Ahead of their performance at the Unity Theatre, cabaret troupe Teatro Pomodoro speak to Ally Goodman about their new show, Cabaret From The Shadows.
International troupe Teatro Pomodoro have been at the centre of Liverpool’s alternative theatre scene since their electric debut at the now sadly departed Lantern Theatre in 2015.
Now with a Nordic Fringe Network Award under their belts, the company return to Liverpool for a homecoming performance at Unity Theatre on 20th September.
The group’s signature styles of bouffoon, clowning and audience interaction have gone down a storm at their topical and engaging shows, with theatre goers often displaying some extreme reactions to the performance. Amongst the recollections that the group reveal, is “the time at Physical Fest when the audience were so frenzied that someone threw a metal bucket on stage”.
Their latest project, Cabaret From The Shadows, exhibits the company’s bold ideas in a dark and hilarious performance. In these increasingly-absurd times, keeping up with current events can be exhausting, but Teatro Pomodoro make their best effort to keep their shows relevant – “every time we do the show we are rewriting it completely”.
Carmen, Duncan, Leebo, Miwa and Simone from Teatro Pomodoro talk to us about their training, audience reactions and what to expect from their upcoming show at the Unity Theatre.
PS: The make-up of the group is truly international. How did you all end up working together?
TP: We all met at Ecole Philippe Gaulier in Paris, an internationally acclaimed theatre school run by a clown master, which attracts performers from all over the world. We enjoyed playing together and creating scenes during out time at the school. We kept in touch after we graduated and were all coaxed to move to Liverpool by Leebo who’s from the city and we started working together.
PS: How do you put together a concept like Cabaret From The Shadows made up of so many different ideas?
TP: It’s been a long process! The show itself was inspired by traditional satirical cabaret, and a form called bouffon which allowed us a freedom to explore many different topics and fit them into one show. We noticed that many clown and bouffon shows follow a cabaret structure anyway, with some loose connecting concepts between scenes. By claiming cabaret in the title we can cover more subjects, as well as use the satirical edge people expect to see in the genre.
PS: Has the show changed much from when you first put it on? Have audience reactions affected anything you’ve done since?
TP: Yes, it has changed a lot. Earlier versions of the show were based on current events, meaning that every time we did the show we were rewriting it completely. Very few scenes survived from the first version. We also worked a lot on the overall concept of the show. Audience reactions inform a lot of our work, whether it be changing small details or completely cutting or reworking some scenes after seeing how the audience react. A few times we noticed we could be more ambitious with certain scenes. We felt we were being too nice on stage, even if in the rehearsal room it felt like an edgy scene. The kind of work we do lives on in the relationship we create with the audience, so there is no way of knowing if it works until we test it in front of the audience.
PS: Your shows include a fair bit of audience interaction – have you ever had a volunteer do something completely unexpected?
TP: Yes, many times! We design audience interaction as a way for the audience to discover something with us, together. One of the most interesting audience interactions we had was at Lantern Theatre Liverpool, when the entire audience started arguing with each other over whether we continued doing something or stopped. They started screaming “stop!”, “don’t!” or “it’s fine!” “go for it!”. We made them face a moral dilemma and they were reacting in very contrasting ways, all perfectly legitimate, but colliding. Unfortunately we cannot describe more in detail what the scene was about because we don’t want to spoil that part of the show, but it amazed us, because it was the first time we tried that scene, and we never thought we could actually split the audience or cause them to argue.
PS: Being quite a large group, do you ever have artistic differences which effect the dynamic of the group?
TP: Oh yes, especially coming from different cultures and artistic backgrounds. Sometimes it feels impossible to come to an agreement. We often build scenes by adding details that come from seeing the same thing in several different ways. The more the company grows the more we learn how to make the best of our differences.
PS: How well has your training prepared you for performing internationally?
TP: We all come from different backgrounds but the Ecole Philippe Gaulier is a great place to train to perform internationally. During the school everyday you play with someone from a different country, sometimes playing scenes in three different languages. You can be sitting there watching a scene in a language that you don’t know but being able to understand the meaning of the scene, or you can be the one on stage performing in a language that nobody else understands including the actors that are on stage with you, and work hard to be in symbiosis with the audience and your fellow actors.
PS: Where is your favourite place to perform?
TP: It is easy to say Liverpool, and not only because we live here. The audience here is very warm, and sometimes they get so excited that we feel we have to calm them down, like the time at Physical Fest when the audience were so frenzied that someone threw a metal bucket on stage. After the very loud landing of the bucket, we looked each other, glanced to the house staff, and then carried on with the show, as everything seemed perfectly normal to everyone in the room.
PS: If you could collaborate with any artist, who would you collaborate with?
TP: The Gentle Mystics. We like their music and video clips and we often get inspiration from them to create material. We find they create a similar kind of atmosphere we like to create when we are on stage.
PS: What can the audience expect at the Unity in September?
TP: The audience at the Unity can expect an evening of laughs, absurdity and distorted views of the world we live in. Also get ready to answer some questions that arise from topics that we face every day and are often covered by a veil of hypocrisy.
Teatro Pomodoro present Cabaret From The Shadows at the Unity Theatre on 20th September. Tickets are available on the Unity Theatre website.