British theatre company specializing in animation, improvisation and interaction with audiences, founded in London in 1996 by Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch, Lee Simpson and producer Nick Sweeting. The company is known for its dynamic creative process and its ability to make use of their audience’s imagination as an integral part of any show. The performers use everyday objects and materials such as sticky tape, newspaper and cardboard to create fantastical creatures and landscapes as part of the performance. The group’s interest in psychology, the place of memory and the process of remembering form other important elements in creating their work.
Significant productions include the award-winning 70 Hill Lane (1996), which used object animation and sticky tape to explore memories of a childhood world; Animo (1996), a wholly improvised show using newspaper, found objects and input from the audience to transform the stage; Sticky (1998-1999), an outdoor collaboration with The World Famous company, in which architecture and huge sculptural insects were created from sticky tape; and Coma (1999), which explored the “landscape between life and death”.
A breakthrough in theatre was achieved with the hugely popular Shockheaded Peter, produced by Cultural Industry, with settings by Julian Crouch and direction by Phelim McDermott, a show which toured internationally from 1998, returning to London at least three times. Based on the 19th century German series of cautionary poems for children Struwwelpeter, the production featured grotesque puppets, animated sets and distinctive live music. In 2000, Crouch collaborated with the Adelaide Festival (Australia) and a group of Indonesian puppeteers (dalang) to create The Theft of Sita, an intercultural performance which also toured internationally. Many other collaborations include the National Theatre in Theatre of Blood (2005, after the Douglas Hickox film made in 1973), English National Opera and the Metropolitan Opera on Satyagraha (see Opera); and their own company work includes a 2012 production The Devil and Mr Punch, staged in London at the Barbican Theatre.
The company has received regular funding from the Arts Council of England, and its team, together and separately, are involved in a number of training and research initiatives in addition to their highly original productions.
(See Great Britain.)
- Francis, Penny. “Phelim McDermott et Julian Crouch”. Puck. No. 11. Charleville-Mézières: Éditions de l’Institut International de la Marionnette, 1998.
- Francis, Penny. “The Improbable Partners”. Total Theatre Magazine. London, 2004.