It’s quite the meeting of minds when Cuff’s artistic director/chief whippersnapper Tim Meredith gets chatting to writer, mask maker, performer and all-round theatre juggernaut William Tombs, whose Hunkypunk theatre company are presenting the show KUNST? at Camden this year…
Tim interviews William
Masked Theatre – what is that? Is there something wrong with the actors’ faces?
There’s nothing wrong with our faces. These masks are for the audience’s protection: our blazing god-like beauty would burn you up were you to look at it. Or, you could say that our style of mask transforms the performers into a kind of human/puppet hybrid. Half-mask is the art of controlled exaggeration – the theatrical equivalent of cartoon.
There seems to be a lot of different art forms going on here: poetry, dance, music… which one is the best and why? Take no prisoners!
As moths to a flame; as cherubim and seraphim circling in joyous sublimation to His shining seat; these varied arts you mention swirl endless ‘round their great attractor: the Central Art of Arts: THEATRE. Theatre (potentially) incorporates all other arts. It is the alchemical crucible in which all arts are melted, mingled, and subsumed. Some make similar claims for Film, but Theatre is live, so benefits from spontaneity, as well as a certain immediacy and intimacy with its audience.
I have turned my back on you in a fight, what is your go to move?
I respectfully wait for you to turn back around… I want you to witness the cruel flash of triumph in my eyes and the easy balletic poise with which I hold the knife I pulled while you weren’t looking.
So you wrote, designed and are starring in this show? Apart from trying to make us all look inadequate and lazy, what made you take on so many roles?
I make theatre ultimately to articulate a personal aesthetic vision. Naturally I take on a lot of roles to do that. But I wouldn’t say I’m ‘starring’ in KUNST? – it’s an ensemble piece – I play my part, but it’s nothing without a brilliant cast of sympathetic collaborators. I can do a lot because I’ve got good people who will cover all my mistakes!
As fringe performers we all have the challenge of making believable, deep and immersive worlds in upstairs rooms of pubs on a football night; what do you find is the biggest challenge to keeping the audience in that magic bubble?
Maintaining a sense of urgency. The audience doesn’t have to watch us. Why should they? They’ve paid their money so they’ll be unlikely to walk out, but we’ve all sat through bad fringe shows without really watching them. As performers we have to make them have to. No room for apathy, every word, every gesture, has to lasso their attention.
Is there anything that you would like an audience member to know before going in to your show?
How indeed does one ready oneself for a first viewing of the heady spectacle that is KUNST? I would say: completely cleanse yourself. Then meditate for an hour prior to arrival. Then leave your mind at the door as you come in, or prepare to have it blown.
Bonus Question: I have wronged you, how do you take revenge?
Catch KUNST? at The Lion & Unicorn on 17th-21st August at 7:30pm.
William interviews Tim
As an improviser, how important do you feel rules and limitations are to the creation of comedy? Do they help? Please answer in monosyllables.
Rules are both full of help and they are there to not be used. Rules give you a play space in which to play; once you know the rules then they can get lost. FUN MAKE GOOD IN LIMIT OF SPACE AND THEN IN NO LIMIT OF MIND……..I hope I have made myself clear.
Crime and Funishment, I understand, is an improvised whodunit. Well, whodunit?
That will cost you £8.50 (£7.50 conc) to find out, and then you’ll immediately be wrong. Whodunit changes every night and we don’t even know until it is revealed by us in the middle of the show. We will often be as surprised as the audience.
It strikes me that the sense of mystery, the unsolved puzzle, might play some special role in improvisation? Fill this vacuum…
*immediately dies due to lack of air pressure allowing his corpse to drift off into space, but his rictus smile seems to suggest the following statement*
In a way yes, each interaction between two characters is a puzzle: how do they fit together? How will they react? What do they want? However, in improv the answer is not really what we are concerned with, it’s the process of finding out.
You’ve been invited to give a TED talk. What’s it going to be about? Please outline your argument in bullet points.
Title: What the actual hell is happening with the world right now?
- No seriously, what the hell?
- I’m looking at you the Americas, AND you Asia, and don’t think I can’t see you too Europe –
sit down NOW! Oh and the Middle East and Africa, I haven’t even begun to get started with you. EVERYONE IS IN SO MUCH TROUBLE RIGHT NOW!
- If you can’t get along I will implode the sun… don’t think that I am joking.
- If you want to avoid the crushing horror come see Off The Cuff: Crime and Funishment at the Camden Fringe!
Aliens have just landed on Earth. Nobody knows their intentions, but they want to communicate with a single delegate from humanity. It’s important that we make a favourable impression on our visitors. Who do you pick? Why?
Sir Ian McKellen. If an Alien Species doesn’t immediately love him then I don’t want anything to do with them anyway… they can shove it… he’s so nice.
Sorry, that person is not available. You’ll have to be Earth’s spokesperson instead. What happens? Speak up, this is important.
I try and make a joke, we all die.
Bonus question: What, inexactly, is the longitudinal measure of a hypothetical strand of twisted hemp fibre?
It’s either 0 or 1, just like in University Challenge
Catch Off the Cuff: Crime and Funishment at Camden Comedy Club from 19th – 22nd August at 8pm.
Tickets £8.50 / £7.50 concs. Buy ’em here! http://www.camdenfringe.com/show.php?acts_id=543