On the Couch with David Finnigan

David Finnigan by Javier VelaWho is David Finnigan?
I’m a writer, theatre-maker and pharmacy assistant from Canberra. I produce work with science-theatre collective Boho.

What would you do differently to what you do now?
There is no plan B! If I had a fall-back career I’m scared I’d fall back on it. I think like a lot of people in the arts, I’m in the industry partly because I love the process of creating work, and partly because I’m only capable of doing this one thing. If I stopped doing theatre I’d have to start again from scratch. That mix of passion and panic is what propels me forward.

Who inspires you and why?
Boho makes theatre through long-form collaborations with research scientists. We partner with ecologists, futurists, climate and systems scientists, and we spend months and years with them trying to get to grips with what they do. I’m not a scientist (none of us in the company are) but I find a lot of scientists really inspiring. At its best, science can bring the conversation to bear on the really big questions that face us as a society, as a species. While it can’t offer solutions, scientists have developed valuable tools with which to think about these challenges, and I find that exciting and inspiring.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
As ridiculous as this may sound, Boho formed out of a genuine attempt to do something constructive with the theatre we make. As company member Jack Lloyd put it, ‘we fight dirty for science’. We want to try to use the communication tools we have as artists to engage with some of the really vital and exciting ideas in contemporary science which we think should be more widely shared.

But the truth is, maybe theatre and the arts are entirely useless when it comes to making a difference in the world. Maybe we’d be better off joining political parties, or earning real money and donating to worthwhile causes. I’m not sure. And everything we do is a guess, a trial, an attempt. With every show, we ask ourselves those questions: Will this make a difference? Are we helping, or wasting our time? And we haven’t got an answer. So… I’m not sure? What do you reckon?

Favourite holiday destination and why?
!!! I don’t know why, but I found this question really hard. I’m gonna pass, I’m sorry.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take then to, and why?
When friends come to Canberra? I guess… I guess that does happen, sometimes. One time Boho member David Shaw took me up Anzac Parade, the road that leads up to the Australian War Memorial. On either side of the road are memorials to the various conflicts Australia has fought in – WWI, WWII, Vietnam, conflict in the Pacific region, and so on. At a point when you get up near the Memorial itself, there’s a patch of bare ground, bigger than most of the other memorials, which has been left clear. Ready and waiting. In anticipation of some future war or conflict that Australia will be part of in the next few decades. I mean it’s not an attraction, exactly, but I find it interesting.

What are you currently reading?
Anne Boyer’s new book Garments Against Women. She’s the best poet, out of all of the poets. Among other things, flicking through Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312 I found this passage, which I thought was pretty lovely: health, social life, job, house, partners, finances, leisure use, leisure amount, working time, education, income, children, food, water, shelter, clothing, sex, health care, mobility, physical safety, social safety, job security, savings account, insurance, disability protection, family leave, vacation, place tenure, a commons, access to wilderness, mountains, ocean, peace, political stability, political input, political satisfaction, air, water, esteem, status, recognition, home, community, neighbours, civil society, sports, the arts, longevity treatments, gender choice, the opportunity to become more what you are that’s all you need.

What are you currently listening to?
Well, Best Festival Ever: How To Manage A Disaster is currently in rehearsal, so it’s a lot of the music from that show. In this performance the audience get to program their own music festival, including choosing the bands, and therefore controlling the soundtrack for the show. Right now we’re having lots of debates about our potential headliners and which of their songs to include: Which is the most rocking Savage Garden song? Destiny’s Child or Salt’n’Pepa? Which is the most iconic Rolling Stones song after (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction? And of course that means a lot of listening to the indisputed best song of this decade.

Happiness is?
As per the previous answer, happiness is the four minutes and six seconds of this tune.

What does the future hold for you?
This August, Boho is presenting Best Festival Ever in Canberra at the Street Theatre. It’s our first Australian season of the show, after premiering it in the UK last year and then touring it to Sweden. We’d really like to do some more Australian shows, and also to open it up to any other interested parties (theatres or otherwise). Other than that, as always, the future is a mystery. If you have any thoughts, suggestions, invitations, ideas, get me at: www.davidfinig.com

David Finnigan is a writer, theatre-maker and festival producer. He has completed residencies at the University College London Environment Institute, the Battersea Arts Centre in London, Tanghalang Pilipino in Manila and Campos de Gutierrez in Medellin, Colombia.

In 2012 David was awarded a Fellowship from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust to research the intersection of climate science and the performing arts in North America, Europe and Asia. David founded and co-directed the Crack Theatre Festival in Newcastle (2009-10), and the You Are Here festival in Canberra (2011-13).

Best Festival Ever: How To Manage A Disaster will be presented at Canberra’s The Street Theatre: 12 – 22 August 2015. For more information, visit: www.thestreet.org.au for details.

Image: David Finnigan – photo by Javier Vela