I have a few Emerald Cities, personal Meccas, Rock Candy Mountains. There’s the Juilliard in New York, the Potomac river near my childhood home in Maryland, and the Edinburgh Fringe, the world’s largest arts festival. Really, it’s huge: 25 days long, more than 2,000 performances a day, all somehow crammed into the the medieval mobius strip that is Edinburgh, Scotland. Into its theatres, coffee shops, church halls, anywhere you can fit a performer and an audience you’ll find international theatre, dance, circus, comedy, burlesque, Performance Art, everything from shakespeare to a man climbing a ladder to outer space.
I love it, and a couple weeks ago I got to send a show there. This show!
this is a full performance lasting ~1hr, recorded at the Robinson Theatre, Cambridge.
For more on the making of, scroll down
The Humble Heart of Komrade Krumm is an epic adventure set in a post-apocalyptic fifth millennium ice age and follows little Krummie on her quest to find her legendary uncle Komrade Krumm and defeat the Ice Widows. The style falls somewhere between 2001: A Space Odyssey and Monty Python’s Holy Grail, silly and sublime in equal measure.
The show was devised, which is theatre code for playing silly games until a play happens. For example, lighthouses are fun, get into groups and build lighthouses with your bodies (this lead to a Lighthouse Made of Cats image I will remember to my dying day), let’s find out more about the lighthouses – someone be an estate agent trying to convince a young couple to buy one of them. But you can only speak Mandarin. Lighthouses, you don’t want to be sold. What if the seagulls want commission? Someone be a passing ship, fall in love with the lighthouse. Ok, new game, now everyone’s vikings!
Curating these games fell mostly to our director, Tom Penn (left, below). My job, as musical director, was to write music, either based on games they were playing or on ideas Tom or Richard had shared, teach it to the cast, then more games: sing it double speed in Russian accents, create a touching, tender lullaby using only body percussion, that sort of thing. Richard Fredman (left, above), our writer, had a similar role. He’d create sections of script, poems, artefacts from the world we were building. Sometimes they’d be our starting point for a day, sometimes they’d sit in a back pocket for a while until an opportunity arose to slip them into the action.
Can you see how impossibly chaotic and ridiculously fun that would be? Hundreds of hours of material is created, 99.9% of it is discarded, and gradually, like a glass shattering in reverse, a world, then characters, then a story start to coalesce and crystallise. Pieces of script are combined and revised, music is selected, arranged, rehearsed and suddenly you’re looking at a play.
It’s not the simplest way to work, you need a cast ready to jump into the unknown every morning, to give their all in every exercise, knowing nearly all of it will wind up on the cutting room floor. Luckily, we had exactly such a cast.
The Edinburgh run is finished now, but there is one more chance to see it on the 15th of September at the Robinson Theatre, in Cambridge – tickets – and you can see nice things press and public have said about the show here
I cannot overstate how much I enjoyed making it, or how proud I am of the results. Hope you can come
And if you’re wondering what’s so great about the Potomac river, put in at Cabin John, find your way to one of the small wooded islands, pull your canoe up the pebble beach, collect some driftwood for a fire and drift off under the stars.