'This is bound to be an eye-opening experience for us both' - Expial Atrocious Interview
Fresh from graduation at the University of Worcester, all-female absurdist theatre company Expial Atrocious are preparing to take their show ‘Butchered’ up to the world-famous Edinburgh Fringe, alongside other events this year.
Another of their productions, ‘Hear, Speak, See’, will be part of the Greater Manchester Fringe’s online festival.
I was able to talk to Nic and Ez all about preparing for the festivals and what goes into creating their shows.
Could you please tell us about your Edinburgh Fringe show ‘Butchered’?
A sausage-maker and an apprentice walk into a kitchen, but this is no joke.
After working in a basement kitchen for as long as they can remember, Master Sausage is content with their life. They work hard and cannot imagine doing anything else. They can't do anything else. But when a fresh-faced apprentice arrives, babbling streams of consciousness, artistic passions and a harsh reality are brought with them. With their daily routine disrupted, the Master is forced to look their life in the eye and climb into the belly of the beast. With tensions rising, sinister questions start to rear their heads. What does it mean to be happy? Is there more to life than this? What's in those sausages anyway? ‘BUTCHERED’ is a new, blood-thirsty absurdist drama about challenging tradition, escaping the mundane and doing what has to be done.
Created, devised, and developed in just under 6 months, ‘BUTCHERED’ is a visual and auditory spectacle that features dynamic choreography, an original soundtrack and new writing. Initially inspired by the phrase “bags o’ mystery”, because the only person who knows what’s in the sausage is the maker, it developed and morphed into a 50-minute show about working class voices, the struggles young, emerging artists face after leaving education and the overwhelming experience of being stuck in a routine. Our cinematic score was inspired by video game music, like ‘Inscryption’ and ‘Little Nightmares’, and our choreography took influence from Splendid Productions’ Brechtian ways of working and Le Navet Bete’s exaggerated, over-the-top characters. Though we’ve taken inspiration from lots of different sources, this is very much an Expial Atrocious show, and we can’t wait for audiences to see what we’re all about.
What are you most excited about taking your show to the fringe?
For people to see what our company can do. We’re very excited for them to hear our original soundtrack that we’ve spent hours editing in the gantry of our University’s drama studio and to see our choreography. We’ve put our hearts and souls into this show, and it’s even bigger and better and butchery-er than we could’ve imagined. (we cannot tell you HOW MANY different variations of meat sounds we have listened to), But we can’t wait to share it in such an eclectic environment!
We’re also excited for the overall experience of Edinburgh Fringe. We’ve never been to Edinburgh or a proper Fringe festival in the flesh before, so this is bound to be an eye-opening experience for us both and we hope to network and connect with like-minded artists and companies while we’re there.
As recent graduates, do you think that events such as the Edinburgh fringe are good opportunities to get new work seen by audiences?
Edinburgh Fringe is a great opportunity for emerging artists, and we feel very lucky to have this opportunity in the first place! We think there is sometimes a stigma at Edinburgh Fringe about ‘student work’ and the quality of the show you are going to see. We want to dispel that myth with this show. So, what we would say to Ed Fringe goers is to not to judge a book by its cover. By supporting work made by students, who are some of the most self-critical artists out there, you are aiding the next generation of theatre-makers. Students WANT and NEED feedback, so if you want to be a theatre critic for the day, go and see student work and give them honest feedback! ‘BUTCHERED’ is an original, co-written, co-choreographed, co-EVERYTHING-ed production that we are unbelievably proud of and all we can hope for is that new audiences want to watch it, enjoy watching it and think about it long after it's over.
What goes into preparing a show for the Edinburgh fringe?
A lot. For us, we started by brainstorming on whiteboards in different coloured pens for about a month before we came up with the concept of ‘BUTCHERED’. We would write and talk for hours until the show was a rainbow of ink across the walls. We then took those ideas, concepts, random scribblings, and weird illustrations, and tried to put them onto the page. We knew we wanted to use abstract language, so we would do writing and speaking exercises to find our ways of communicating with each other. Then, we developed our story, fleshed out our characters, got stuck several times and had to ‘butcher’ the draft we had just written and physicalise an entirely different version of the show every time. The music and choreography came much later in the process as we knew we needed a solid narrative, interesting characters and that our key messages came through.
As we are a self-sufficient company, we have relied on ourselves for the writing, directing, designing, composing, marketing and tech for the show. We’ve done everything onstage and offstage, so we really do know this show inside and out!
I see that you have another show ‘Hear, Speak, See’ being shown as part of the Greater Manchester Fringe’s online festival. Could you tell us about this please?
Dinner with strangers is always awkward, especially when you’re the guest of honour. You are cordially invited to the dinner party of your life. The dress code is “come as you are”. Secrets and all. Pour yourself into this twisted tale, relish in a new form of dynamic storytelling and devour this experience from a new perspective. ‘Hear. Speak. See.’ is an immersive, digital drama by Expial Atrocious… and we’ve saved you a seat.
‘Hear. Speak. See.’ is our first big production as a company along with our third member, Faye Bingham. Filmed in first-person POV and created in just under 8 weeks, our 35-minute show follows a twisted tale that is sure to unnerve, engage, raise questions… and pulses.
We received incredible reviews for the show at last year’s online Edinburgh Fringe festival, so we’re very excited to be giving it another lease of life at Greater Manchester Fringe. It’s on until 31st July, and you can book your tickets here: https://manchester.ssboxoffice.com/events/hear-speak-see/
What goes into creating a show for an online audience?
A lot of concentration and meticulous planning. Our relationship with the audience was the most important thing for us during the devising and filming of ‘Hear. Speak. See.’. As it’s filmed in first-person POV, you (the audience) are sat at the head of a dining table, so all the camera movements had to be realistic, like the eye-line and even breathing. We wanted to immerse the audience so completely in this show that we included moments where you would reach forward and pick up a wine glass or a piece of cutlery. A lot of people have suggested the show would work in VR, which is something we would love to try!
What would you like the audiences to get out of your shows?
We want audiences to leave feeling different than when they walked in. The messages, twists, and moments of spectacle we include in our shows is something we would want audiences to reflect on even after they’ve left. ‘Hear. Speak. See.’ is more open to interpretation than ‘BUTCHERED’, but both include deep themes that explore the human condition, what it means to be human and doing what we have to do, or even what we think is right.
We’ll also be giving out ‘stress sausages’ to audience members who may find the show a little overwhelming, so that’s something they can physically take away from the show!
Why should fringe goers come and see your show in Edinburgh and/or watch your show online?
If you want to see something different and lose yourself in an off-kilter drama, ‘Hear. Speak. See.’ is a great introduction to an abstract side of theatre you may have never seen before. It’s also a taster as to what we do as a company. We make weird, physical, and character-driven shows that reflect familiar aspects of life in an abstract and absurdist way. And that is very much apparent in ‘BUTCHERED’. It’s probably up there with one of the weirdest shows you’ll see at this year’s Fringe.
Butchered runs at Greenside at Nicholson Square, Lime Studio on August 8,10,12. Tickets are available here https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on#q=%22Butchered%22
You can watch Hear, See, Speak online until July 31st https://manchester.ssboxoffice.com/events/hear-speak-see/
I would like to thank Nic and Ez for taking time out of their busy schedules to talk to me and would like to wish them the very best of luck with the shows.
And here are all of the company's socials / links:
Link to 'Hear. Speak. See.' trailer - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=blRQiF5ONIs
Tickets to 'Hear. Spaak. See.' at Greater Manchester Fringe - https://manchester.ssboxoffice.com/events/hear-speak-see/
Tickets for 'BUTCHERED' at Edinburgh Fringe - https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/butchered
Link to 'BUTCHERED' teaser trailer - https://www.youtube.com/shorts/qr9DHAw2qYg
'BUTCHERED' soundtrack - https://soundcloud.com/user-386147605/sets/butchered-soundtrack