Briefly Stated: Margaret Atwood Talks Wayne McGregor’s MADDADDAM
by Caroline Dickie
October 24, 2022
Margaret Atwood and Wayne McGregor for MADDADDAM. Photo by Christopher Wahl.
Visionary. Intellect. Genre-Breaker. Poet. Canadian writer Margaret Atwood casts a sharp eye on world events and human behaviour, envisioning consequences that are extraordinary but also plausible, sometimes frighteningly so. Her prescience as an observer and storyteller have made her work consistently popular for adaptation, as with the multi-award-winning television series The Handmaid’s Tale. Here, with her signature wit, Atwood talks oxygen, onstage mishaps and the upcoming world premiere of Wayne McGregor’s MADDADDAM.
What were your first thoughts when Wayne McGregor approached you about making a ballet inspired by your MaddAddam trilogy?
My first thought was, let’s do this. Because I’d always had this idea that it could be a ballet.
Yes. It’s very visual and it’s very bizarre.
Wayne McGregor in Rehearsal for MADDADDAM. Photo by Christopher Wahl.
What themes will come to life in this new ballet?
I won’t know the full picture until opening night because I want it to be a surprise. But as you know, ballet is not like a play. So, it will not be a literal rendition. It will be a creative interpretation of the emotional content of the series. The books are very visual and the ballet is going to be extremely visual as well.
The themes in your MaddAddam novels are so timely in light of our current experience of a global pandemic. How do you feel looking back on the trilogy now, given the state of things today?
Well, I didn’t do it. I told you about it but I didn’t do it. Physics and chemistry don’t care about you, but you need to care about them. Similarly, the biological world is not something over there, it’s something that you breathe in. Every time you take a breath you’re breathing in the natural world. The oxygen that we exist on was created by the biological world 1.9 billion years ago. Before that time, it was a methane atmosphere. So, we are very dependent on the biological world and we destroy it at our peril. We would not survive its destruction, no matter how rich you are.
Koto Ishihara and Harrison James in Rehearsal for MADDADDAM. Photo by Christopher Wahl.
This is not your first collaboration with the National Ballet. You’ve been onstage with the company as a Cannon Doll in James Kudelka’s production of The Nutcracker. What was that like?
I’ve done it three times actually. I was paired with Steven Page of the Barenaked Ladies. He dropped me; you might remember that.
A famous moment! What do you expect to see when the curtain rises on MADDADDAM for the first time this November 23, 2022?
I think it will be amazing. It’s going to be a massive production. Wayne has done some pretty big projects lately and he’s an unconventional thinker. That is what you need for a project like this. I’m looking forward to the big revelation. I’m here, ready to be wowed. Surprise me! I’m sure that Wayne will.
MADDADDAM is onstage November 23 — 30. Learn more