THE INVISIBLE MAN
C NOVA 14th-19th August @ 1pm
'In a town this crooked, it sure helps to blend in with the crowd...'
Blabbermouth Theatre is proud to present its finger-clicking, film-noir-styled revamp of the classic HG Wells novel in collaboration with C venues at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2016. Meet The Man Who Really Wasn’t There in a fast-paced film-noir physical comedy set in a shady downtown bar in 1950s Chicago.
This newly devised production uses empty-clothes puppetry, a live jazz soundtrack and heavy poetic license to retell this story as an entertaining pulp narrative of dames and invisible private eyes.
The Victorian ‘first-person account’ narrative meets its reincarnation in the gritty narrative voice of the gumshoe detective, as made famous by writers like Raymond Chandler and films such as Sunset Boulevard and Double Indemnity.
What was the inspiration for this performance?
I've been experimenting with puppetry as a performer for years. Earlier this year, I directed a production of Blackout for the National Theatre Connections Festival. There was a scene involving a magical memory of the protagonist's Grandfather - and I knew a puppet was the right way to explore this memory. If the memory had to feel magical, then it had to be told through a kind of magic. And that is how I feel about puppetry - that it represents the best of what theatre can achieve, in
terms of manifesting a shared imaginative world between performers and an audience.
We worked with Rich Rusk (Night Light Theatre, Gecko) on this moment, creating a puppet out of the clothes we thought the Grandfather might wear. I wanted to explore this idea further, creating a more sustained character in the same way. By creating slits in the coat we were able to give the character hands - wearing white gloves. This led to thinking about cartoons and cartoon movement - for which hands are extremely important, in terms of making a cartoon 100% expressive.
Furthermore, once we had found our Invisible Man, we had to find a style which suited him - literally. We knew that the choice of costume for the puppet would communicate a great deal about our production - and so we settled on the fedora and trenchcoat of the Film Noir detective. Thus 'The Invisible Man' became like the title of a Raymond Chandler crime novel.
How did you go about gathering the team for it?
The cast was selected from a group of students who attended a series of research and development workshops, exploring a variety of disciplines - clowning, puppetry, laban efforts...
How did you become interested in making performance?
During my time as a director I have been more and more interested in making theatre, rather than just making theatre happen. If theatre is watching what happens between a group of people in a room (and that including what happens between those onstage and those off, live) then devising seemed like an exciting opportunity to create a performance through a living rehearsal process - always changing, developing as we become more familiar with the material and with the methods we are using to explore it. It is really allowing us to tap into emergent creativity.
Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
My work has become more and more physical, and whilst the rehearsal process for The Invisible Man isn't typical for how I have directed shows in the past, it owes a lot to the understanding of processes and creativity that I have developed in my work as a clown.
I think this is a reverse of the way I was raised to make work - which was to make decisions about a narrative and then physicalise those decisions. In this kind of work, we use our physicality to create games and physical improvisations that help us to discover the meaning of a scene. Our rehearsals are largely unplanned, as they enable us to respond to the moment, to make discoveries and engage with each other's work.
What do you hope that the audience will experience?
I hope that the audience will have a magical experience, after which they will leave the theatre looking at the world with more inventive and irreverent eyes.
What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
I believe that often, great physical theatre is akin to extraordinary observational comedy - as an audience member you share an imaginative world with a performer, and they make you re-recognise the world. Again, puppetry is almost a kind of magic here - we know that something is 'just' a hat and coat, but our imagination can help us believe it is alive. And it is this very childlike, creative way of looking at the world that we want to engage with. To jolt us out of our everyday modes of thought.
Do you see your work within any particular tradition?
Certainly. I think our work, through a kind of Chinese Whispers of influence, via companies such as Gecko and Complicite, and practitioners such as David Glass, Berkoff and clowns, probably derives from the work of Lecoq. These are certainly the influences that have shaped my theatrical tastes the most - influences that I have been exposed to through the Edinburgh Fringe. So here I have come full circle!
Blabbermouth Theatre was formed by director Luke Rollason to create highly physical and irreverent work from his experience of clowning and devising with individuals such as David Glass (Lecoq), Eric Davis (Gaulier, Red Bastard) and Complicite. It takes silliness extremely seriously, in order to create shared imaginative worlds with an audience and see the eccentric in the everyday. Blabbermouth Theatre is currently in residence at Bloxham School, where it will be developing its devised production of The Invisible Man.