New Art Club: an interview on their Quiet Act of Destruction
New Art Club are at the Soho Theatre from tonight, with their Quiet Act of Destruction. We’d originally written an introduction that blethered something vague about how the show was a bit ‘comedy meets dance’ but answer two here has squarely blown that out the water. So let’s instead say that the show’s been kicking around since 2011, with Tom Roden and Pete Shenton picking up all sorts of accolades for the show about revolts in Cambridgeshire (we give it ten minutes ‘til someone corrects us on that).
They do dancing, you know, so it really wasn’t as loopy as it first sounded. Look! They’re doing a highly physical performance on, erm, the radio:
TO QUESTIONS. Which Pete answered.
It’s been a while since the show first appeared at the 2011 Fringe; what’s prompted its return?
We couldn't fit it into our spring touring after doing it in Australia because we did too big dance related projects in the late spring and Summer. We made a comedy dance cabaret based on the myth of Hercules with 30 performers for a festival in Nottingham. And then we made an internet TV series. You can watch all the episodes here.
Your show marries dance into a comedy show; who else do you think makes a decent fist of making the two worlds collide?
This show has very little dance in it. It is basically a sort of stand up show with music and two people instead of one. There are one and a half dances, I suppose.
I like Reeves and Mortimer's ridiculous minimalist dances. Lea Anderson's early pieces for the Featherstonehaughs were brilliantly funny. The late Nigel Charnock was pretty damn funny at times. Protein Dance Company. Wendy Huston.
The show is set in the Cambridgeshire villages of Meldreth and Melbourn; have you had anyone in from the villages so far?
Though the show is set in the said villages this is not our main demographic. I think the London run would be pretty rough if it was. The show is basically about the way conflicts arise and escalate and how we can be swept along. There are no in-jokes just for the villagers.
But to answer your question directly...we had someone come up to Edinburgh from the Meldreth History Society especially to see it and he gave us a photo of the train station when it was called Meldreth and Melbourne Station many years ago. Tom's partner Anna has seen it and so has Tom's neighbour. Though Tom hasn't, cause he's in it.
What do you make of your show being described as ‘dicking about’?
I'm fine with it. Tom doesn't have a dick so he's not so happy.
What’s the best reaction to audience interaction you’ve had before? And the worst?
Someone described it as community participation which is sort of about right. We invite people to get involved and only people who want to do. And in the end most people when given the licence and the right context do. We are not about humiliating anyone or making them do something they don't want to, but in the end everyone does get involved.
We really haven't had any bad reactions. The best and worst reaction was from a woman who we asked to make an owl noise who then gave us a lecture on the difference between the male and female owl sounds. She put us right in our place with our stupid jokes.
It’s an eclectic music collection; how do you decide what makes the cut?
Yes we've got a bit of Roots Manuva who we both love, we've got some very early Kraftwerk, which is guitar-based and very heavy; and a bit of Penguin Cafe Orchestra for the sad bit. Normally Tom tries to get something from Manchester into the show but this time I managed to keep it out. It’s a pretty easy decision because it’s about how it sits with the material.
How did [BBC/Arts Council programme, which 'the boys' presented] Come Dance With Me go down?
Come Dance With Me has been a big success for us. It was our first effort at writing and presenting a series of programmes and it has been on the whole a great experience. Though I injured my knee doing a break dancing class and we did have to go to a rainy Latitude and I'm not a fan of wellies or camping. Watch it.
You can’t tell us what to do, but thanks, Pete. You can find tickets to the Soho Theatre shows over here.
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