Black Shuck at the London Horror Festival: A Review

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“Played by Alexander Pankhurst, it’s an enjoyable portrayal of this geeky character who is able to precisely name different birds by their call alone. He provides a wonderful foil to Martha played by Rachel Nott, a bolshie and dominating woman. The two of them are a comically incompetent pair.”

 

“There is a particularly well thought out lighting and sound design by Andrew Crane who helps to transport us to the night-time Norfolk Coast and give the play some eerie atmospheric effects. The aeroplane landing lights is particularly effective. The one simple piece of set, a groyne, also works wonders.”

 

Read the full review here.

Black Shuck: Reviews

great dynamic…definitely worth seeing, a funny & wonderfully unique story”

London Theatre Reviewer

 

“engaging and dynamic…boundless energy and spirit…a little bit silly, a little bit scary and thoroughly worth a watch!

Theatre Bubble

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“a brilliantly written short piece…Rachel Nott is amazing…Art is played wonderfully by Alexander Pankhurst…A very enjoyable hour with a very entertaining script and very talented actors. Well worth a watch.”

London Theatre 1

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“The chemistry of Nott and Pankhurst…make this thoroughly entertaining to watch…a taut play that manages to walk the tightrope of genres but playing to the strength of all

Female Arts

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Black Shuck: Production Photos

Photos by Richard Stratton.

Black Shuck: Making the Set

Our delightful Designer for Black Shuck, Michelle Bristow, gives us a glimpse into the world of set building – you can come and see the set in situ, 11-19 May 2016 – book your tickets now!

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We started out by mitre-ing (real word?) some of the timber so that we could make the structure for the bracing. It was hard!

The next part of the support structure, drilling the main upright piece to the bottom support piece.

Bracing pieces completed!

Laying out the pieces ready to have the holes drilled in to mark where the screws go, in order to be flat packed into my car and assembled at the venue.

Marking out the holes and numbering them, so its easy to match up the pieces at the get in.

Jacobean woodstain was the perfect colour, heres the groyne after two coats – 

The fun (and messy) part – painting! All ready for assembly next week. 

Black Shuck: Talking Genres, by Duncan Hands

You can see Duncan’s writing, Black Shuck, as part of the Wandsworth Arts Fringe 2016, 11-14th & 18-19th May at the Bedford, Balham – £10-12. Book your tickets now!

Writer of Black Shuck, Duncan Hands, writes about writing a comedy-horror…

One question which keeps arising now that work is starting in earnest on Black Shuck is, “how do you incorporate comedy and horror?” I have three answers, and the easy, trite but honest one is “I like both, why not put them together?”

But that doesn’t really help the poor actors and creatives who have to interpret my script so audiences enjoy watching them, so…

I’ve never said after watching a show, “yeah, it was alright, but I wish there’d been fewer jokes.” Nor have I complained about being moved or scared or shocked after laughing for an hour. That’s entertainment: Charlie Chaplin was the most popular comedian of his age because his films are packed full of melodramatic pathos, Shakespeare’s most brooding tragedy (set in Scotland) contains a hilarious pun-filled routine about brewer’s droop. Taylor Swift sings happy songs, sad songs, and angry songs. And Pinter is considered deadly serious, but while working on productions of his shows I’ve watched the audience roaring with belly-laughter. Yes, it’s wry, dark humour; but it pervades every one of his plays…except, as he pointed out, in the last 10 minutes of each.

Why?

Because making a play is merely a bunch of people collaborating to create a series of moments. If the moments are all witty, or all bleak, or all fey, it’s dull. If you switch between those moods, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts because of the juxtaposition. And if the characters’ world all turns to crap near the end, it’ll hit harder if we care about them, and especially if we’ve laughed with, or at, them.

Chaplin, Shakespeare, Swift and Pinter understand that. I’d be a fool not to learn from them. And it has the happy side-effect of killing snobbery: the Reithian ideal of combining entertainment and education, the ancient Greeks’ belief in art’s ennobling effect, it’s all hollow when you consider that we can all enjoy a good nob gag, and we all enjoy learning something. Both are ennobling, just in different ways. So the slightly longer answer to my original question is, “why be pigeonholed into one genre? Audiences are intelligent enough to take the show on its own terms.”

But…horror depends on suspense. Humour smashes suspense. These two facts mean that combining these two genres is a tightrope walk, and everyone working on it needs to know exactly what we want the audience to feel at any given moment. Don’t put a joke where it doesn’t belong, nor a jump moment. It helps that Blackshaw have put together a team who all enjoy dry, dark humour, but no element of the play should be at the expense of any other.

I’ve had to think why genres exist at all. Basically, I reckon, all works are formulaic. Someone comes up with a recipe, and if you stick to those rules you get a coherent result. Using music as an example, a Country song, a Grime tune or a Bach fugue all work because they stick to their respective rules. But then you break the rules, Johnny Cash puts trumpets in a Country song, Plan B uses an acoustic guitar, Beethoven puts a major 7th where Bach would use the safer minor 3rd, and it creates magic.

Fundamentally, I’m just not very good at following rules. I didn’t sit down to write either a comedy or a horror, I just had a story I wanted to tell, and told it as best I’m able.

You have to be careful mashing up genres, because it’s easier for audiences to know what they’re supposed to be feeling. This show’s not really a pastiche (horror, like film noir, is arguably reaching the point where pastiches are more familiar than the classics of the genre), it’s a medley. There are elements of other genres there too. If you find psychological thriller, sitcom, gangster heist, Theatre of the Absurd…you’d be right. I once heard a Director answer “if you see it, then it’s there,” to a Venue Technician’s question about the symbolism the tech thought he’d perceived in a particular prop book being green. I knew we’d picked a green book because that was the one on the top of the pile at the front of the store…but the director knew that there’s no wrong interpretation.

The genre question is one which has arisen throughout my career. And the best answer is “take it how you will. I’m just putting it out there. Whatever mood you come out feeling is right. So long as you feel something, I’ll be happy I’ve done my job.”

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You can see Duncan’s writing, Black Shuck, as part of the Wandsworth Arts Fringe 2016, 11-14th & 18-19th May at the Bedford, Balham – £10-12. Book your tickets now!

 

Black Shuck: Recording a radio drama

We decided to record our upcoming show, Black Shuck by Duncan Hands, as a radio drama.  Double the fun!  We hired the Insanity Radio studio at my alma mater, Royal Holloway University of London. You’ll be able to listen to the radio drama later this year, but no need to wait – come and see the show! Tickets available here.

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Rachel Nott, Alexander Pankhurst

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Black Shuck: An interview with Rachel Nott

UPDATE: See Rachel in the transfer at the London Horror Festival.

You can see Rachel Nott in the role of ‘Martha’ in Black Shuck by Duncan Hands, as part of the Wandsworth Arts Fringe 2016, 11-14th & 18-19th May at the Bedford, Balham – £10-12. Book your tickets now!

Ahead of rehearsals starting, we had a chat with Rachel –

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What are the particular challenges of this play?

Working with Alex, obviously… That aside, there’s a heck of a lot to learn! And the older I get, the worse my memory gets…

Have you done similar projects to this before?

Playing a smuggler? Can’t say I have. I’ve not been in a full-length two-hander before either, so I’m really looking forward to that.

What are you looking forward to at rehearsals?

We are definitely going to be doing a lot of laughing – to the point that we will need to make sure we actually rehearse the play. I also really love playing around with the characters in a rehearsal process – approaching situations differently and seeing what works. Often what you saw was one thing in the initial read-through can become something completely different after rehearsals.

Who are your favourite comic actors?

Hmmm… Steve Coogan, Kathy Burke, Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Julia Davis, Mackenzie Crook, Kenneth Williams, Jack Lemmon (old school), Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, Catherine O’Hara, Steve Carrell, Will Ferrell, Sandra Bullock… It’s a really long list. I feel bad for leaving people out.

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You can see Rachel Nott in the role of ‘Martha’ in Black Shuck by Duncan Hands, as part of the Wandsworth Arts Fringe 2016, 11-14th & 18-19th May at the Bedford, Balham – £10-12. Book your tickets now!

 

 

 

Black Shuck: An interview with Alexander Pankhurst

UPDATE: See Alexander in the transfer at the London Horror Festival.

You can see Alexander Pankhurst in the role of ‘Art’ in Black Shuck by Duncan Hands, as part of the Wandsworth Arts Fringe 2016, 11-14th & 18-19th May at the Bedford, Balham – £10-12. Book your tickets now!

Ahead of rehearsals starting, we had a chat with Alex –

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Alex’s first answers…

What are the particular challenges of this play?

Working with Rachel Nott

Have you done similar projects to this before?

Yes. With Rachel Nott.

What are you looking forward to at rehearsals?

Rachel Nott.

Who are your favourite comic actors?

Rachel Nott. And Rowan Atkinson.

 

Alex’s revised answers…

What are the particular challenges of this play?

I think that the main issue doing this play (from my perspective) will be varying the pace. Because it’s quite a static piece (only set in one place) and there are only two of us, there is a danger that it could become monotonous for the audience. But I think that Blackshaw are well up to the challenge

Have you done similar projects to this before?

I have done a two hander before (An Audience with the Ghostfinder by M. J. Starling) so that’s familiar ground but every project is different so I’m just looking forward to seeing how this one pans out.

What are you looking forward to at rehearsals?

Absolutely. Working the Ellie and Rachel is always really good fun and they will inevitably have me in stitches.

Who are your favourite comic actors?

There’s so many to choose from, Rowan Atkinson has to be up there along with Julie Walters and Mark Heap but the list is almost endless!

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You can see Alex in the role of ‘Art’ in Black Shuck by Duncan Hands, as part of the Wandsworth Arts Fringe 2016, 11-14th & 18-19th May at the Bedford, Balham – £10-12. Book your tickets now!

 

Wild Whitstable: Black Shuck Photo Shoot

Here’s a little backstage glimpse of those who suffered for their art on the shore of the north Kent coast.

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Wild and windswept, the actors Alexander Pankhurst and Rachel Nott posed perfectly in character as Art and Martha. We only stopped briefly; to rescue Rachel’s scarf from a dog weeing on it, to shoo away other dogs checking out said wee and to give my arm a rest from my role as a human lighting stand.

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Despite the 40mph winds and the various acts canine vandalism, Robin Savage executed a professional photo shoot with excellent results (keep your eyes peeled for the photos on our Twitter, Facebook etc very soon!).

If you’re a fan of schadenfreude, you’ll like this – in my attempt (two days prior to the shoot) to inflate a yellow buoy. My misadventure began when I came home from an evening work event, with the bright idea of inflating the buoy with my bicycle pump. With nothing to eat or drink since lunch, and the extreme effort I had to employ to even slightly inflate it, I promptly passed out, hitting my head on the coffee table on the way down. Not my finest moment, but I would like to think it displays some commitment and dedication to my work for Blackshaw.

 

By Nick Tatchell (Blackshaw’s Funding & Partnerships Manager)