ED2011 Columns ED2011 Theatre ED2011 Week3 Edition

River People: On the theatrical wagon

By | Published on Wednesday 24 August 2011

River People

River People are in Edinburgh this year staging their play ‘Little Matter’ in a rather interesting way. Our reviewer called it “a delicious, dark chocolate of a show” that beguiles the audience with “whimsical humour and charming melancholy”.

So, of course, we wanted to hear more from them: here, they tell us how the show came to be, and how the company ended up using a travelling wagon theatre. Cool.

“This year at the Fringe has been by far the most challenging, worrisome, expensive yet powerfully inspirational experience we’ve had as a company. We find it really important to create shows that come from an honest place. In 2007 ‘The Ordinaries’ was about my experience of abuse in my family, from 2008 – 2009 ‘Lilly Through the Dark’ explored Claire’s feelings of grief after the passing of her father.

Each time when we take a show up to the Fringe we are welcomed like nowhere else. Since 2010 we have been working on ‘Little Matter’:  it began as a story called ‘AngelRust’, then was picked up by the Edinburgh International Festival to be developed. Now this is one of the final versions. It is a story about change and potential, it’s the story of this chapter in our lives, about growing up and facing one’s inner demons. To tell it we use live music, puppetry and honest storytelling. And bringing it to the fringe, this testing place where we get the chance to share our work with so many people, where our company can grow, has felt like a significant chapter in that story.

Ever since we teamed up with Spinney Hollow, a woodland project in Fair Oak, Hampshire, and shared the dream of a travelling wagon theatre, it has been our joint goal to bring it to the fringe. Thankfully The Bedlam Theatre have been utterly amazing in helping us to realise that goal. Our venue is a bow top wagon with a fold out stage under a tent with material walls, all lit by candle light. It’s a space that we can call our own, a little bubble away from the bustle of other fringe venues where we can create an atmosphere and welcome each individual into our world.

It’s small and intimate, there might be the sound of sirens from the street, the distant overspill from the comedy venue beneath us, the roar of crowds, a chorus of birds, the sound of rain, of the wind. But it’s all part of the experience, and everyone is in it together. And by the end, hopefully… usually… the audience are so much a part of the world that it doesn’t matter. The venue that we have made is an extension of the show, an extension of our philosophy, that although entertainment is paramount, theatre should attempt to go further, it should provide an experience, that the audience should walk away with a thought, the gift of a moment.

And after the show there is no quick get out, no company queuing up waiting to get in, the audience can spend as much time in the space as they like. They can come and chat to us, hold the puppets and explore the wagon. This has been one of the most rewarding parts of the experience, getting to hear people’s thoughts and allowing them as much time with us as they desire.

Our time at the fringe has been so affirming, we know now that this is how we want to present our theatre, this is the experience we want to provide. There is so much potential within it, just waiting to be realised”.

River People’s show ‘Little Matter’ was performed at the Bedlam Chambers during Fringe 2011.

LINKS: www.theriverpeople.co.uk