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Press Release: DanceEast - Cockfight - A cross between The Office and an Aussie Cage Fight

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Monday 9 October 2017



The Farm, in association with Performing Lines & NORPA (Australia) and Dance Touring Partnership (UK), presents Cockfight, a cross between The Office and a cage-fight, Australian style.

Straight from critically acclaimed performances in Australia, The Farm presents the first UK tour of Cockfight, an exhilarating duet of extreme physical theatre that explores male behaviour and intergenerational conflicts. 

Touring this autumn, Cockfight concludes at DanceEast in Ipswich on Friday 27 October, presenting a full-on, physical piece of slapstick dance theatre, culminating in a ‘tie dance’ that sees the two performers go through at least two ties per performance, and perhaps a filing cabinet too.

Cockfight begs the question, what happens when someone higher up the food chain weakens and is ready to be taken down? It is the work of two performers – Gavin Webber and Joshua Thomson – developed by The Farm in partnership with guest artist Julian Louis. It is a powerful and dangerous physical performance (The Australian, said “… the work is physical theatre at its most extreme…”), with the duet woven around the lives of two men from different generations, trapped in an all too familiar and universal environment: the office. 

The two men exist side by side, share space, resources, time and responsibility and justify their existence in relation to each other. Their physical action is underpinned by a fierce co-dependency in a duet of slow-motion fight sequences, interlocking rolls and tackles and Buster Keaton-esque battles of supremacy. 

Cockfight is born out of a very real relationship between Thomson (33 years old) and Webber (50 years old). Thomson joined Webber at Dancenorth in Australia in 2005 and they have continued to work together ever since. Their relationship has developed over the years, and these shifts in their shared physical and performance history are evident in the trust and danger of Cockfight’s choreographic language. 

Based on the Australian Gold Coast, with roots in Berlin, The Farm is an international network of highly respected artists, ranging from choreographers and independent dancers to musicians and designers. The artistic direction of the company is led by Gavin Webber and Grayson Millwood who have been making work together for the past fifteen years across four continents. 

Kate Harman, Julian Louis, Joshua Thomson & Gavin Webber co-direct Cockfight for The Farm. Lighting design is by Mark Howett, sound design by Luke Smiles and set design by Joshua Thomson with consultation from Joey Ruigrok. 
Suitable for age 12+ years.


Performance details and Box Office information
DanceEast, Jerwood DanceHouse, Foundry Lane, Ipswich, IP4 1DW
Box Office: 01473 295230 | DANCEEAST.CO.UK 
Dates: Friday 27 October | 7.30pm (and post-show Q&A)
Ticket prices: From £12, £9 concessions

About DanceEast
DanceEast is one of the UK’s leading dance organisations. It is based at the Jerwood DanceHouse in Ipswich, the home of dance in the East of England. 

DanceEast’s programme embraces the artistic, educational, social and recreational roles that dance plays in the local and national arts ecology. It places artists at the heart of the organisation, presenting high-quality high-profile dance work in the Jerwood DanceHouse and offering artists support, development and stimulation via programmes such as the Associate Artist Scheme, Rural Retreats, Professional Development workshops, advanced level classes and the Choreographic Development Fund. DanceEast has been running a range of innovative community projects for over thirty years, working closely with partners on local, national and international projects.

DanceEast is a registered charity, funded by Arts Council England, Suffolk County Council, Ipswich Borough Council, and donations from individuals, businesses, trusts and foundations. Thanks to Catalyst: Evolve funding, all donations DanceEast receives before 31 August 2019 will be matched by Arts Council England £1 for £1, doubling their value. There has never been a better time to donate, and contribute to the future of great dance at the Jerwood DanceHouse.


About The Farm
Based on the Gold Coast with roots in Berlin, The Farm is an international network of highly respected artists, ranging from choreographers and independent dancers to musicians and designers. The artistic direction of the company is led by Gavin Webber and Grayson Millwood who have been making work together for the past fifteen years across four continents. The Farm works out of Queensland but retains and builds on its national and international pedigree and touring record. Touring highlights include, Venice Biennale, Tanzplattform (Germany), Barbican Theatre (London), Europe, Canada and Australia.

The Farm is driven by a desire to connect to anyone, from dance and theatre virgins to aficionados and professionals. Often described as cinematic, the work is based on universal subjects and themes that matter. Finally and perhaps most importantly, The Farm create contemporary performances that transcend expectations of what dance can be and how and where it should be viewed.


About Dance Touring Partnership
Dance Touring Partnership (DTP) is a network of theatres working together to bring exciting and engaging dance to audiences around the UK. The network aims to build audiences for dance, increase the range and diversity of work available and encourage new attenders into dance. Since 2004 DTP has toured Ultima Vez, Australian Dance Theatre, Jasmin Vardimon, Renegade Theatre, Stan Won’t Dance, Theatre Rites, Fabulous Beast, Hofesh Shechter, Tanja Liedtke, Bounce Street Dance Company, Shaun Parker & Company, Blanca Li Dance Company and Mark Murphy’s V-TOL. 

DTP Member Venues: Brighton Dome; Cast, Doncaster; Grand Theatre, Blackpool; Gulbenkian, Canterbury; Hall for Cornwall, Truro; Lighthouse Poole; The Lowry, Salford; Northern Stage, Newcastle; Nottingham Playhouse; Oxford Playhouse; Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry. Guest Venues: Barbican, Laban, Sadler’s Wells and South Bank Centre, London; DanceEast Ipswich; Storyhouse, Chester; Edinburgh Festival Theatre; Macrobert Arts Centre, Stirling; G-Live, Guildford; Sherman Cymru, Cardiff.

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New Dance Takes Inspiration from The Office’s David Brent


By Diane Parkes

When Australian dance and physical theatre duo Gavin Webber and Joshua Thomson were creating their new work about male rivalry they found inspiration in the UK – from the hit television series The Office.

The Ricky Gervais comedy in which character David Brent is everyone’s worst nightmare of a boss gave them the perfect setting to play out their piece. Focusing on the conflict between two men, one older and one younger, their new production Cockfight takes place amid filing cabinets, desks, anglepoise lamps and desks.

Cockfight was prompted by the relationship between the two performers and reflections on the difference between their ages – Gavin is 50 and Joshua 33. When they began exploring intergenerational relationships and the conflict which can arise, an office provided the background they needed – and Brent the ideal role model.

“We’d both seen The Office and it’s awesome,” says Joshua. “We loved it – especially that dry humour, that really awkward humour – there’s a lot of that in what we do. Watching The Office was like watching a car crash. When I first watched it I couldn’t believe it. Making a character as unlikeable as David Brent is not an easy thing to do – it made you so uncomfortable but you just had to keep watching it. 

“It was a very special show and was in our hearts so we knew there was a little homage to it in this show. I feel like British and Australian humour are very similar but there are some differences so it will be interesting to see the reaction to our piece in the UK.”

The narrow confines of an office and how that impacts on relationships provides an arena for the men’s battles.

“An office felt like the right place for our show to start,” says Joshua. “We spoke about a place for the audience to land and then depart from – somewhere they recognised and the office was that place. Power shifts in offices can be so clearly read. 

“We did have a lot of discussion at the beginning about us putting it in an office setting because we don’t work in offices and as performers we don’t want to pretend that we are something that we aren’t. So what matters is that it starts in the office but quickly moves beyond that.” 

And Gavin explains how the workplace sets the scene but it’s the relationship between the two men which is at the heart of Cockfight.

“The office is a metaphor really because it’s not a real office in which we have real jobs. We did try to create jobs for ourselves but then in the end we decided there were no jobs for us! In the end we are Josh and Gavin on stage performing and that is something we were always conscious of.”

And Gavin says humour, even uncomfortable humour, is an integral element of the production.

“The show is quite emotional in a lot of ways for people to watch. And there’s not always a divide – you can be watching something and finding it very funny while at the same time you are grimacing at the horror of it. Often laughter is a nice way to open a response up in an audience so playing with that edge of humour is something we have been fascinated with.”

Gavin and Joshua’s dance collaboration goes back to 2003 when Gavin, then director of Australian company Dancenorth, visited Queensland University of Technology – where Joshua was a student. Joshua went on to become an ensemble artist with Dancenorth and the two men have worked together on different projects since then.

Cockfight was co-created and co-directed by Kate Harman and Julian Louis and came out of a series of improvisation sessions. It was created for The Farm, an international network of artists based on Australia’s Gold Coast and led by Gavin along with Grayson Millwood. 

First performed in Australia, Cockfight tours the UK in October with performances in London, Chester, Canterbury, Poole, Doncaster, Oxford, Nottingham and Ipswich. The British dates are presented by Dance Touring Partnership which is a network of theatres working together to bring new and exciting work to audiences across the country.

Cockfight is a special project for both Gavin and Joshua as it puts their long-standing friendship centre stage.

“We were travelling in a combi van on the way to Melbourne when Kate said Gavin and I should do a show together,” says Joshua. “She has worked with us for a long time and saw the way we work together and she thought that we have such a strong trust that it would be really special to isolate that and put in on stage.”
And from that initial thought process, Kate, Julian, Gavin and Joshua started creating some improvised dance pieces and became interested in the idea of intergenerational conflict.

“We quickly realised that what we wanted to explore was the idea of the age gap and of passing of knowledge from one generation to the other and when that knowledge is ready to be heard,” says Joshua. “And we wanted to look at the difference between when you’re older and you’ve developed mentally but you maybe don’t have the physicality any more or when you’re younger and your body is at the peak of physicality but you’ve not had the mind-training and the experience.”

As well as The Office, the team also brought in influences from other sources.

Gavin explains: “One of the stories we looked at was the Greek legend of Icarus. Everyone knows the story of Icarus who flies too close to the sun but what they don’t know is that after Icarus dies, his father Daedalus moves to an island and becomes famous as a great inventor. He has a nephew who also becomes an inventor and in fact becomes a better inventor – and Daedalus ends up pushing him off a cliff! 

“There was this idea that as you get older within relationships there’s a sense of do you allow the next generation to have power or do you fight them? And the counterpoint to that is the idea of taking power and knowing that as soon as you do that you can see what it will do to that older person so there’s responsibility but also ruthlessness in that.

“We were also inspired by the film-maker David Lynch. In the show there’s an idea of abstract coming out of banal ideas which is a very Lynchian idea. The office is an ordinary place, the most banal setting, but in the world of physical theatre and dance theatre that we work in, dance as a language tells you bigger and more unconscious and abstract stories so launching it from such a banal place as an office gives space for the stories to blossom out of that.”

With Cockfight featuring a series of slow-motion fight sequences and some extreme physical theatre, both men depend on each other to ensure not just emotional intensity but also their own safety.

“Underneath all this combative material is actually our trust and our friendship and the audience feel that,” adds Gavin. “We put ourselves very much on the line with this show and people can see that we give everything to it.”



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