Behind the Scenes: Richard Gregory, director


12 Last Songs is a 12-hour performance piece coming to Brighton Festival on 22 May, which puts local people centre stage, creating a portrait of society. In our latest Behind the Scenes, we spoke with Richard Gregory, co-artistic director of theatre company Quarantine, and Director of 12 Last Songs.

'I have this fascination with watching people work – watching people do something with skill and application.'


Tell us more about 12 Last Songs?

12 Last Songs is about work and how we spend our time. It’s a 12-hour durational performance. The show premiered in Leeds at Transform Festival in October 2021. It involves 24 local people doing or talking about their work on stage across 12 hours from midday to midnight. Workers perform paid shifts, for example a hairdresser cuts hair or a builder builds a wall, creating a live exhibition of people in society.


Where did the idea or inspiration for 12 Last Songs come from? 

I have this fascination with watching people work – watching people do something with skill and application, witnessing one thing become another, observing the pleasure and satisfaction of seeing something through. Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about work – my own relationship with it but also the profound changes brought about by the pandemic.

12 Last Songs will invite people in based on the work that they do – to demonstrate their skill and to talk about themselves and their daily lives. It is an attempt to create a complex, fragmented portrait of people and society. In 12 Last Songs, work becomes a lens to talk about wider things – about the way that society is structured, about beliefs and values, economics and politics and identity, about entitlement and inheritance, and the privileging of one type of work over another. 


How would you describe your show in three words? 

Epic durational performance.


What do you hope people will take away from 12 Last Songs after they have seen it? 

There aren’t many real live situations where you get the chance to spend time watching, listening to, and gaining an insight into the lives of others you might not otherwise meet. I hope that people will notice that, and maybe — even if it’s just for a moment — take that way of looking and listening out of the theatre and into the “real world”. 

Are you looking forward to being part of Brighton Festival 2022?

Our company, Quarantine, has a long history of showing work in Brighton.  I’m excited about coming back with something that gives us a chance to meet and work with all sorts of people from the city and be part of a festival that embraces all that Brighton is. Our work always attempts to rub the local up against the international, the intimate with the epic — and Brighton Festival does this too. I think we’ll feel at home. 

12 Last Songs 22 May, Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts

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12 Last Songs is co-presented with Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts and caravan assembly.