Binge Fringe Magazine

INTERVIEW: A Digital Pint with… Victor Esses, Taking Us Through ‘The Death and Life of All of Us’ in 2024

The Death and Life of All of Us looks to offer up a moving, poignant and charming exploration of intergenerational shame, family secrets, history and what’s left when we’re gone. Latinx, queer, Jewish-Lebanese theatre maker and performance artist Victor Esses is aiming to bring a personal family story to life as the show lands at Camden People’s Theatre for a two-week run from the 2nd to 13th April.

This all follows a sell-out run at Soho Theatre and success at Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2023, so it’s been a busy year for Esses! We managed to catch him for a pixelated pint to get under the skin of the show, and find out more.

Catch The Death and Life of All of Us at Camden People’s Theatre from April 2nd to 13th. Tickets are available online.

JakeHi Victor! The Death and Life of All of Us was super well-received at EdFringe last year, tell us what you’ve been up to since then and how your creative practice has developed.

Victor: I’ve been good, then bad, then okay… you know the world is going crazy, but I try and keep going the best I can. After a bit of a rest we took the show to The Lowry in Manchester and it was magical and then to Harlow Playhouse which was also a lovely experience. I feel that each time we do it we go even further with it. Apart from that I started making a new work, an installation about rage – I had a 2-week residency at ArtsAdmin and it was very fulfilling, I discovered a lot about the form I want to experiment with and managed to arrange a few brilliant collaborations including some with Paula Varjack, Phoebe Boswell and Enrico Aurigemma. This is really a new development to my practice, using all the biographical work I’ve done previously but expanding it, using other people’s voices and centring less my own experience, still interactive though and in this I hope people will journey through the space.

I’ve also gathered a group of queer people from all ages and through workshops we’ve been creating an audio piece to be launched as part of our run at CPT. It’s called ‘Queers on Tape and you’ll be able to access it via QR code. It’s been such fun and we’re about to start editing as we speak.

Jake: The show is an exploration of intergenerational shame, family secrets, history, and what we leave behind when we’re gone. Tell us about the story the show explores.

Victor: In “The Death & Life of All of Us” I explore the complex journeys of identity, migration, and family dynamics across generations. This is a project that started about 20 years ago when I first heard about my great aunt Marcelle and went to visit her on the outskirts of Rome, where she lived in a small apartment by a very fancy golf club. She hadn’t spoken to the family in a long time and I was studying film and took a camera with me intending to make a documentary about her life. She had left Lebanon in the 50s, converted to Catholicism from Judaism, and married an Italian diplomat with whom she travelled the world. I was curious about that alternative life to the one I knew.

She was inspiring to me, a queer man trying to figure myself out. We talked on camera for hours and this is about our interactions then and later, her life. And my own journeys as a Jewish-Lebanese, Latinx, Queer person, grappling with questions of authenticity, belonging, and the courage to embrace one’s true self despite societal pressures.

Jake: You’ve chosen to explore the show in a multimedia format – why was that important to you and what are you hoping the audience takes away from it?

Victor: The starting point of the project were the tapes I had from 20 years ago, they were to inform the direction of the project.

I then wanted to have live music on stage to enhance the journey, but also to have a friend with me on stage, supporting me through a challenging exploration. Turns out Enrico Aurigemma was Italian, even Napoleon from the same place where Marcelle’s husband was from, and I loved his music and presence. We worked together on the projection design and music, alongside my partner and regular collaborator Yorgos Petrou. We played with projection mapping, to make Marcelle as large as we could, to translate her larger than life character.

We also worked with movement director Jenni Jackson to ground the different physical moments and the journey my body goes through in the show. All of this and the lighting by Amy Daniels allowed us to create a very site-specific format where one is immersed and hopefully evoking different times. Helping to deepen the audience’s immersion into Marcelle’s story and my own journey, enhancing emotional resonance and connection.

The aim was always to provoke, entertain and challenge in a gentle, visually pleasing way. I want people to feel connected to mine and Marcelle’s stories but also to see themselves in us and wonder what we all need to do to embrace each other, and ourselves, more. Or at least to make informed choices as much as possible.

Jake: Tell us about the show’s relationship to you as a Jewish-Lebanese, Latinx, Queer creative practitioner.

Victor: “The Death & Life of All of Us” is a deeply personal piece. It presents all the intricacies of my identity as you pointed out. The idea in my work is to own my intersections fully, something I thought not possible in the past. In the show you get to hear some Middle Eastern sounds in the music, but also Western sounds and perhaps a more Latin sound.

My family’s history and my own has been one of migration and adaption and readaptation, so this show that discusses our authenticity and the things we need to do to survive come from exactly this profound experience.

As an artist I try and present forms that I’m interested in too. The fact that I’m in artist is often present in the show, the journey of making a work always getting a nod. Through my honesty and vulnerability, I hope audiences feel safe and moved to give more of themselves to the space as well, from the comfort of their seats. And when they do, I guarantee you that they get a lot from our show.

Jake: Given the themes of Binge Fringe, if your show was a beverage of any kind (alcoholic, non-alcoholic – be as creative as you like!), what would it be and why?

Victor: I don’t drink, now for many years, but I’d say that our show would be a large fresh drink with elderflower water, watermelon juice, and a spicy thick mix. Layered where you can savour a chilled elegant pleasant taste, then a fun sweet layer, ending with an upward intensity of all sensations. All served in a pretty glass that is a mix of the very contemporary with some very elegant laboured patterned details from a different era. Because these are some of the layers you’ll experience when watching us, and it’s the mix of my great aunt’s personality, mine and the kind of show The Death & Life is.

Tickets are available online.

Jake Mace

Our Lead Editor & Edinburgh Editor. Jake loves putting together novel-length reviews that try to heat-seek the essence of everything they watch. They are interested in New Writing, Literary Adaptations, Musicals, Cabaret, and Stand-Up. Jake aims to cover themes like Class, Nationality, Identity, Queerness, and AI/Automation.

Festivals: EdFringe (2018-2023), Brighton Fringe (2019), Paris Fringe (2020), VAULT Festival (2023), Prague Fringe (2023), Dundee Fringe (2023)
Pronouns: They/Them