You’ve trained as an actor, and also as an architect – how has that influenced the creation of the small mobile theatre that is The Drifting Room?
I’ve been doing work in public spaces for quite a while. I create original theatre as well as site-specific productions for unconventional theatre spaces, art galleries, museums, shop fronts and public spaces. I’ve used that house-shaped theatre form in other projects, and this time I thought, ‘Okay, this one will be mobile with feet.’

I just wanted to get around the idea that theatre always has to pay rent somewhere. So I thought it’d be great to do one where you take the theatre with you, or at least the theatre is sort of what’s happening outside, and so the audience is experiencing an array of things from within something really little. Fundamentally, I think the city is by far the most interesting theatre that you could go to.

Why should people drift more?
You suddenly find things that are interesting that you don’t give yourself permission to normally. I think it’s actually quite a political thing to do, to drift, because you’re saying, ‘No, there is no purpose. We’re just going to follow our instinct and discover as we go.’

Drifting also comes from the Situationist International, which was an art movement in the 1950s in Europe. They were explicitly anti-capitalist, so it was asking, ‘How can you participate in the city without going shopping?’ This comes from that idea. Last year I finished doing a PhD on public space and how artists use public space for performance, so a lot of this stuff is fresh in my mind.

You’re inside the theatre leading the way, right?
Yes. You’re going for a walk with people, in close proximity to them, and I’m telling you stories at the same time, and the stories are quite weird. They introduce ways of looking at the city that I think have a bit more depth or originality. That’s essentially what’s going on.

It’s like a walking bus, except you’ve got a funny thing over your head. It’s like a cloak of invisibility, because you can see out just fine – and people can see that there’s someone in there, but they can’t see who it is. So you really feel invisible. Sometimes you can just crouch down and stop and listen to amazing conversations that people are having right in front of you. Because they’re just treating you like a building.

It’s actually really fun. It’s a really weirdly satisfying thing to do, to just pretend you’re a building sometimes.

Does the audience have to actually carry the theatre?
Yes. But it weighs so little. I worked it out once and it was less than half a kilo each per person.

The Drifting Room is the latest project in a long line of interesting work for you: acting on stage and screen, an artist residency in Taiwan, directing and designing shows, and curating festivals. What else have you done that’s outdoors?
The smallest thing I’ve ever done was a little house that was the size of a table, which I lived inside on the street for a day and then moved it somewhere else. That was something I did for a number of years around the place.

I’ve also done a lot of bigger things, which are more like theatre or dance theatre in indoor or outdoor spaces. I’m  really interested in exploring this idea that brings those two things together: that really intimate installation and the idea of an epic theatre, one where big things happen.

The Drifting Room has been invited as a living exhibit to the 2023 Prague Quadrennial at the Prague National Art Gallery.

Read Stephen’s Advice to His 22-Year-Old Self on The Big Idea.

The Drifting Room, with Stephen at front right.