How would you describe your show in one sentence?
An original, highly visual re-imagining of E.T.A. Hoffmann’s 19th Century gothic horror story The Sandman, fusing high-energy storytelling, expressive physicality, and the use of objects and puppetry to immerse its audience in an emotionally intense, thrilling nightmare world.
Horror is notoriously difficult to pull off onstage – how do you approach it?
We approach it in a number of ways. I play seven different characters and they all address themselves directly to the audience. Because of this I can convey their helplessness, fear, terror, anger and shock in a very direct and immediate way. I also use stillnessand play with the tension this can create. I take certain actions to an extreme, possibly shocking the audience. And we developed a structure, in which the audience can never be sure what’s going to happen next. Because of all these elements, they can never feel quite safe. Some of the horror comes from the story itself: it talks about the child’s dread of the dark, the fear of losing one’s eyes and, the eerie sensations human replica (dolls, automatons, robots) evoke. Needless to say that the performance features a robot and some dolls.
How did the show develop?
We developed Sandman collaboratively through an exploratory devising process. I improvised with ideas related to particular moments from the story, translating sensations, feelings and emotions into movement and sound. Mike wrote some draft scenes. I also improvised in character to generate text. It was all about finding ways of representing ‘the uncanny’ on stage. We then created the staging of the piece together, with Mike [Carter] being the directorial outside eye and finalizing the text, and me working more on the movement and visual aspects of the show.
Given a blank cheque is there an existing horror story you’d like to bring to the stage?
Not at the moment. We loved creating the show, but maybe our next project will be something completely different.
Are special effects essential for horror on stage or is it more effective to conjure an imagein an audience’s mind?
We strongly believe in the power of the audience’s imagination. Horror is so much more powerful when not everything is spelled out for you, but when you begin to imagine what could happen or may have happened.
On film, horror can be quite explicit, is there anything on stage you wouldn’t do?
That’s a difficult questionbecause it so much depends on the story and on what you are trying to do with it.
What’s the one show that you don’t want to miss at this year’s Horror Festival (apart from your own!)?
There’s a really brilliant line up and it’s difficult to choose. I am really intrigued by Jermay Predictsbecause it is about predicting the audience’s future. For the same reason, I really like the sound of Ideomotor.
What’s your favourite scary movie?
What’s your top tip for any company wanting to produce horror on stage?
Always think about shaping the experience for the audience and get some friends in to give you feedback on the way. Don’t be shy to explore an action to its extreme.
Your show has been invited to a Halloween fancy dress party – what do you go as?
I love the full moon and dream of becoming a werewolf!
Next performances of Sandman: London Horror Festival, 13-18 October, 7 pm