1. Tell me about the first time you performed in or made work for the great outdoors? – Who was it with? What did you do?
I went to do a Horse + Bamboo site-specific show at Leicester Marina as a drummer. I knew Bob Frith the director via a friend and fancied a break from painting pictures in my North London bed-sit.
One of Horse + Bamboo’s performers had to return to Holland because of a family illness so I took his part.
It involved wearing a submarine escape wet-suit and climbing out of the canal with a trunk. The trunk contained a small puppet show which I performed to the audience sitting inside a theatre made of wooden pallets which we had all made in the week running up to the show.
It went well, my painting was gradually reaching a technical dead-end so I made a leap into making theatre. From Horse + Bamboo to Dogtroep in Amsterdam to the Whalley Range All Stars
2. Who has inspired your work most, and in what way?
Different kinds of inspiration I suppose.
Me and Sue both worked with Dogtroep ( 1980 – 1983 ) and when we left we didn’t want to copy them artistically but we did want to copy their approach to outdoor work.
Which was :- explore all the possibilities that being outdoors allows, keep making work as ideas generate more ideas and you’re only as good as your last show so don’t sit on your laurels.
Within Dogtroep Warner Van Wely was always good to talk to – he knows a lot about every different aspect of making outdoor work.
We also learnt a lot about keeping a company going from chats in the pub with Tim and Chris Britton and Penny Saunders of Forkbeard.
Artistically IOU Theatre were a big inspiration – dry,dry humour and imagery that goes to work on your subconscious.
Royal de Luxe too for their ability to shift scale and still maintain the same qualities – the ploughing scene with a small horse puppet in their Chinese stories show was as powerful as seeing a giant asleep in a hammock outside a primary school in Calais.
3. What are you doing now, and what’s next?
At the moment I’m doing preparatory drawings for a new show “The Best Of All Possible Worlds” which we hope to make next year, we’ve just put in a GfA application for it.
We’re selling the pig to a Belgian company who will do something new with her.
I’ve done drawings for years which lead into the shows so now, as touring revenue slowly declines we’re looking at ways of making money from the thousands of them that are lying about in the spare room.
4. What do you tell other people you do?
outdoor theatre/street theatre/ bank clerk – it depends who I’m talking to.
5. What is the best thing about working in outdoor theatre?
The sheer variety of things you can do and ways in which you can reach an audience.
6. Which gig do you still have daydreams or nightmares about?
We had a lot of nightmarish gigs in the 80’s where the audience were aggressive and difficult to perform to. I suppose those sort of gigs are (in retrospect) useful as you learn how to deal with such interruptions without ruining the flow of your show. In many cases the audience wouldn’t stop so you also learn how to attract their attention and keep it.
When the show has descended to the sight of a couple of drunks chasing Sue who’s dressed as a dodo round and round a bench you have to accept that you’re not going to get the show back so the best thing to do is try and make the sight entertaining for any passer-by.