and Bebe Barron, two of the founders of electronic music?

I really wanted to work with Schneider TM, and to create music with him from scratch. From that point on, I thought, “How do we create an hour-long performance?” And I refound the information on Louis and Bebe Barron. They were this couple who created the soundtracks for Forbidden Planet – which was the first real sci-fi film. They had to make lots of sounds for monsters in the movie, so they created what they needed by making electric circuits modeled on cybernetic organisms. These circuits were uncontrollable and they generated sound that had a sort of life cycle – from a noisy beginning to a final burn-out and death. I liked this idea and thought, “What a wonderful way to create music…” I think the thing that we hung on to was the birth and the death of sound. So our piece then became about childhood, and about life and death.

You’re dressed up as animals for some of the show, and at other points, vegetables?

Yes, and trees! [laughs] The way we describe the piece is: “one couple, three lives, three deaths and nine songs”. At the end of each chapter, there is a death scene – or we’re sleeping, it’s up to the audience to decide – but clearly it shows the end of something, and the beginning of something new. It’s a nice time to be doing it in Berlin, because it’s soon after Easter. I think it’s a real Easter piece because it’s to do with birth, with new beginnings, with death and what death means.

LOUIS & BEBE, April 15-17, 21:00 | Sophiensaele Festsaal, Sophienstr. 18, Mitte, U-Bhf Weinmeisterstr., Tel 030 2835 266, www.sophiensaele.com