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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The Blackshaw Arts Hour – Episode 38

This week on the Blackshaw Arts Hour Matt and Vikki are in the studio with Iasha, Matt review Eye in the Sky and then we spoke about how it stood up to London Has Fallen in terms of a drone strike movie. Suffice to say Eye in the Sky won.

The wonderful Lesley Strachan crashed a Black Shuck rehearsal and interviewed Director Ellie and cast members Rachel and Alex.
Vikki did a review/Arts Thing of the Week beginning with The Maids and then talking about the importance of reviving specific plays.
Helen Johnson interviewed Duncan Hands, the writer of Black Shuck, about his writing process and how he developed the idea of the upcoming production.
Make sure you get tickets here, come along and say hi to the Blackshaw team at the Bedford, and subscribe to our podcast here to make sure you can always catch The Blackshaw Arts Hour and have access to all our bonus audio content.

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!