At Silent Faces we love to see what drives other theatre companies. Why do people make the work they make? We got to talk to Ben from Dear Hunter about their show, The Iconoclasts, and it looks awesome.
What drove you to make The Iconoclasts?
It all started with the idea of a crazy family who were desperate to be famous, sort of like those families on Britain’s Got Talent who all do a different pop tribute act. They ultimately want people to care about them like millions care about the Kardashians, but unfortunately they’re just fundamentally different - they’re dated, they’re washed-up, and their desperate. The show really took on a new life though in the writing process when we decided to do the whole thing live; which means having the last 50 year family history spilling out in one cabaret night, in front of a live audience. Making that at all believable, structured, and entertaining has been a challenge but because of that challenge the drive has always been there and still is.
Tell us a bit about Dear Hunter Theatre
We formed to make this show in Sheffield 2 years ago. There’s not too many of us and everyone has lots of jobs, but our identity has grown as we’ve toured the show and developed a new one; Club Bazaar. We want our shows to be fast-paced provocative and even difficult for the audience at times, which has brought us interest and criticism along the way. I think that balance has made us all more engaged theatre-makers; we’ve grown to really listen to our audiences’ opinions and feelings, while knowing that a 50/50 split of people who really take something away and people who don’t is still an important night of theatre. We care even more about the audience as we use the show-within-a-show format, which means the audience are creating the show with us. We need them!
There are so many ways to tell stories, tackle issues, explore ideas - why theatre?
In our kind of theatre especially, the audience is the final piece to the puzzle. We write scripts and songs, rehearse them, rig up lights and microphones, source costumes and book venues, but we never know how Danny’s first joke about the English flag is going to go down. There’s nothing we can do to control that variable (30 nights in Edinburgh with the same delivery and never the same reaction twice). What that means is each night the audience lead the show’s energy because the family are desperate for them to love them. Same with Club Bazaar, the audience were invited to cellar to future where art didn’t exist, but 6 actors had prepared a bit of illegal theatre; so when the audience didn’t laugh or applaud or gasp or cry when they should, the ‘actors’ were devastated. Theatre has an audience which crafts the energy of the room and therefore the poignancy of the show, giving unique experiences to each person based on their night and their perspective. When two audience member’s experiences are different they may disagree and argue, which really means you’ve really got them thinking! Conversely, everybody watches the same film, hears the same record, sees the same painting; and the artist can’t affect the audience or vice versa.
What was the last show you saw that you think everyone should see?
The Inheritance at the Young Vic. After that I saw theatre in a new way; it can be a gift from a writer and their team to an audience. Matthew Lopez wrote that and, together with a phenonamol group, allowed me to share in the glorious and tragic history of gay men in New York over generations. Crying and laughing along as well as learning so much. It felt very special to share that time with those characters and, as a straight man, I think every one of us should see it, but I also believe everybody could grow from being there. Amazing.
Theatre making is hard and, although we try our best to work around them, it has it’s limits. If you had an unlimited budget, an unquestioningly devoted audience and all the time in the world, what show would you make?
It would have to be something like the Inheritance. That show was nearly 7 hours long, probably not that expensive, but took a lot out me emotionally. It’s impressive to get people to come to something 2 nights in a row that isn’t Harry Potter. So I guess if you could offer me those securities I would want to dive deep into something and explore the characters in hours of depth. My topic would be the demise of a care home as I lived through one when I worked as Home Administrator a few years ago. My eyes were certainly opened to the terrible conditions for the elderly, rampant exploitation of migrant workers, and the loneliness of dementia. I’d love to write that show and share those anecdotes and experiences in an educational and beautiful way - with lots of the joy and celebration that came with it in there as well. We’ll need a little while to get that right though. For now we use songs and sequins to keep the audience interested!
What else in the Incoming Festival line-up are you excited to see?
Half a String’s A Heart at Sea looks like everything I love; sea stories, puppets, folk music, and adventure. My heart is actually warming at the prospect. I didn’t get to see The Search for a Black Browed Albatross at NSDF this year, but everyone’s told me it was very good and that I’d love it so looking forward to that. And OUTRAGE looks very dangerous. Shows that do stuff like that scare me and I really can’t wait to be there, very scared. Also, Footprint are doing a show about aliens which is supposed to be wicked, Signals.
The Iconoclasts will be at Incoming festival on 26 June at New Diorama and 30 June at HOME!