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An Interview with 12 Million Volts’ Director Chris Yarnell

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Our latest interview was with the director of 12 Million Volts, Chris Yarnell. Here is what he had to say about the show, which opens 1st August.

Since receiving the Les Enfants Terribles Partnership award and being named the Emerging Graduate Company from the New Diorama, how have these honours impacted your company? 
The impact has been huge in many ways, it is an incredible honour to have won the LET award and with it has come a wonderful relationship with James Haddrell of Greenwich Theatre who was our mentor with the award. James has helped us out an incredible amount and we honestly couldn’t have gotten to where we currently are without his support and the support of all the staff at Greenwich. Similarly The New Diorama are a remarkable breed of venue who will bend over backwards to accommodate and support new up and coming companies if they can. All the companies on the Graduate Emerging Companies Scheme will no doubt agree that the NDT team are not only great people but constantly available to give advice, help create opportunities for us to help ourselves and even just to chat about how it’s all going when things get tough!

This is your first show at the Space, what drew you to work with us and our venue?
The connection between Les Enfants Terribles and The Space was in part a factor, in addition to seeing the breadth of work your venue programmes and the ethos of working with young companies. We also loved the dedication The Space has towards outreach and creating platforms to deliver public workshops which is a passion we share. The physical space of The Space is also something which we were (and still are) incredibly excited to work with having tackled conventional black box spaces thus far, the venue offers an atmosphere and a challenge that we are all very excited about (also, everyone that works there is wicked and super cool).

If Nikola Tesla were in the audience, how do you think he would react to the performance? 
That’s a big question and one we ask constantly. We really, really hope he’d like it. Although our goal is to present a pragmatic and (sometimes) brutally honest account of events which he may find hard to watch in places as I’m sure we would all like to rewrite our own stories a bit. He would probably also disapprove of the amount of batteries we go through to get the job done.

What can the audience prepare to experience in this show?
The audience can prepare to experience some really exciting stuff done with lighting, to see bubblewrap and balloons like you’ve never seen them before, some stunning movement and (hopefully) the experience of venturing through an enigmatic and wonderfully bizarre man’s life. Apart from that, don’t prepare anything but to bring yourselves – that’s our job! 

Which volt out of the 12 Million is your favourite?
Urmm…. The 3rd. Tesla would like that.

Why should Tesla’s story be important to the audience?
The story of Tesla is an incredibly poignant one. His story represents many things but largely it is the story of an immigrant in America (which is already a highly controversial issue at present) who wanted to help the world in an environmentally sustainable way. Countries around the world are finally starting now to create affordable cleaner methods of power, transport and the transportation of information and Tesla was pioneering this, a slightly embarrassingly long time ago. It is also a real lesson of what can happen to someone who is remarkably gifted but has no thought or concern about money and financial gain. 

How has this show shaped your view on energy? 
Tesla talks about energy in many, many different forms; from the energy a human being transmits across a room to the powering of the whole world with free sustainable energy. We have definitely changed our views on all aspects of energy, which hopefully ‘12 Million Volts’ will show you.

As the owner of Tesla, what role does Elon Musk play? 
None. He never replied to our tweets! And Nikola Tesla is owned by no man!!!


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