One of the first groups to ever use the Copperdollar Studios is Sabotage Theatre, ‘a grassroots theatre company with a passion for adventure’. They make shows to be performed in woods, abandoned barns, historic churches and lost villages across Kent and Sussex. Their sets and costumes are made out of recycled materials. ‘Not only is it economical, it is sensible and better’. We are huge fans of Sabotage’s work and we’re always proud to say that they rehearse in the studios. Ahead of their show, The Looker, being performed at Brighton Spiegeltent this May (on the 5th, 6th, 7th, 12th, and 13th at 4pm), we caught up with them to find out a little bit more about it!
Can you tell us a little bit about what you’ve worked on recently at the Copperdollar Studios?
We have been working on our most recent play, The Looker, which is going to be on at the Spiegeltent this May. It’s been quite a journey. I (Zoe) actually started writing the play 3 years ago and an early scratch version was performed in Copperdollar upstairs. It’s a play with puppets, masks, clowning and live music. The story focuses around a woman in her mid thirties who is having a bit of an existential crisis, so she starts interrogating her dreams for answers. After a tip off from the Sisters of Sleep (Gramophone jockeys on a late night radio show for insomniacs), Vida starts to take some very drastic leaps in her life. It’s sincere storytelling, poetic chaos and heartfelt silliness; tackling the difficult subject of ‘Life: what is the point?’. From our last rehearsal, some friends of ours who run a media company- Made Better Media -have very generously put together a promo for the play.
How did you hear about the studios?
One of the team noticed it was being done up before the studios were even open and managed to persuade the owner, Kt, to let us rehearse there while it was still being finished. We rehearsed in Copperdollar Studios before it had proper walls, we felt like squatters!
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What do you like most about the Copperdollar Studios and what would you say makes it different from other studios you’ve used?
I love how it manages to be neutral, while not being a black or white box. It’s so much better if your thinking about looking to work in alternative settings, like woods or barns as we have. We are very site responsive as a company and love the challenge of new and unusual spaces. In the past we have performed in churches, woods and nature reserves, derelict farm buildings, barns and fields. It has a much more ‘natural’ feel. It’s really adaptable as a space, and homely too.
Your shows travel to rural and isolated communities, what made you want to reach these people and how would you say your interaction is different with audiences from this kind of area to if you were performing in popular, inner city venues?
I’ve always felt passionately that theatre belongs in the countryside as much as the city. I love the intimacy that is created between the company and the people who see the work. You have a chance to bring something really different to a place. The cooperation which is needed with communities makes the performers real, it’s a way of making art accessible to people who may not otherwise get the opportunity. So much of people’s experience of actors is through screens these days. Screens are responsible for turning players into celebrities, rather than Artists who want to change the world. At the moment I feel like I’d really love to branch out and show our work to as many people as possible. We did 4 horse drawn tours and it’s certainly given us some memories, but to survive as a theatre company I think it’s important to keep evolving and growing. Coming to perform in the Spiegeltent is really exciting. I started the company 10 years ago, but very little of the work has been performed in Brighton. It feels good to finally be laying some roots here. Being in a tent is great too, it’s like the half way house between the wilds and civilization. We weren’t quite ready for a black box just yet!
We love that your sets and props are made of recycled materials! Where do you find the pieces to recycle and what would you say has been your most interesting piece that your upcycled for one of your performances so far?
I’m always on the lookout for stuff, I pick up loads of things on the street and in skips, most of our fabric is just donated to me by people who know our cause. Probably my favourite of the moment is our main piece of set for the Looker, which is a cupboard / chest of drawers which was being binned across the road from Copperdollar. Originally I had designed a really elaborate set, but when I saw the cupboard I scrapped the lot. Now that cupboard is everything; a bedroom, a radio studio, a phone box, an office. It’s really amazing the possibilities if you switch your thinking a little.
Your work focuses largely on the importance of play, would you be able to tell us more about why that is?
Play is so important in keeping shows alive I think. When you use playfulness as a discipline it means you can make your own rules. It keeps you down to earth and reminds you to be open, present and engaged. I think these things are the most important qualities for performers to have, after that I will forgive pretty much anything.