From the creators of Boris and Sergey, Tatterdemalion scooped the Judges Award at the Mimetic Festival while still a work in progress. With clowning at the heart of this comedic piece of theatre, Henry Maynard (artistic director of Flabbergast Theatre) has developed a touching, absurd and often magical show, which explores the themes of loneliness and belonging side by side with joy and exhilaration.
Audiences are invited to join our hero for a silent expedition as they witness one man's quest for a friend. Pathos, dark humour and Victorian aesthetics combine to create a wonderful and mysterious backdrop to a surreal and poetic journey.
Every now and again you come across a show
that feels like a hug, and Flabbergast Theatre’s Tatterdemalion is precisely the antidote to having to leave the house on a cold January Sunday evening. ★★★★ Exeunt
This vaudevillian mime was wonderful to watch, fizzing and brimming with ideas ★★★★ London Theatre
"Joyful, intelligent and downright funny... Has the potential to storm next year's Edinburgh Fringe" Views from the Gods ★★★★
What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
Henry Maynard: I have always been fascinated by physical comedy and clown and wanted to challenge myself with a solo show. This production was inspired by the image of a steamer trunk alone on stage. The piece then unfolds as our protagonist discovers it for the first time and sets about exploring the contents; I wanted to play with themes of travel, loneliness and belonging.
Why bring your work to Edinburgh?
This will be my fourth year of producing work in Edinburgh, having done Boris & Sergey the preceding three. Whilst Edinburgh can be horrendously expensive, even for ‘successful’ shows, it is also the most amazing platform for your work.
It can be difficult to get producers and press, even those based there, to see your work when presenting in London, whereas they are all in Edinburgh solely to see shows. It raises your profile with audiences from all over the world. In addition, there is the opportunity to be inspired by the huge range of other artists and productions.
What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
They can expect to be confused, delighted, threatened and made to laugh till their belly hurts. We will go on a journey together whilst we create the show. This show is very dependent on the audience so don’t expect a fourth wall.
The Dramaturgy Questions
How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
I have never been a proponent of forcing too much meaning into my work; I don’t believe in being didactic or that all theatre must have some kind of message. I feel that meaning is conveyed through the simplest means and what can seem meaningless for one audience member can touch another deeply.
Art exists for Art’s sake. We don’t look at sculptures or even dance and feel they HAVE to have meaning (although many do.) That said, we do strive for an arc to our productions or at least a theme as an inspiration point.
I enjoy the random and the absurd immensely, I enjoy less control and more spontaneity but I understand that can be threatening to some. I like people to have human reactions to our work rather than intellectual ones, Tatterdemalion specifically is about connecting with the audience and creating something absurd and beautiful together.
What particular traditions and influences would you acknowledge on your work - have any particular artists, or genres inspired you and do you see yourself within their tradition?
I trained in classical theatre for three years but since finishing have found myself leaning towards more ‘avant garde’ theatre forms such as Commedia Dell’arte, clown, puppetry, and physical theatre. Cabaret and circus also fascinate me and I have been working in London on the cabaret scene for the last six years, Boris & Sergey are clearly cabaret or ‘Vaudevillian’ characters and it could be argued that Tatterdemalion is too.
I enjoy the immediacy of the contact with the audience - the fourth wall is really a recent development in theatre; historically speaking direct address has been a feature for far longer.
I worked with Blind Summit for several years and you can obviously see their influence on our puppetry work, in addition to work with Mervyn Millar and Handspring puppetry company.
In Edinburgh 2005, I saw a Production called All Wear Bowlers by Pig Iron which greatly affected me (it is still to this date my favorite piece of theatre!). It was a duo clown piece with moments of magic and you can clearly see that it inspired my work on ‘Tatterdemalion’.
It also, in a roundabout way, inspired Boris & Sergey whom I consider to be a clown duo act in the ilk of Laurel & Hardy.
I had started to work on a duo act with a fellow clown when I broke my leg and that is when I started to make puppets. It is amazing how ideas and passions will divert themselves like a river when the first route becomes blocked. Looking back I can clearly see how Boris & Sergey came from my frustration at not being able to do that duo piece that so interested me.
Do you have a particular process of making that you could describe - where it begins, how you develop it, and whether there is any collaboration in the process?
In Flabbergast, we take a very collaborative approach to our work. Coming from a performance background I feel that our performers are the biggest resource and I hope to empower them to be critical and creative.
When working on Boris & Sergey, I try to guide without being too intrusive and we use a great deal of improvisation. In that way the shows grow organically rather than being written as such; if a particular phrasing gets a response from the audience, it stays in and if not, we search for a better line/piece of action. We don’t really use scripts but rather give our performers a framework to perform around; this is something that I took from the way Commedia is created.
Vaudevillian Adventure, our first show, took two years to really mature. It started as a twenty minute piece called poker pit which forms the core and was added to with the most successful acts picked from various cabarets.
Tatterdemalion was also created using a great deal of improvisation and is still growing as it is played in front of audiences. I used my company as my audience in developing the piece, it so it definitely has our sense of humor. I am influenced by music a lot, so we often take that as a starting point.
What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work?
The audience is everything to us - our shows are about interaction and connection with them. We aim to make the audience feel that they are part of the shows and indeed influence it; we are often praised for the improvisation elements of our shows which has lead to the development of our most recent show Preposterous Improvisation Experiment in which Boris & Sergey’ riff for one hour. Often, improvisation shows are quite formulaic and rely on tricks and rehearsal to please the audience. However, with PIE we literally have no idea what is to happen before we step on stage and every show is completely different. We hope to bring it to Edinburgh in 2016.