In Conversation With: The Writer of Bureau d'Bureau

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in conversation with


What inspired you to write the play? I was looking around me – at work, in the market, on the street – and thought, “wow, look at all this absolute crap”. I mean the vernacular stuff that you get in your local towns. Village hall leaflets, tribute act posters, hazard prevention signage created inhouse, haphazardly – all that shit. Bad design everywhere, deteriorating, poorly placed, a haven for typographical innuendos and accident-prone doors. And then I was comparing the everyday stuff to the more corporate design you find from bigger companies and governments and wondering, what would happen if the former was clamped down, removed?

Made illegal in fact? I thought about what kind of people there would be in this corporate utopia, where everything is designed as it should be and the users respond in a faultless manner. Without the everyday disruptions brought to us by bad design, would everyone be consumed in their everyday chores? Their bits and bobs? Would there be militant types who condemn design blasphemy and the rest are those that follow? Of course, such a utopia would not be possible without a single figure, entity, setting the rules and laws on what they consider to be acceptable design and “logo treason”, which is where Bureau d’Bureau comes in.

Does the Bureau represent anything in the real world? The Bureau is many things in the “real world” or the world as I know it. In a literal way, the Bureau represents the world of corporate design and the brand or tone of voice used in places like governments. The nonsensical name and severely entitled design laws are poking fun at these entities in the real world. The Bureau tries its utmost to be incredibly severe and serious in order to be taken seriously,

but it ends up coming across foolish, which is how I see a lot of these “real world” corporations. From a design perspective, it represents the laws of design set by deities such as Josef MüllerBrockmann and others from the International Typographic Style movement. Although the aesthetics of the Bureau are not Swiss design, their temperament does in the way that to them there is one absolute way of designing, and anyone who doesn’t think that is a bad designer. D represents all the followers of these movements, who are always seen to be ripping apart those who don’t follow rather than actually designing anything. On a psychological level, the Bureau is that voice in your head when you are designing. The one that tells you that what you’re creating is shit and you should just copy something off Behance.

Is psychology something you thought about a lot when writing the play? Not at first. However, when writing the last scene I started to think about Freud’s 3 levels of consciousness and how they relate. It’s set on three different levels. The upper level is where we hear the most from D and her intensely critical Barnsley voice and K the lapdog confirming everything said. This level is the conscious (or super ego) part, the highly edited version of yourself that you want to share with the world. The middle level, we see more of P and watch a shop get raided for counterfeit toothpaste, but we still hear from D, K and some odd-jobbers walking by.

The design, to put it frankly, is a mess.

Everyday speech to match everyday designs.

This level is the preconscious (or ego), the side we see the most, with some things seeping through from under the surface. The final scene is most definitely the unconscious mind, or the id. The id of course is the part which lays well within ourselves baring our most basic urges and desires which is aptly set underground in a sewer. The work we see down here isn’t designed consciously, they are primal, like the id. Not that I’m an advocate of Freudian theory, it’s merely an interesting comparison.

Describe your creative process Get up. Make coffee. Open laptop for work. Get distracted and end up in the depths of Wikipedia reading about some serial killer for 3 hours. Poop. Have tea. Watch a film. Work. Stare into the void. Sleep. I wouldn’t say it’s a process but that’s how it usually goes.

Talk me through the design and print choices The design to put it frankly, is a mess. It’s a scrappy amalgamation of the bits and pieces I’ve created as props for the play, which perfectly matches it’s subject – the scrappy amalgamation of everyday design. To have it flawlessly layed out and easy on the eye would go against every-thing the play is about. It’s supposed to be jarring, but I think it’s interesting because of this. You notice the design, rather than it being something to purely aid you through the text. I made it monotone and printed on cheap paper because it should also be something that is accessible, something that could be printed out by Barry from the market who has got a BOGOFF offer on trout.

Why did you decide to write in a colloquial dialect? I write what I know, Barnsley accents and Myriad Pro. I’m from Tarn myself, so just felt right to write it from the perspectives of those around me. Of course some of the characters have a broader accent than others. The bluntness of the accent adds to the sternness of the character, which is why D has such a strong Tarn twang. Another reason why is it just made it feel more realistic. I hate the perfect speech and accents they have in other plays. People say things incorrectly, and if anything that just adds to the miscommunication element in the play. The creations collected in the sewer and the messages put out by the Bureau are ambiguous, much like genuine human interaction. We’re all just constantly miscommunicating with each other because we’re too wrapped up in ourselves, and I think that’s an interesting thing to include, not exclude. Colloquial speech, matching colloquial designs.

Maurice Morris, interviewed by Ecila Sirrom

Bureau d’Bureau will available from www.notreally.bu from Friday 31st February 2007. Pre-order to avoid disappointment!

I write what I know, Barnsley accents and Myriad Pro.