The John Tusa Interviews
Transcript of the John Tusa Interview with Simon McBurney
It used to be called Theatre de Complicité; a tightly knit group of performers and artists associated with the idea of physical theatre. In recent years it has undergone an interesting abbreviation, just Complicité; will do. Its fans attracted not just by the early notion of the body as the principle vehicle of theatrical expression, but taking on trust that the company offers something innovative, exploratory, unpredictable, and increasingly Complicité; has become associated with one person, the director Simon McBurney, though director is a wholly inadequate word to encapsulate his theatrical skills. Twenty years ago it was very different: a group of four trained in Paris, mime based, slick, physical comedy. The evolution over the last two decades has been profound and extraordinary, taking in work such as 'Mnemonics', about the Ice Age man whose body was recovered in an Alpine glacier, to 'The Noise of Time', about Shostakovich's last quartet, to 'The Elephant Vanishes', a dazzling creation about rootlessness and anomie in Tokyo. At the heart of the company's work is Simon McBurney, increasingly seen as one of the most important theatrical creators in Britain.
So what are you, how do you describe yourself?
Normally when people ask me what I do I say I'm an actor, and that's what I always wanted to be and that's the way I approach work even when I'm directing it. I used to perform on the streets with friends a lot and that was perhaps as important a training for me as going to, you know, a school, as University, as studying with Jacque in Paris, Jacque le Coq in Paris, because to go out onto the street and not know what you're going to do and to start performing, to start improvising is absolutely terrifying, but also the most exhilarating thing you can do, because if you can make a piece of theatre begin from nothing in a place where there is nothing, with people who don't expect to see it and who then perhaps if you do it well become riveted and with whom you have this extraordinary brief exchange which is so intense that it's a little bit like a coup de foudre for a moment with a lover and then it all disappears, if, if you can do that and if you can survive under those circumstances no...
No, yes, no stage in the world will ever hold the same anxiety for you ever again.
But you're other things as well. You clearly have to be very good technically, or you have to understand the technical skills that go into your productions. You're very aware of sound and music, and all these in general are not the sort of things that just an actor would have.
I suppose as an actor you become very sensitive to rhythm, not just rhythm as you look at it sort of from the, from the outside as a director might see it, but within yourself you become used to the idea of hearing your fellow actors, responding to them in space. When you perform in the theatre you have a sense, as an actor you have a sense, overall sense of a play as well as the individual scenes that you're working on, and that's what I mean. The other, the other aspect when I say I'm an actor is that as an actor you make this imaginative leap into being somebody else, that's to say the muscle of the imagination is as important as any other of the muscles in your body, and so it is something about this instinct in space and time which for me I associate with being an actor rather than a director.
And it's fascinating you use the word the muscle of the imagination given that the principle association we have with you is of somebody involved in physical theatre and that clearly, and also your use of the body, and that clearly even with the imagination you have this sense of the physicality of the imagination. It's not something separate from the body.
Yes, you see when, when you ask me to describe myself I think that I have to go back in time. I mean I had a teacher in Paris once who said if an actor has forgotten what it's like to play as a child they shouldn't be an actor, and that is something that I've always retained, the memory of playing as a child and making an imaginary world not just as a way of passing the time, I just remember it as a child being something absolutely essential...
You did that as a child?
...to, to my life. Yes.
I mean I'm talking about playing games, about imagining other people, and it's part of the way that it helps you actually see the world.
Hold the idea of play there for a moment if you will, because I want to find out before that why after you'd been at Cambridge, where of course lots of people acted, you moved to Paris to study with Jacque le Coq and Phillipe Gaulier, what made you do that, what, did you know enough about them to feel that that was the direction you wanted to go in?
No I knew nothing about them. My father had just died at Cambridge, I had a very passionate love affair that collapsed, and one of the things that I felt was that I wanted to run, I wanted to get out of the situation that I was in, get away somehow from my past, and I had heard through different sources, one of whom was the director Ron Eyre, about this school in Paris, I'd heard about one or two people who had been there, but I knew nothing about it. All I knew was that it treated an actor as also a creator, as a writer.
Was there an element of being actively dissatisfied with what you could get from the British theatre as it was then constituted?
I think it was a desire to be able to find my own voice. I think that was the big urge within me. I had a very strange few years I was, I seemed to be able to make people laugh quite easily, and I was rung up and invited to perform. A man said I'm going to open something here that they have in Los Angeles , I hear you're very funny, I really want you to perform. I said well what is it? He said well it's a comedy club and it's in Los Angeles it's called the Comedy Store and I'm going to open one here in London . So I said right, okay, well that sounds interesting. So I went up on the train and in a strip club in Soho upstairs was a tiny little, sweaty room. We all got up and performed, various people like Alexei Sayle and so all sorts of people that opening night, and I performed something about eating an orange with a fellow actor who was a woman called Sandy Toksvig.
It was quite a first night that wasn't it?
It was and Emma Thompson did the sound effects for me, sitting on the side of the stage. And so I was then invited by an unknown radio producer, called Griff Rhys-Jones, if I would work on the radio. I felt in this world of potential radio shows and leading on to the television I felt as if I was, I didn't know where I was, I was completely lost.
So you needed to find your roots somehow and that was the attraction of going to Paris to le Coq?...
Perhaps yes, it was always this thing of escaping for me of, of a kind of rootlessness, not feeling quite at home.
So what did le Coq...
Other people felt very at home with the idea of following in a British tradition, I never did.
Ah so already then you had some sense that you didn't want to be part of a British tradition?
I just knew that I felt uncomfortable and I knew that somehow I needed to find a way of finding out what it was that I, how I wanted to perform. I knew that there were other forms of performance. I had seen some fantastic theatre in London at the Riverside . I had seen the, when they started to, David Gottard and various other people had brought in theatre from abroad. London was not a centre for international theatre by any stretch of the imagination, but what I had seen I had found incredibly exciting because it suggested to me that there were other worlds, there was another way of looking at this world. I grew up without a television in a very sort of strange, empty Victorian house with no central heating with parents...
So you really had to imagine things...
...who were, who were kind of misanthropic and took me on holidays to where there were no other people, so we would end up in Iceland in the kind of completely the wrong time of year, living in tents which were in fact bought for the South of France. My father was an archaeologist and so we spent a lot of my childhood I remember spending under canvas, and the moment I was doing something that everybody else was doing, or I was on a path that I was expected to be on I started to feel uncomfortable. I always remember feeling that I have to find a way of looking at the world which is, it, my father was an archaeologist so he dug in the earth to find out the truth about the past, I sometimes feel that I am trying to dig in the world around me. I'm involved in another kind of archaeology to look for another kind of truth, and the moment I find, the moment I am separated from that life, the moment I am sort of in a world, every time I have gone out and performed in the, in the cinema for example, if you do two or three films on the trot you suddenly have this impression that you're becoming separate or separated from the world around you.
And the people and audiences.
And the people and what, what life consists of.
I just want to row you back to le Coq there, because this was clearly such an important experience. Did he give you some sense, or did that training give you some sense of...
...a direction and discipline which could merge some of this sort of great welter of emotions?...
Well I think, I think that what he gave me particularly was a rigor continually to return to being involved in life, not losing sight that the root of the life of the theatre is being involved in life itself. When I saw him just before he died he said to me I am nobody. I am only a neutral point through which you must pass. I have no style, I have no technique. People come to me in order to better articulate what they themselves want to do, and that's principally what he gave all his pupils. Some of his pupils have ended up as writers, some of them have ended up as architects, some of them have ended up as actors. They seem to span many, many, many different disciplines. One of the things you learn about when you are at the school is not to do, you know people have a very, great misunderstanding about what he taught and they think that perhaps it's mime or perhaps it's something to do with physical theatre, it's, curiously it's not to do with any of that, I return to the same phrase, what for me what he taught us more than anything else was to exercise, the main muscle we exercised was the muscle of the imagination.
Now twenty years ago you met the three other founding members of the Theatre de Complicité;, Annabel Arden, Marcello Magni, Fiona Gordon, just tell me briefly how you met them and how you all knew that you could work together?
Well I don't think we did. I think what happened was that we started off saying that, one of the things that I said to myself leaving University was that if I was going to work in theatre I promised myself I would never stop working, so I had, I had a desire that whatever I would do I would not be waiting around for a job.
You'd not be resting.
Certainly not no. The first desire was to make a piece of work. Annabel I knew from Cambridge and Fiona was Canadian, is Canadian, and Marcello is Italian, and we were all available and we just said let's make something.
Did you know what you wanted to make?
No not exactly. Well okay what I wanted to make was what I didn't see, what I didn't see in the theatre. I wanted to make something which I wanted to see. It really was a hunch without really knowing. I knew that it was about how people were not able to express themselves. What it ended up being was sitting in deck chairs on an imaginary beach for about an hour and a quarter doing absolutely nothing but making people roar with laughter with doing nothing.
How long did that take to develop and to produce?
Well it took about six or eight weeks, perhaps eight weeks to put together, and then we simply got up on stage and started to perform, and through the performance we continued to develop the piece and change it, and it was really through the performance that something began to develop and in a sense that process has remained with me ever since.
So that was a crucial discovery that you would devise things in rehearsal of course, but that they would continue to grow during performance?
Inevitably as you're performing you invent, and this was another thing that Jacque insisted upon was that actors should take responsibility for what they do on stage. He encouraged us to imagine that an actor is also in some way a writer not just an interpreter of work, but you have a very, you have a fundamentally original and creative input when you work, and so it, it was a little bit like getting into a boat and rowing out to sea without being entirely sure where were we going but wanting to take advantage of the currents and the winds and feeling somehow that fate would steer us in the right direction, but as I say we thought we were doing it just for a year, just for a summer perhaps, and for some reason it touched people. There was always a point of view on what we were doing...
Which came from, from you, from all four, how did the point of view evolve?
It came through arguing and reading and stopping and through a process of discussion I would say, through a process...
Which everybody who joined the company knew that this was the way they were going to be...
Yes it was chaos, working through chaos, you never quite knew what you were going to do each day, but you knew that you wanted to make something.
One of the other phrases used, I'm sure you know, is that somebody said and not in a critical way he said the whole process of creation involved a rather aggressive environment, aggressive in the sense that so many ideas were generated and thrown away. Now do you recognise that?
When you make something, if you are a painter or a writer, a degree, or a sculptor or whatever or a musician, a degree of energy is required to make it, and I'm not sure that it is always aggressive, but when you have a great deal of energy it can appear to be more aggressive than it is. In fact, I mean you can talk about a waterfall being aggressive, but in fact it is just a very powerful forward movement of energy, and although I think sometimes my engine house is a kind of anger.
Ah yes, and now did you ever use aggression knowingly, almost in a calculated way, in order to achieve a certain effect in the production, or to get the production to a point where it could begin to work?
Well I don't remember that, I just remember, the only thing I ever remember is having a huge amount of energy in order to push this boulder up the hill to get it up to the top of the hill, to get it to the point where you can release it and it will do its own thing.
Did you feel it was your responsibility to do that pushing, because after all a lot of the works for over ten years are described as devised by the company, directed by Simon McBurney, now this is a very interesting division of function and you're saying at certain stage you have to say I'm the director, I've got to get this show on the road?
Yes that's absolutely true. If there is a degree of aggression then it is because a lot of the things that we were making we made through an instinct. I think many directors know what the piece is going to be before they make it. It's very carefully planned out. They know that people will, somebody will come in through this door. They will perform in this way and they will go out that way. They even ask quite often, directors will ask designers where should the actors come in just as a, as a painter or a sculptor might not know what it is they are making when they're making it, so I feel very often I don't know what it is eventually that we're going to do. I take the example of something like 'The Elephant Vanishes'. We started working and on the first day I had no idea which stories out of this collection of stories we were going to end up with.
You chose three out of a collection of how many?
I don't know, twenty.
So I didn't know what the piece was going to be, and I think that the quality of not knowing is quite frightening, I think that fear also produces a kind of aggression not only in me but in other people, and other people's fear can perhaps sometimes make your energy seem more aggressive than it is.
How long did it take before the actors, and after all this is your most recent piece, these are Japanese stories, you were working with Japanese actors...
In Japanese and...
And I don't speak Japanese.
...people who did not know what the, as it were, Complicité; tradition was, how did you begin to get to the point where you chose the three stories, or did they choose the three stories?
The stories chose themselves in the end. I knew that I wanted to do the title story. I knew I was particularly interested in the story about sleep. I didn't know how they would fit together, if they would fit together at all, and there were several other stories which I thought were absolutely marvellous. In the end I had six actors, and to give you an example of a day, I would come in in the morning and we would do some yoga together or we would do some sort of exercise or perhaps we would do none of that, perhaps we would sit and read a couple of the stories, it varied from day-to-day, but we would do something collectively together in the morning, and then I would suggest sometimes out of what we were doing, perhaps there would be some music playing, somebody would be doing something and I would observe that they were doing it and I would somehow encourage them to take it further. For example, somebody, I remember once somebody was rolling on the carpet and somebody stepped over the top of them, and then I encouraged everybody to roll and everybody stepped over, and suddenly something emerged which I forgot about until weeks later when I was trying to find the ending of the piece, which was about the idea of the sense of loss of direction which is a very powerful sense in the Murakami stories about modern Japan, people not quite knowing where the direction is, and taking the end of 'The Elephant Vanishes' and trying to produce an image on stage of people whose, who have lost direction and ended up with these people rolling over and other people stepping over the top of them.
That began as an exercise and then was retrieved later...
It began, it was retrieved later, so we did what I call filling the reservoir. You give yourself an enormous amount of different, you infuse yourself with different information, you read all the stories, you listen to music, you, you have discussions, you talk about, you know and we had to talk a lot about being Japanese, but then I talked a lot about being English, about the sense of identity. We set up exercises of that. I asked two people to stand behind one of the actors to be their mother and father, and two people to stand behind them to be their grandparents and great grandparents, and I said how far back can you go. We introduced grandparents to grandparents, I mean crazy things, also quite funny, but essentially that was not in order to put that on stage but to do this thing which I call filling the reservoir so that all the actors have an enormous access to a great deal of information. Why do I do that? Well you have to somehow when you're making a piece of work I think to create a common language, because there are many people in the room.
Even though there were texts, yes, you need the language, as it were, which informs the texts?
That's right. How are you going to perform it, because all actors when they come together in a room they all have very, very different points of view, and what interests me is that you maintain those different points of view but you give people, you create together for each show, and in each show it is different, a common language by which you can approach the material. If it is Shakespeare then you find a different common language to if it is Murakami, but it is, as it were, it is part of the process is developing the tools by which you can then open up the text and create the piece that you're going to create.
You see one of the other things particularly about 'Elephant Vanishes', but not only that, is that it is expressed not just through what the actors do and what the text says but with this extraordinarily brilliant set of, first of all, the soundscape and then video images all over the place which never, and this is universally said by the reviewers, look as if they are stuck on bits of expression, so you are not only trying to produce a common language for the actors, you're somehow trying to produce a common language of expression for all the other elements. Now just how do you keep control of this without going mad and how do you synthesise this?
Well you do go mad, it's difficult, but the very simple answer to that is that for me the lighting designer and the sound designer and the video designer and in fact even the stage management all have a fantastically important role within the rehearsal room. In conventional theatre what happens is there is a tremendous sense of hierarchy and you find that stage management sit behind what is called a stage management desk and everyone has their right role and nobody veers out of it. Now this is a very much a sort of class system that's become a model that everybody adheres to.
And with you?
In our rehearsal room it's a great deal more chaotic, but you're quite likely to find one of the stage managers working with two or three of the actors on a piece that they are devising to show to each other at the end of the day. They'll be filming. They'll perhaps have suggestions about what they can do with a particular object or a particular piece of equipment, so their suggestions or their creativity will be equally included in the process. The only way that you can keep moving forward, finding other ways of expressing things about this increasingly complicated world that we live in, is by listening and observing not only to life around you but to the other people who are in the room. It's not about a sort of, you know, a sense that you have to be democratic about these things, it's a question of creativity that the process of making theatre is a collaborative process, and it is not in, it is not a question of, you know, I have no interest in paying lip service to it, for me it's absolutely fundamental. Theatre artists are essentially sort of charlatans and thieves, I mean that's the tradition that we come from, so I have absolutely no, I make no bones about the fact that I steal from here and I take from there, and we all do it, that's perfectly all right, that's the nothing, there's nothing new in the world, there's nothing actually new in the way that you do something, but the point is is how do you take something and use it to articulate what is essentially a core of any given theatrical production.
Obviously a very high risk activity and you've written about the fact that in that particular production, which I think is a very good example, you really faced, I think you said, intellectual meltdown, you didn't know what was happening and you thought maybe I'm on the wrong lines altogether. Well it's obvious that was a absolutely ghastly moment, I mean did you really then think that the thing might fail altogether, might not get onto the stage?
I mean I didn't think it would not get on to the stage. One of the things that I really learnt in Paris all those years ago was that Jacque showed us very clearly, he took apart the architecture of space, the architecture, the internal, what I call the internal structure of rhythm and the form of plays and the form of theatre, how the movement of things, and showed us, as it were, the nuts and bolts in a fan.., most marvellous way of how something functions.
And is that a core skill that you'd fall back on, a core instinct?...
Well, yes, I mean I think you can take anything and turn it into theatre. I mean I, we could take this conversation, we could take this, this pair of spectacles and turn it into a piece of theatre, use it as the basis for a piece of theatre. If you know essentially what it is that makes a piece of theatre function you can always make a piece of theatre, the question is not that for me anymore, it's the question is whether this piece of theatre is truly addressing something which is important, whether the meaning is really coming across and whether it is not just going to get up there, it can always get up there, but whether when it, when it gets up there it will do what you dream it, dream it can do.
So how did you break through that awful moment of darkness, or moments of darkness in Tokyo when you thought I may be on the wrong lines altogether?
I simply to make it very clear I came, I found I came to a dead end with one of the particular stories, which was very, very difficult. It's a very difficult idea in any case, it's about a story about a woman who can't sleep for seventeen days and it's nothing to do with insomnia, she literally can't sleep and in fact she feels better and better and better, so it's a very sort of strange premise, yet at the same time it's supposed to be realistic, and it is told through very curious memory process, and it's just very difficult to make that clear, and I had some ideas but they just simply weren't coming together, so what I did at a certain point was I stopped, I said I don't know how to do this bit and I don't know what we should do here, so we're going to split up into different groups and we're going to stop for a whole day. You can take an entire day. I will take an entire day. Somebody else will take an entire day to try and find a solution. And in a sense it just simply took the pressure off, because at that point we're getting closer to production, people are standing behind you going 'what is he doing? what's going on? when are we going to know?' you know, the sound people, the lighting, the video, the producers, I mean there's a great army of people waiting to know. In fact they're trying to build the set and you don't know whether you're going to want this element of the set or that. It's a real crisis point. And at that point I said stop, we can't, let's get off the train. It doesn't matter. Let's take a day. It appears that we don't have a day, to hell with it, let's create a day.
But that was the breakthrough?
And that was a breakthrough, because it's just saying in the end it doesn't matter, nobody's died.
The journey that you've travelled from one of four running Theatre de Complicité; to now the fact that it's just called Complicité; and we all know that Complicité; and your name sells seats. You're identified with it. Was losing the other three painful?
David Mamet says that a theatre group can never exist beyond a five year period, and by that he means that a group, the same group of people living together, working together, that ideal of the theatre ensemble which people refer to all the time. What I would say is that there have been many moments which have been incredibly painful through the process of working with this company, many moments where you have marriages which then become divorces and, and so on, but one of the things that we stuck to right from the beginning was that in every single show there would be a different line up of people. And although we have remained close it has remained a very mobile group of people with nobody ever taking it for granted that because you did this show you would necessarily do another show, and the company is the same as any group of people I suppose that you grow up with and work with. I mean I see it throughout the theatre world really. We are no exception in that respect.
So there's never been the fight for the possession of the soul of Complicité;. There haven't been people, some of your colleagues who have said but we are the real Complicité; and Simon has taken it off onto directions which really aren't where we thought we were going?
Well no there hasn't been that. At a certain point we thought that we, I mean we always talk about the idea that we're just going to bring it to a halt, which is going to stop at a certain point. Having worked in an incredibly chaotic way for about seven or eight or nine years, we all said we can't go on like this. Annabel was starting to be invited to direct opera, other people were invited to do other things elsewhere. I started to work in film. You want to do your own things. Everybody wants to express themselves in their own way. At that point it was suggested that somebody should become Artistic Director. There had been no named Artistic Director, and...
Did you have any doubts about that?
Oh yes. Everyone turned to me and said right well why don't you be Artistic Director to begin with and then perhaps somebody else will be Artistic Director later. And I said absolutely no way. I don't want to be, I'm very happy as an actor and as a kind of complete maverick wandering around and causing my own chaos in whatever way, but then I said all right I'll do it and we'll just see how it goes. That was when it coincided with Richard Eyre asking me to create a piece on the writings of Bruno Schulz..
The Street of Crocodiles, in the early nineties, yes, yeah.
..the Street of Crocodiles. Yeah, and one piece led to another.
So it wasn't in any way that you seized control? This was not an artistic putsch?
No, I would have been incredibly happy I think, part of me would have been very happy simply to have been cut loose and left to go in another direction, and I often wonder what might have happened if I had, because it's a double edge sword to be associated with a particular name or a company. I find it very difficult when people talk about physical theatre for example. I don't feel I have any relationship with this term at all, because as far as I'm concerned all theatre is physical. As Aristotle says, you know, theatre is an act and an action, and he didn't mean just the writing of it, he meant that at the centre of any piece there is an action, a physical action.
Well the voice is physical.
And the voice is physical, I mean it's a sort of tautology really. For me it is perhaps just an indication of the historical state of theatre that suddenly some critic somewhere comes up and starts calling theatre this, you know, what we did, physical theatre, perhaps because we suddenly, because we have no money we perform everything, or perhaps because we wish to involve the audience's imagination nobody goes off stage, I don't know, or perhaps because we suddenly involve a piece of dance in the middle of what seems to be a natural.., a naturalistic piece, or perhaps simply because the British theatre had fallen into the trap of naturalism and...
You're still way ahead of the British theatre now aren't you? I mean we began this question of being dissatisfied with various aspects of British theatre and in a way every time you come back with a new production the gap between you and what the rest of British theatre is doing seems if anything larger, or certainly no smaller?
Oh goodness, I don't know really. I only know that I try to express something that I'm feeling passionately about in the way that I think is going to touch people the most. That's the only way I can describe it. I mean I see some absolutely, I think there's some amazing people working in British theatre. I think that and some amazing things are done. I do think that there is sometimes a problem in the way we educate people and the way people see things, and it is something to do with an historical legacy where theatre itself in the nineteenth century, once you have the arrival of film and television it, in order for it to survive it then becomes perhaps a middle class or an upper middle class, an activity which seems to appeal to a limited group of people as opposed to a wide group of people, whereas of course theatre in the, prior to the twentieth century, was something which was for everybody. I don't say that every performance was for everybody, but there was theatre in every walk of life. I think the great thing for example, you know, I take issue with the idea that television has killed theatre. I don't believe that at all. I think one of the things that television has done is it's sort of liberated television because it carries the majority of drama. You don't have to worry about drama any more. There's plenty of that on TV. You can do any old thing in the theatre now, and the idea that you've got to kind of stick to a well known, well made play I mean I think is absolutely um ridiculous. I do think that in somewhere like some of our major theatrical institutions should also programme things which are for me theatre. I don't understand for example why somebody like Pina Bausch has never been invited to perform on our national stage and it has always remained dance, that isn't the case abroad...
I think yes, yes I think that's the question about the British and European theatre, yeah...
But if you look at something like the world of the plastic arts, you know, something like Tate Modern is now trying to integrate performance into those buildings, and I feel that we are in a fantastic period of interrelationship between different art forms.
When you look back over the last twenty years would you ever have guessed that the work that you do would have travelled so far from sitting in deckchairs and making people laugh about the scene of the seaside to this highly complex work with video and almost every single means of expression that was 'The Elephant Vanishes'. I mean this is an extraordinary journey. How aware have you been of the evolution as you've been through it?
Quite unaware except that every time I make, I've made a piece of work, I've wanted to get rid of it, obliterate it and do the next thing, because it was never quite what I wanted. I think the moment you think you've arrived is the moment that you should stop.
Do you ever rest?
Can you do nothing?
I don't think anybody does nothing. Doing nothing is a skill in itself, something...
Do you have it?
Well I think you, I think I can learn it. I mean I think that I try to understand it more as I get older, and one of the things that I found fascinating about working in Japan and one of the reasons why I like working with actors who are not only British is that you are constantly being made aware of the different ways in which people see the world and of course what's fundamental in, fundamentally different for me to do with Japanese culture is that it's being made aware that we come from a dualistic society, that we divide everything into good and evil, and right and wrong, and the mysterious and the prosaic.
The emotion and the reason, it's very binary isn't it?
Very binary, whereas in Japanese society everything is seen as part of the same whole, and therefore there is an understanding, meaning and emptiness can be part of the same thing, and that was why the material was very difficult was because I realised I was having to see something in a completely new way, and when you ask me have I ever thought of doing nothing my mind immediately jumps to being in Japan and feeling when I started to understand in a very small way what it means to see the world differently, I found an incredibly release in the idea that meaning and nothing, meaning and no meaning were all part of the same thing.
Are you ever worried about running out of energy?
No I'm not worried about running out of energy. Sometimes I feel very, very tired like everybody but that is, I'm not actually sure what that's to do with but I know that it's not to do with this desire to keep on looking for something. What gives you energy, what gives you energy is that there is, the further you go the more you discover there is to do. It is what I find most wonderful about modern discoveries in physics, which is something that's really interesting me at the moment, is that the more they uncover the more mystery appears to be there, and that is a great source for energy rather than something which makes me feel tired.
Simon McBurney thank you very much.
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