theo adams and isamaya ffrench shed light on their australian dark mofo performances
The Theo Adams Company is a London-based collective of talents headed up by the brilliantly creative and affable lad with that same name, Theo Adams. In Australia for Tasmania’s jewel-laden Dark Mofo festival, we sat down with the divine Theo and i-D’s...
Theo Adams and Isamaya Ffrench
You guys appear to work on such varied shows. What makes a Theo Adams performance unique?
Theo: It has to be big and emotional and fun. It can be dark too but we try to make it as euphoric and cathartic as possible.
Isamaya: There's usually a fundamental point - like an emotion or a type of person we're trying to represent. The shows are very much a product of the individual talents of the people we work with really.
How many people in your company?
Theo: It really depends on the show we're working on but the core group is about 15 plus a string quartet and the backstage crew. Right now in Australia it's just the two of us but an event we did for Louis Vuitton involved a cast of 70.
What do you have planned for your Australian shows?
Theo: At Dark Mofo we're doing solo performances - it's me going back to my 15-year-old club show roots - and then a secretive masked ball, which involves thousands of dollars worth of lights.
Isamaya: For our Melbourne show on Saturday night we've tried to find local performers who fit in with our world - today we're going to see what everyone does and then work their talents into our show.
Theo: We don't really know what's going to happen but I'll make sure it's entertaining and fun.
What did you do for Louis Vuitton?
Theo: We produced a huge event for them in Tokyo. We basically recreated a Parisian street and hotel - guests entered through a narrow leather corridor with a Japanese version of 'One Day More' from Les Misérables blaring uncomfortably loudy into a cobbled French Parisian street built precisely to scale. They then opened the door into a bright red hotel lobby where we'd built 15 different rooms with the help of Gainsbury and Whiting, the company that produces the Alexander McQueen shows amongst other things. At the end we had Sister Sledge perform.
That sounds incredible. It's amazing that a luxury brand had the vision to work with you like that.
Theo: It really was - I was 21 at the time! They have never seen their customers let loose like that. It was a real interactive experience and at the end people were literally screaming.
How did you guys meet?
Theo: I needed some extra dancers and my friend knew Isamaya so she came in and I when I asked her to dance she did and I was like, "You're really good! We're doing a show in Austria next week, do you want to come?" She was like, "Oh yeah, ok." We've been together ever since.
Isamaya: That same friend was making a film for Dr. Martens, which Theo and I were in and I thought he was just an amazing woman in her late forties. I couldn't have been more wrong. That was how we met.
Isamaya, do you do all the make up for the performances?
Isamaya: Because there are so many of us, Theo gives me a brief and then I'll do a demonstration so everyone can do their own. MAC is great and provides us with all the make up we could ever need.
What are your first thoughts of Australia?
Both: You have really good coffee.
Thank you, you can come again. What's coming up for you in the future?
Theo: We're planning a film with our choreographer who's six months pregnant where she'll be the dancer. Pregnancy is a bit taboo in dancing and performance - it will change the way she moves but that's what makes it interesting.
You've got quite a deadline there!
Isamaya: We're also developing a much bigger show - a West End show in one of those musical theatres. It costs a lot because we want flying and things - so that's something we spend a long time working on. One of the things we've been talking about is taking over some amazing abandoned theatres in Detroit. Theo is an artist who makes theatre but there's a lot more to it - so much thought and narrative - and that's what keeps it exciting.
Text Briony Wright
Photography Michelle Huynh