Spymonkey are one of the twelve full showcasing artists participating at this year’s caravan. Their show, The Complete Deaths features all 75 of Shakespeare’s onstage deaths – all slain in 90 minutes. Our friends over at Mayfest recently spoke to Tim Crouch about the making of the show and here’s what he had to say…
Tell us about The Complete Deaths.
Instead of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, these are The Complete Deaths. Every onstage death from all of Shakespeare’s plays performed by four phenomenally talented idiots. All 75 deaths put into some theatrical shape for the 400th anniversary year of Shakespeare’s demise. There are lots of events marking the anniversary. The Complete Deaths felt fitting.
Where did the idea originate from?
Spymonkey asked me if I’d like to do a Shakespeare play with them. After failing to decide which play we should do, the idea came to do all the deaths. Deaths on stage are unavoidably comic – actors lying very still, trying not to breathe. It’s stupid and childlike and ontologically implausible. Spymonkey are stupid and childlike and ontologically implausible. Bingo.
How did you get involved with Spymonkey and this production?
I’ve known Spymonkey for years and have had to sit through hours of their interminable adolescent buffoonery. I thought it was about time I helped them up their game, add a bit of class, some sophistication, composure, culture, a certain savoire-faire. They’ve been gagging for it.
What has it been like working with Spymonkey so far?
A little bit like herding eels. Incredibly talented, buttered eels. I have considered my job to be bringing order and structure and diligence to the company – in the knowledge that they will just fuck with all that shit. They’ve been together for 18 years and so there is an unspoken language between them. I propose something; they all nod in agreement; but sometimes I think they are just humouring me, like a cat playing with a mouse. We will see.
Where are you in the process of making the show at the moment?
We are now ‘making’. We have done a lot of planning; I have done a lot of structuring and scripting. But now we are bringing everything together. There is a brilliant team working on the show. The choreographers: Janine Fletcher and Theo Clinkard and an incredible film maker: called Sam Bailey. Spymonkey’s Toby Park is doing the music. It’s very exciting to see these separate parts start to cohere.
Which death scenes are your current top three and why?
Cinna the poet in Julius Caesar. Clarence in Richard III and Cleopatra. Because they all begin with a ‘C’. Petra Massey’s Cleopatra dance will be a sight for sore eyes. We’ve had to tone it down since its first appearance – when there were snakes where there should never be snakes.
Which scene has most surprised you?
There’s a fly in Titus Andronicus. This is a play of indescribable brutality. Titus kills two of his own children; he slits the throats of two Goths and bakes them in a pie. But when his brother kills a fly – he is outraged. This is Shakespeare at his greatest, shifting perspectives, re-focussing sympathies. The fly has become the emblem for the show.
How does one arrange 75 death scenes into a show?
I’ll tell you when we open. At the moment, it’s clear in my head around themes of tradition versus modernity; entertainment versus instruction. There is a through line – less in the deaths themselves but more in how the company approach them. We’ve been playing with forms of contemporary theatre practice – live camera feed, projections, microphones – with the intention of ruthlessly subverting them. Death as a post-modern experience… The driving force in all things has been to make people laugh. I also want them to think. Someone once said it’s impossible to laugh and think at the same time. I hope we disprove that.
Keep up to date with all the latest news from this year’s showcase @caravan_theatre #caravan16