Theatre Alibi’s Artistic Director, Nikki Sved, answers some questions about Hammer & Tongs
Tue 1 Apr 11AM
Tell us about Theatre Alibi. Where are you guys from, what do you do?
Our home is an old church hall, Emmanuel Hall, in Exeter, where we have our offices and workshop and we’re lucky enough to have our own great rehearsal space there too. And so this is where Hammer & Tongs was dreamt up. We like to make work which takes absolute advantage of the fact that theatre is a live experience. So we tend to be very up front with audiences about the fact that we are, in essence, telling a story and using all the fabulous means that theatre has to offer – physical performances, live music, puppets, projection. We’ll grasp with both hands whatever tells our story best.
Hammer & Tongs is about arguments, which we can all relate to. Where did the idea stem from?
Daniel Jamieson (the writer) and I work really closely together on Theatre Alibi shows. Daniel came to me with the idea of a show about arguing. Our first show together as Artistic Directors was about lying – it was called Little White Lies and was nominated for a Fringe First. So I guess we’re interested in bad behaviour, along with most people. Just how far will people go to prove they’re right and sometimes, just how low are they prepared to sink. It’s very funny, very off-the-wall and really wrestles, sometimes quite literally, with the idiocy that constitutes most arguments. Even the musician and the stage manager get dragged into it… But there’s a dark side too, with moments that are both moving and poignant.
What was the last argument you had? Did you win?
Goodness! Do I really want to divulge that?? I’m in a constant battle against the terminally messy bedrooms that my children inhabit and I’m definitely not winning there…
Theatre Alibi are known for physical, energetic performance. What can we expect to see in Hammer & Tongs?
It’s certainly very physical! One of the things that I love about the show is its pace. One moment we’re in a wrestling arena, the next we’re enjoying a samba, the next we’re on the dance floor at a wedding. It’s fantastically fast and furious.
There’s talk of puppets and other visual treats too. Could you explain?
Yes, there’s a very wonderful puppet in the show. You might have seen it in the production shots? Audiences seem to love her. In fact, the response to her is really quite vocal during the show. I hadn’t expected that. We’ve worked with our Designer, Trina Bramman, for many years and she’s an incredibly talented prop and puppet maker.
It’s a really vivid show in many ways – very colourful. I particularly enjoy some of the more outlandish costumes (and wigs!) in the show. The lighting has also been fun to work with – a festoon, some disco lights and a little bit of smoke can go a long way.
How will audience members feel once they have seen the show?
I think everyone in the audience, whether they like a good argument or not, will recognise something of themselves in there and I think they’ll have a really good time with the show. It’s a bit like Father Ted in tone – the four characters are way over the top at times. It’s got everything - some quite extraordinary visual surprises that I shouldn’t reveal before people see the show, great live music from boogie to blues and there’s even a hilarious contemporary dance sequence. ..
Common arguments in the Jacksons Lane office include: what music is played on Spotify, who is putting the next pot of coffee on, heating/lack of heating, use of fan/not using the fan, Game of Thrones/Breaking Bad, Walking Dead spoilers, which department is the best at bowling (marketing – obviously). Do Theatre Alibi have any ridiculous, common arguments they would like to share?
We don’t tend to have serious arguments, but there are the old familiar niggles, of course. What snacks to get for the Board Meeting, whether to have the window open or closed, quite how early it’s necessary to arrive anywhere, whether rooibos tea or earl grey is best, is Harry Hill funny? Are we wearing adequate thermals? Now you’ve got me started…