What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
We have always found the traditional hoods for the Bunraku school of puppetry ridiculous. Looking at old photos and videos the hoods have points and are all over the place; this inspired the concept of The Black Hoods clowns. The Cabaret bit came from an intrigue with the genre and the exploration of puppetry for adults. We wanted to make a show that could be toured with two performers and fitted down into suitcases for the late night trains. We built up the show from ideas of small scenes, developing them in front of cabaret audiences and finally brining them all together in a coherent show.
Where does your piece at the fringe fit with your usual work?
The main medium that links our work is the use of puppetry. We have created a whole of range of puppets for our shows ranging from large outdoor puppets and the small table top ones we use in The Black Hoods Cabaret. Alongside this our dry, sarcastic humour and ability to improvise often finds its way into the work we do. Our productions are always original stories created out of a devising process that doesn’t start with a script.
What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
The audience can be expected to have a literal puppet slap in the face as our “brother and sister” duo try and put on an epic cabaret. It will be surreal, sometimes and little abstract, and defiantly a lot of milking lowest form of wit. Expect puppet nudity, death, and a twisted interpretation of society through the eyes of two puppeteers desperately trying to come to terms with being adults.
The Dramaturgy Questions
How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
We do not specifically work with a dramaturg but it does hold an important part in our process. Its helps ours to form the arcs in our stories and clarify the information we are conveying to an audience. Through the chaos of the cabaret it allows us to identify with the relationships between the puppeteers, and then the puppeteer an puppet. Through identifying these, we can then play with them, tear them apart and put them back together in interesting ways.
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?
We love silent comedy and have spent long evenings digging through archives of Chaplin, Keaton and Wisdom. Growing up we loved surreal comedies such as Monty Python, Shooting Stars and The Mighty Boosh. As well as comedy, is the clear influence through the westernised form the Japanese Bunraku puppetry: table top puppetry.
A lot of the techniques we use also fall into line with the philosophies of the Handspring Puppet Company; such as breath, weight, focus and micro-movement. Our love for animated shorts and movies has defiantly influenced the way we approach humour and build stories.
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?
Through our devising process we create, build, refine and then repeat. Through the process of making The Black Hoods Cabaret we have taken shorter versions of the show around cabarets in Kent and London; trying new things and refining what we have. We have found working with the cabaret form is a great way to test short pieces and have immediate audience response: to tell what works and what does not. We also spend a lot of time in the workshop where we make all of our own puppets, props and set. A Large part of our devising process is building puppets and then rebuilding them to suit the development of the piece. One tricky aspect of devising The Black Hoods Cabaret was the fact there was only two of us in the rehearsal room; both performing. Its really important to have an outside eye so we got round this by filming everything and inviting individuals into our rehearsals to offer feedback and a fresh perspective on the work we produced.
What do you feel the role of the critic is?
Critics are important. We like to talk to everyone about the show whether they like or not, the worst thing someone can say about your show is “yeah it was alirght”, if they hated it at least it provoked a strong reaction! We like criticism, positive or negative, that is constructive and informed.
The Black Hoods Cabaret is full of an assortment of physical comedy and dark humour. Nurtured and created by Knuckle and Joint theatre company, The Black Hoods Cabaret has been performed in shorter versions at comedy and cabaret clubs over the UK and sold out at last year’s International Youth Arts Festival! It will be the world premiere of The Black Hoods Cabaret at the Fringe and will go on to tour in Spring 2016.