Ahead of their performance of The Black Cat next Wednesday (15th March), LaPelle’s Factory tell us who they are, what they do and what their latest darkly comic theatrical adventure is all about.
LaPelle’s Factory is the Nottingham-based creative partnership between Olwen Davies and Ollie Smith. We make contemporary experimental performance that’s a bit weird, kinda dark and (hopefully) good fun. When we make shows we like to scare ourselves: we like to work within and between different forms and we keep pulling the rug as often as we can to keep things feeling fresh and unexpected.
With this approach in mind, we first made CLOUDCUCKOOLANDERS, our “cinema show,” where we tear up the conventions of horror movies at a film screening to die for; then we made DESPERADO, our “dance show,” where we keep our bodies moving until it feels like the world’s ending.
Now we’re making THE BLACK CAT, our “literature show.” This brand new piece, which we’re thrilled to be sharing as a work-in-progress as part of CPT’s Sprint Festival, is a sly adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s macabre short story of the same name. Here’s the premise. Our good friend, the enigmatic writer Mufaro Makubika, has adapted Poe’s original tale – a story of addiction, abuse and a seriously freaky feline – and he’s handed his script over to us. We’re subsequently taking merciless liberties with it. We’re creating an adaptation of his adaptation. The show is irreverent, sparky, knowing – and, truth be told, it has a seriously bad attitude towards classic gothic literature. Like a madman taking out his rage on a helpless pet, it deviates well beyond Poe’s original words. It upends the sanctity of the text, pushing beyond its limits and picking apart the very process of rewriting a well-known tale.
As Poe says in the story: “Who has not, a hundred times, found himself committing a vile or a silly action, for no other reason than because he knows he should not?”
The “silly action” for us in making The Black Cat is working with a playwright and embracing the form of good ol’ fashioned storytelling. LaPelle’s Factory very much comes from the devised school of theatre-making, so starting on the page feels pretty darned alien to us. (Indeed I don’t think I’ve been in an actual play since landing the role of Clov in an amateur production of Endgame in about 2007, so dabbling again in “acting,” taking on a character and pretending to be someone other than myself, feels like a paradoxical mixture of regression and progress.)
Our piece does more than simply retell the story however. It deconstructs and dismembers the process you go through when adapting someone else’s work, it questions authorship, and it blurs the boundaries between fiction and reality. On the one hand this is a show about violence; on the other it’s a metatheatrical piece that thrills in the simplicity of words and the complexity of language, in shattering illusions – and in being incredibly cheeky.
We’re well known for performing with fully self-aware glints in our eyes. In The Black Cat we slip in and out of role, we chat freely with our audience between the scenes – however, slowly but surely, the line between performer and character disappears, and we tumble towards a catastrophic final act.
If you get a kick out of reimagined classics, murky and mysterious plot-lines, or just darkly comic theatre, then do come along. We’d really value your thoughts as we take the piece towards its next stage of development.
Meow for now, pussycats.
Image Credit (c) Julian Hughes