Rehearsals begin

Right, I remember – the thing about blogging your rehearsals is that by the time you get home you are completely exhausted. A brief post then…

In the first three rehearsal days we’ve mostly been exploring a puppet-led (if narrative-based) approach to devising. Using prompts from the narrative outline, Laura has been creating a space for  me and Aya to use the puppets to discover their own stories. More on this later, perhaps more clearly explained…

In the absence of a more coherent post, there’s a Q&A about the show over on the Bristol Ferment blog:

And here are some pictures from rehearsals:


Short Q&A on the show (from Bristol Ferment blog)



Briefly describe for us what your show is about?
The show is based on the true story of the 18th century French showman Tarrare who earned his living by eating anything and everything and eventually joined the French revolutionary army as a military courier, hiding documents in his stomach. It’s a bit like Les Miserables but with more vomiting.

Is it similar to what you’ve done previously or are you trying something new?
We’ve experimented with musical/operatic storytelling before in The Oldest Man in the World, which had the same composer, but this is more ambitious in scope and scale. It will also be our first time combining puppetry with live music.

Describe it for us in three words.
Grotesque Puppet Opera

How will it make people feel? / What do you want it to make people think about?
Primarily we want people to feel engaged with this incredible story and enjoy the music. We’re always interested in questioning the idea of beauty which we think can often be quite arbitrary – we hope that audiences will find that even the more grotesque moments in the play have an underlying beauty to them.

What stage will it be at in its development when we see it in July?
This will be the very first outing of an extract from the show, and the culmination of an initial 3 week period of R&D on the show, working around a story outline developed in collaboration with Hattie Naylor.

What elements in particular are you looking forward to testing out on Ferment audiences?
The live music, and more generally just seeing if we can get people on board with the bizarreness of the whole thing.

What are your personal highlights of July’s Ferment Fortnight?
Well we’re obviously big fans of Hattie, so Bluebeard is a must, and we’ve both really enjoyed previous work by Dan Canham and Adam Fuller. That said, we’ll try to see as much as possible – the best thing about Ferment is seeing that wildcard that totally blows you away.

Meet the (Puppet) Cast

Or a couple of them…


Both are in a partial stage of construction – there’s always a tension when you start the rehearsal process between needing to have something ready to work with and wanting the design of the puppet to be responsive to the devising process. Devising with a puppet is always a conversation with an object, but if the design is fixed, the conversation becomes quite one-sided.

Another tension, one which we’re particularly interested in, is that between minimalism and recognition. As a company we’re fascinated by the idea of stripping away the body, both literally and metaphorically. How many jigsaw pieces can you remove and still recognise the picture? These are two of the most ‘complete’ bodies we are working with – the others don’t read as figures outside of a black box space. This period of R&D is very much about discovering what kind of puppets work for the story.

Of course there’s always something to be said for an expert outside eye. Green Ginger’s Chris Pirie took one look at one of our puppets and solved about a week’s work of problems in a couple of sentences. Thanks Chris!

Rehearsals start tomorrow…

What is this?

We are currently developing a puppet opera, The Depraved Appetite of Tarrare the Freak, for a work in progress showing at Bristol Ferment in July. We wanted to keep a slightly more organised and permenant record of our R&D/devising process than the usual tweets, so here it is.

This is the stage we’re at as we begin blogging:

We have begun work on the libretto and score with composter/pianist Tom Poster:


We have worked in collaboration with writer Hattie Naylor to produce a map/outline of the story:


We have held auditions and cast an additional puppeteer:


We have started work building the many puppets necessary to tell the first part of the story:


More as it happens!

The Depraved Appetite of Tarrare the Freak will be showing as a work-in-progress extract at Bristol Ferment on 19 July at 6:30. Click here for further details and tickets.

The Depraved Appetite of Tarrare the Freak is supported by Arts Council England and Theatre Bristol.