Monday, 7 May 2012

Chester, Esther and OOK say goodbye

We don't get many companies aiming specifically at children and families. One of this year's successes on this front has been Teatro-Saurus with their show Ook! And the Terrible Thing that Happened. The third and final performance takes place in the Pauper's Pit on Sunday, July 11th (2.30-3.15). Sneak away from FRinge Sunday and catch it (we shan't tell on you).
William Tombs of Teatro-Saurus kindly answered some rather inept questions for us.

1] Have you played Buxton before?
We have not played Buxton before. Previously we have performed most of our plays in London. So I'm expecting rather nicer surroundings in Buxton. A holiday atmosphere. Good weather... but not so good that folk prefer being out of doors to inside a theatre...

2] Young children can be a very demanding audience – do you find that? What challenges does that bring to you as a performer?
I always think that children make the best audience. They are generally more responsive than adults. They are more honest too, so if they don't like what you're doing, you know about it. Adults are often too polite. Too much politeness in the theatre is a bad thing, it allows performers to be boring. Whatever happened to the tradition of throwing eggs and rotten vegetables at bad actors? I think performers need to be kept on their toes, and childeren a certainly good at keeping you on your toes.

3] The show looks a bit like Indiana Jones – without the monkey brains perhaps – is that close?
Pretty close, yep. we really navigate a course somewhere between Indiana Jones and Coronation Street. So ranging from the very ordinary and domestic to the very extraordinary and other-worldly. No monkey-brains, but we do have a mysterious hat from outer-space.
A lot of the themes and even one of the characters have been taken almost directly from improvisations in mask-workshops we've conducted; so these are things that children have come up with.
4] Masks, music, jokes – do you want to tell us more about any of those things, how do they feature in the show? Is it live music – what instruments?
The masks are mostly half-masks (the actor's mouth still shows). They are made by me, following my own super-strong papier mache recipe. They help to create the show's striking cartoon-like style- a bit Commedia dell'Arte, a bit Muppet Show. I was touring with a play in Italy a few years back and found that, amazingly, even with Italian dubbing, I could still understand exactly what was happening in The Simpsons and Bugs Bunny. What these cartoons have is an incredible clarity of gesture backed up with very simple story-telling, and, in the case of The Simpsons, lots of pastiche and visual refences to popular culture. All these things constitute a kind of common language, which (with the exception of some of the cultural references) everyone can understand. We hope that OOK! employs something of the same clarity and good storytelling sense.
I wrote the music on a ukulele, though, sadly, the ukulele will not feature live in the show as we have a bit too much action to be performed while the music plays. The music is pre-recorded, and includes two songs with what we hope are very funny lyrics. One song is performed by the All-Devouring Piggy-Bank of Doom himself as he eats the USA for his breakfast.
5] Chester, Esther and OOK – ditto, anything about their personalities or habits that would interest us?
Chester and Esther Pocklington are a pair of OAPs who spend their dull evenings at home watching television. When Chester's actions trigger an ancient curse they are forced to spring into action to save the world. Esther is the brains of the couple. She always knows what to do in a crisis. Apart from one or two violent outbursts at Chester she remains pretty level-headed. Chester is a bit more of a blunderer. Very impulsive and excitable, he is liable to get into trouble and get carried away with things. OOK is not a person, though that's not to say it hasn't got a personality. OOK is something like the holy grail, the 'best ever thing in the world ever'. When Chester sees an advert for OOK on television he feels strangely compelled to buy it there and then. As OOK is inside a box, we never find out exactly what OOK is. As the man on television says in his sales pitch: "OOK is OOK! There is no pre-defined category into which OOK conveniently falls. Is it animal? Is it vegetable? Is it mineral? No, no, no! It is none of these. It is OOK!"

6] Teatro-saurus– do you want to tell us anything about the company? Who is involved, how long have you been working?
Teatro-Saurus has been running since 2005. To begin with we did a production of Volpone, since then we've produced seven original plays. One of which, What the Lobster Shouted as it Boiled, what described as an 'amazing one-man show' and 'a theatrical coup'. There are just two actors in OOK!, myself and Rachel Alexander. Between us we play nine characters.

by Keith Savage - Published 10/07/2012

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