Kicking pigs with Kill The Beast theatre company

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Kill The Beast is a young company – Clem Garritty, Natasha Hodgson, Zoe Roberts, David Cumming and Oliver Jones – which makes work collaboratively. Their show, The Boy Who Kicked Pigs, is coming to Jackson’s Lane in March, after a successful run at the Lowry last year. Eleanor Turney finds out what audiences can expect.

Interviewing two-fifths of young theatre company Kill The Beast was one of the more entertaining hours I spent in the past week. Writer/performer Natasha Hodgson and writer/director Clem Garritty riffed on themes from naked aminals to Doctor Who, finished each other’s sentences and occasionaly answered my questions…

The Boy Who Kicked Pigs is adapted from a novel by Doctor Who actor Tom Baker. It was Garritty’s idea to stage the book, which Hodgson describes as “full of mad, glorious characters”. Garritty explains that “the Lowry comissioned the show by accident, really. I spoke to the programmer of the studio and said I had an idea to adapt a book – the producer happened to love the book, and he said ‘do it, we’ll fund it’. They programmed it Oct/Nov 2011 and we performed it in June 2012 for four nights. Everyone has a day job, so working over eight months was good – we did two days a week for eight months, with one rehearsal always hungover because it was a Sunday. If people still laugh when they’re hungover it’s got to be funny.”

Hodgson explains why adapting such a whacky book was difficult: “Trying to make sense of this book, which makes very little sense, was a challenge. There’s a lot of dead ends, there’s lots of scenes that are brilliant in a children’s book but would be frustrating on stage – there’s shark lynching, there’s a boy shooting things with a crossbow, there’s a huge moterway pile-up with hundreds of people in a fire… we’re got four people and four chairs. It’s a bit ridiculous.”

Ridiculous or not, Kill The Beast are currently in rehearsals for a transfer to Jackson’s Lane. “We’d never adapted a book before and never worked together before [The Lowry run], so we all went away and wrote a different scene and then passed them round. It worked really well so we kept doing it,” says Garritty.  The company were all at Warwick University together, and have since worked with companies including Dumbshow, Curious Directive and Fellswoop. Every member of the group contributes ideas and works on the writing: “we have the same sense of humour, so it’s easy. We have the same comedy heroes, the same points of reference. Even though we write differently it kind of works,” says Hodgson. “As a group we love stupid wordplay and puns… there’s a lot of stuff in there which is about geeky wordplay and us trying to be clever.”

Even in such a close-knit group there must be arguments, sometimes, surely? “It’s never usually one person thinking one thing, it’s usually two against against three,” explains Garritty. “If it’s one against four it’s because the four are right. But ultimately it’s down to me to make final decisions.” Hodgson reiterates that the group all “work and think in similar ways… if you’re naturally inclined to debate then it works. The scary thing about writing comedy is that you’re constantly thinking you’re not funny.” Garritty agrees: “We’re very good at saying to each other, ‘that’s not funny’ or ‘not funny enough’ which is very healthy, but it’s also ever-so-slightly competitive, because you want to write something that blows the others away.”

How do they overcome that competitiveness and nervousness to produce their best work, then? What advice would they give other young companies, especially collaborative ones? “There’s a lot to be said for having someone who has a final say, who is able to say yes or no,” says Garritty. “It takes the pressure off other people… not off me, of course, but it’s good to have that.” Hodgson’s advice is “just write, write all the time. Don’t try and write something brilliant and save it and then unleash it; share something rough and let the people around you make it better. You’re never going to being your A-game to the table all the time. Ask people for help, ask for advice, surround yourself with talented people. It’s the projections, costumes and music that bring our show together; without those it’s just us making stupid faces to a chair…”

I think it’s safe to say that The Boy Who Kicked Pigs is going to be different and it’s going to be funny. Hodgson and Garritty variously describe the story as “ludicrous… grotesque…ridiculous… weird… sick-minded… it builds to a horrible conclusion. It starts with a murder, but that’s fairly fine, but from there it gets much worse,” until I point out that they – presumably – do actually want people to go and see the show, at which point they settle on “funny”. And if the interview if anything to go by, it’s going to be hilarious.

The Boy Who Kicked Pigs is at Jackson’s Lane from 5-16 March. Details and tickets here: www.jacksonslane.org.uk/whats-on/event/2013/the-boy-who-kicked-pigs/.

A Younger Theatre readers can get £10 tickets for all performances Tues-Thurs by quoting “BACON”. Offer can be claimed when booking online, via telephone on 020 8341 4421 or in person. Offer is subject to availability and a booking fee of £1.95 per transaction applies. Click here for more details.

Image credit: Darkling Image of The Boy Who Kicked Pigs Dress Rehearsal by Kill The Beast