Yard Theatre show channels Tom Cruise to explore nature of celebrity

Tom Cruise arriving for the premiere of Oblivion at the BFI IMAX, London

Tom Cruise arriving for the premiere of Oblivion at the BFI IMAX, London - Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Images

What is celebrity and what does it take to be a mega star? “We like to think we’re different from celebrities, but are we?” asks Ottillie Parfitt, star of These are your lives, a dark, comic, visual look at fame playing at the Yard Theatre in Hackney Wick until early October.

Using verbatim speech courtesy of Hollywood A-lister Tom Cruise, the play is set in a chat show studio and explores the meaning of celebrity – its birth, life, destruction and resurrection through many kinds of physical, visual and aural mechanisms.

“It’s really deconstructing celebrity,” Parfitt says. “It’s not a story-based piece in anyway. Instead it’s isolating movement, gestures; it’s isolating emotional states and getting the audience to look at things in a different way.”

Parfitt plays the studio manager in the play, which also contains reinterpreted iconic film scenes and a large choir to enhance the subtle and not so subtle nuances of the production.

These are your lives is the first production for Geste Records, co-founded by English theatre director Alexander Rennie and Belgian choreographer Tara D’Arquian; it is a development of their previous project, This is your life, which Parfitt also starred in last year.

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“It resonates for all people, whether you‘re a celebrity or not,” she says of the new play. “We all get into these processes, moments of repeating ourselves, or doing things because we’re aware of someone watching us do them.

“You might do things differently depending on who is in the room or who you’re with. We like to think we’re far removed from them, but a lot of what they do we do as well.” She tells audiences to expect the unexpected, that no two shows are alike, and things will be different every night.

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“It’s quite tightly choreographed. Then you get into these rhythms when suddenly anything could happen and you really sense then that the safety net has gone.

“It’s probably one of the most exciting parts of the show as well.

“You get used to watching patterns when suddenly things change, become more organic.”

Speech was taken from early interviews Cruise made at the start of his career “before the bleach-white teeth, when his teeth were crooked just like a normal guy and he was acting like a normal guy, like he wasn’t really acting. He didn’t have his persona yet”.

Over the years he becomes this “other thing” that we all know.

Parfitt adds: “There’s a different energy to him, a different look but also different gestures and different physicality but all consistent.

“In the more modern interviews, he’s the same, having become a little bit like a prophet. Who’s in charge? Who’s pulling the strings?” asks Parfitt. “Potentially we’re all a part of that. We’re all asking for it, we’re all watching it, and we’re all demanding it, and we think that maybe they’re quite different from us, but perhaps they’re not.

“Who is the person behind the mask?” she laughs. “Who is the real Tom Cruise?”

These are your lives is at the Yard Theatre, Hackney Wick. Tuesday to October 4. £12, £10 concessions.

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