Staying up all night watching scary movies and gorging yourself on enough junk food to make you vomit is a right of passage for most young people. It certainly was for Jakop Ahlbom , Dutch auteur and lover of the horror genre.
In his hugely successful work Horror, Ahlbom brings together his signature mix of theatre, dance, mime and music to create an immersive experience that will leave you terrified. Featuring special effects rarely seen outside of film, the play follows a woman who returns to her childhood home where, in a series of flashbacks, she is haunted by a tragic family event.
Ahead of the show’s opening in Canberra we caught up with performer Silke Hundertmark fresh from Horror’s run at the Sydney Opera House. Silke is a long-term collaborator as well as life partner of Jakop and plays the woman whose homecoming triggers a sinister chain of events.
Emma: You identify as a dancer rather than an actor. How did you first come to dance?
Silke: It was the classic dream of a girl at five years old. I wanted to be a ballerina. I danced at the local ballet school in my hometown in Germany and it wasn’t until I was eighteen when I painfully realised that I wasn’t going to be a ballerina that I came to contemporary dance.
E: How did you come to theatre?
S: I came to theatre through Jakop. The moment we met I started to be more interested in physical theatre and I found I could use my dance background really well. Jakop has always loved dance so we connected right away.
E: You have worked with Jakop for many years now. Is it the medium of physical theatre that has kept you coming back or is it more the collaborative process of working with Jakop in particular?
S: I feel strongly connected to the work of Jakop. We know each other so well. He knows what I can do and he is interested in really pushing it to the limits, pushing with the movement, playing with the process — all the things I really loved about dance. You don’t give up, you want it to be better and better, you are sweating and you are physically tired by the evening. All of this I got in dance and I get in Jakop’s work as well. I need it. I need to be physically exhausted.
E: Do you personally connect with horror as a genre?
S: To be honest, no. Not at all.
E: [laughing] Does that make it hard?
S: No, not at all! Jakop has loved horror since he was a young child, and our son, he’s only twelve years old, he is also a die-hard horror fan. I was never into horror movies and even now when I watch them I still need someone sitting next to me. But I can completely detach from this personal feeling on stage. When I am doing the play, the challenges are on another level and I love what we are doing.
E: I’m really interested in how this genre is translated to the stage. You don’t normally see live theatre shows that use so many special effects. What is it like working with them?
S: Jakop is much better at explaining this than me! The piece is highly choreographed in terms of the movement, music and lights. Its like a Swiss clock, everything has to be perfectly timed and everything must fit together. If one piece is missing or forgotten, the audience won’t have the same experience as if everything went perfectly. This puts a lot of pressure on the performers and technicians. The show is a really complex machine.
E: I imagine because of the subject matter that this particular show would also be quite emotional draining as well as physically. Does it take you a long time to decompress afterwards?
S: That is definitely right. It takes a long time to wash off all the blood! My feet always stay red.
E: Have Australian audiences reacted to the show in a similar way to European audiences?
S: It has been a very warm welcome so far. It has been quite similar to London audiences actually. I think people are really embracing the show and are understanding the intensity of it.
E: What’s next for you?
S: The last few years I have been so involved in the company and there has been no time to explore other things but I am ready now to work with other companies and see what else is out there for me. There are plenty of interesting companies making interesting work out there and I feel ready to see what happens.
Watch Silke on stage in
Canberra Theatre Centre
11 – 15 September