Interview: Chris Goode (& me).

Written for Exeunt

Chris Goode has woken up later than planned and is still waiting for the morning to reveal to him what sort of day this will be “There’s a lot of renegotiation that has to happen…” he is explaining to me “so we’ll do that throughout our conversation, it will be an interesting extra dimension.”

I can’t imagine someone I would rather ‘renegotiate’ my day with. Chatting to Goode on the phone and letting him lead me into new places of thought, I realise this is not a dissimilar experience to watching him recount The Adventures of Wound Man and Shirleyat the BAC last week. When talking to Goode or watching him perform, something about his gentle, funny, self effacing demeanour disarms you until you find you are happily swimming in a sea of what often end up being complex questions.

Whilst this seems to be an intrinsic part of who Goode is personally, he believes that forWound Man and Shirley this style was particularly necessary. “I knew that I was going to be wanting to do something quite ticklish in terms of the story I tell, which if you were to apply it to two characters in a less magic realistic context would be a story that would alarm and disturb people…” In the character of Wound Man (“a character plainly not wholly of this world”) Goode was able to access a world of magical realism which softened the blow of a story that the Daily Mail would have had a field day with. “It helps people to get to a place where at the end of the show they are really rooting for essentially a relationship between a 14 year old boy and a 40 something year old man who just wears pants all day, you know there are a lot of gritty TV dramas that could be made out of that relationship.”

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Review: 1927’s The Animals and Children took to the Streets at BAC

Written for The Animals & Children Took to the Streets

It could be easy to tag 1927’s The Animals and Children Took to the Streets as style over substance; it is none too shabby on the eye and the story, though sweet, feels in parts quite light. But timing is everything and on a day of epic student protest, the story of angry children taking to the streets to fight against an unfair social system, seems instead eerily prescient.

We follow pretty Agnes Eves into the dark dank world of Red Herring Street. This dodgy neighbourhood, full of vice and melancholic caretakers (who rather brilliantly speak only in sardonic voice over) is brought to wriggling life by Paul Barritt’s mischievous film and animation. A sparkling and robust score, performed with both gusto and grace by Lillian Henley, underpins Barritt’s constantly shifting world. It is a landscape littered with intelligent style references to 1930s Bauhaus poster design whilst revelling in naught cartoonish comedy.

Performers Suzanne Andrade, Esme Appleton and Henley, firmly inhabit this two dimensional environment, making it flesh and blood with some calculated yet joyously specific clowning and mime. Perhaps most brilliantly whilst 1927 knowingly laugh at their own theatrical trickery, in Andrade’s sharp and fruity script there is also a sense of reality to their world and characters; a truth which engenders empathy.

Even in the face of a narrative which may not stand the test of time, The Animals and Children took to the Streets is and always will be an entrancing piece of art with a capital R (or so they tell us). 1927 have once again conjured up a night of unique theatrical magic out of a potent combination of deadpan grotesquery and vaudevillian flair. This cautionary tale, on the surface at least, is a macabre masterpiece of invention and skill.

Running to 08 January 2011

Interview: Dancing Brick

Dancing Brick On ... Heap & Pebble at the BAC

Written for What’s On Stage

Dancing Brick’s founders Valentina Ceschi and Thomas Eccleshare are a pairing fast making a name for themselves for telling beautiful and quirky stories. Tonight marks the opening of their 2009 Edinburgh hit 6:0 How Heap and Pebble Took On The World and Won, now embarking on a UK Tour.

Inspired by Pippa Bailey at the 2008 Total Theatre Award nomination ceremony (“She said work in 2009 should be addressing climate change and sport!”) Heap and Pebble delightfully mixes cheeky genre references (“we’re really inspired by genres, larger than life things that come out of human plight; Sci-Fi and B-Movies, Musicals and Sports Epics”) with compelling characters that contagiously capture the audiences’ imagination. Eccleshare explains “I feel that theatre is very much an artform of the space and of the room that you’re in and so in a sense the environment. Theatre is a really good way of talking about our relationship with an environment.”

But this is not about impassioned ecological flag waving and, with the help of dramaturge Lu Kemp, the show has developed into “…a personal story that the audience can relate to…in Edinburgh we realised that what people really cared about were the characters.”

The tale of two ice skaters who are determined to compete even in a world with no ice could sound rather ‘Pixar’, but don’t let Dancing Brick’s whimsy fool you; Ceschi and Eccleshare have a healthy undercurrent of steely strength which is obvious from the start of our conversation. “We get a bit frustrated sometimes when we’ve been reviewed in the past and they’ve said ‘These guys are great but they should work with a director… but we feel quite strongly that we direct.” Ceschi agrees, “Of course we direct! It’s not stand up… there’s a decision to everything that we do.” Eccleshare takes up the mantle: “we would almost prefer them to say that Tom and Valentina directed it badly!” Often finishing each other’s sentences, it’s quite like listening to a relay race.

Formed in 2008 upon their graduation from the Lecoq School in Paris, they are keen to avoid easy ‘physical theatre’ or ‘Lecoq’ style classifications. As Ceschi is quick to point out, “even though you are taught the classical pedagogy of Jacques Lecoq, you do just sort of create what you want to create at the end.” Eccleshare continues, “what the audience may see as ‘Lecoq’ is that we definitely have the confidence to just put two bodies in space and let that relationship play out in a physical way… and we do mime techniques a bit.” You can almost hear Eccleshare grinning as Ceschi chides, “although I don’t really want to do that because we’re not very good at it!”

So what is ‘a Dancing Brick show’? “Valentina and I both aspire to make work that is beautiful and accessible and optimistic, but we really play with undermining that optimism and the fragility of that too. We want to do work that looks at contradictions and is fun to watch, theatre that we would really like to go too” Ceschi concludes decisively. “Our taste is very dominant.”

After long period of development it is clear they like this show. “Now we really feel comfortable and it’s a show we really care about” Ceschi says proudly as Eccleshare confides, “we keep feeling these echoes of them… like for example just a couple of weeks ago we were in a town shop and we found this ceramic model of two ice dancers and they couldn’t have looked more like us!” Ceschi laughs, “so it’s coming on tour with us!”

It seems that the spirited determination of Heap and Pebble is alive and well in Dancing Brick.

BAC Twin Peaks Weekender – Plunge into the weird and wonderful with David Micklem

Interviewed for What’s On Stage – 1st September

 David Micklem on ... His Twin Peaks WeekenderOn Saturday 23 October 2010 the BAC will open its doors for a Lynch lock-in to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first British screening of Channel 4’s Twin Peaks, David Lynch’s classic mini-series. Playing each episode in an epic 36 hour marathon, the Twin Peaks Weekender will be a one off chance to plunge head first into the seedy and surreal layers beneath this infamous white picket fence town.

Alongside the episodes being shown in the great hall (in sequences of 3 with breaks in between) there will be a mixture of theatrical, musical and workshop responses to the unsettling world and characters of Twin Peaks.

‘We’ve got state of the art sound equipment so it’s going to be a fantastic surround sound experience that’s going to pull you into that world. It will be interesting to see how people will respond after about four hours in; will their heads be blown open? Or will they be wanting to take a break and then come back in? It’s kind of a social experiment.’

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Review: One-on-One Festival at BAC

The One-on-One Festival is all about you. In every nook and cranny at the Battersea Arts Centre, performances are happening with only you in mind, intimate experiences for an audience of one. It sounds like a daunting prospect, to be the centre of so much artistic attention, but it’s not at all. It’s a warm environment where you are constantly taken care of and cradled (in some cases literally); there’s nothing to be scared of here.

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Interview – David Gale / Dash Dash Dash: The Omnibus

I’m meeting David Gale outside the red post box by Costa Coffee in the middle of Waterloo Station.  The station is my choice but the meeting place his – “Let’s meet by the red pillar box outside Costa’s” he says somewhat conspiratorially “I’ll be the one wearing the long blue overcoat”. 

Whilst this could be taken simply as practical meeting arrangements, Gale somehow manages to imbue the whole thing with a sense of adventure.  I have to stop myself from confirming that I’ll be the one wearing the red carnation.

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1984 – Blind Summit Theatre

With multi-media now being a regular, if not expected, facet of the theatrical scene it is refreshing to see a company who are taking it back to basics. Puppet aficionados Blind Summit Theatre do just that with their low-tech version of George Orwell’s seminal 1984. Their consummate ‘here’s one I made earlier’ style makes for a vibrant evening that will open this text to an audience whose only knowledge of Big Brother is via Channel 4. But ultimately their image of this dystopia is too safe; if Orwell’s vision of the future was a boot stamping on a human face, Blind Summit choose to see it as a teenager’s trainer, tapping gently.

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