Teatro Pomodoro interview: The award-winning Liverpool-based performance group
Forged together at a prestigious Paris clown school, Teatro Pomodoro is a Liverpool-based international group performing a striking fusion of theatre, dark comedy and live music.
After bagging a top Brighton Fringe award for their latest production, members Carmen Arquelladas, Leebo Luby and Simone Tani give Your Move the lowdown on life in this eclectic ensemble.
Interview by Lawrence Saunders
How did this band of international entertainers end up here in Liverpool?
ST: We all met in a famous theatre school in Paris called ‘École Philippe Gaulier’ and for different reasons we all moved to the UK. Because Leebo is from Liverpool, and we were working together, we came here.
CA: He basically dragged us here, saying that Liverpool was the best city and that we would make some amazing work here. He convinced us and we all moved here because of him.
LL: I said ‘if you move here, you will have a show within a year’ – and we did!
“The laugh of the Liverpool audiences is amazing – it’s completely different to other cities.”
Tell us more about the school where you first met and what you were doing there.
LL: It’s a theatre school where a lot of well-known actors have studied, like Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen. Simon McBurney, the film director who established the theatre company ‘Complicite’, also trained there. At the moment the school is becoming more well known on the fringe circuit because a lot of people who run the comedy awards at Edinburgh and Brighton have studied clown there, like Phil Burgers who is best known for his award-winning character ‘Dr Brown’.
CA: It’s an international school where people go from all around the world to be taught by the master clown, Philippe Gaulier and to learn his method.
LL: The school covers all theatre but it specialises in clown and another form called ‘bouffon’ which, without getting too technical, is kind of an inverted clown.
CA: A grotesque clown.
LL: Philippe would call Sacha Baron Cohen’s ‘Borat’, ‘Ali G’ and ‘Bruno’ a ‘bouffon’ because they act like idiots but actually hold up a mirror to the rest of society.
ST: However, from the same school there are also people like Emma Thompson who is totally unrelated to clown if you watch her perform.
What can people going to see ‘Cabaret From The Shadows’ expect?
CA: Basically it’s a sexy and strange political comedy show.
LL: I’d describe it as a dark cabaret which is satirical in a dark comedic way. When Carmen says it’s political, its not political in the sense that we’re trying to tell you what to think, we are just holding up everything in society for people to see and we exaggerate it for effect. We hope people who come can laugh at how society is but also maybe start to think things shouldn’t be that way.
ST: It’s like if you are laughing about something and after a while you start thinking about whether it’s something you should really be laughing at.
LL: This show is about the outcasts who confront society. A performance that manages to sneak some food for thought in for the audience whilst at the same time making them laugh. The idea of the outcast has become more and more relevant with Brexit – we don’t know how much longer our members are going to be in the country!
Do the group’s different nationalities and cultures make for a richer writing process?
LL: We have a lot of cultural differences which you really find out. I discovered that being from Britain, we are actually quite reserved with what we will do on the stage and how far we will go. There are some issues with religion and we are possibly more liberal, whereas those from other countries can be more conservative. There are lines which people won’t cross and we have to negotiate these and find common ground.
CA: We play on our differences during our performances. The national differences are really there as well, they are not made up – we live them everyday.
‘Cabaret From The Shadows’ won a top award at the Brighton Fringe which means Teatro Pomodoro will enjoy an all expenses trip to Scandinavia to perform the show in a minimum of two cities. What does this prize and the recognition mean to you?
CA: It’s a big deal because this was the first year that the award was presented but it’s also an amazing opportunity. It’s an opportunity for us to take our work outside of England, meet new people and hopefully create new opportunities.
ST: The show is quite well known in Liverpool but to reach outside of the city is hard. You need to show the quality of the show to submit to venues and a good way is to say ‘we won an award’. Something like this raises the profile of the show and of the company.
“[Our show] is not political in the sense that we’re trying to tell you what to think, we’re just holding up everything in society for people to see.”
You’re bringing ‘Cabaret From The Shadows’ back to Liverpool in September. Do you especially enjoy performing here in the city?
CA: It’s always special because we create the work here. We take what the city gives us and we put it out. You can always feel the difference between the Liverpool audiences and elsewhere.
The laugh of the Liverpool audiences is amazing – it’s completely different to other cities. It’s always really nice to perform for a Liverpool audience.
When can we expect to see your next production?
CA: We are starting to work on material for new shows which will debut in the near future.
LL: We also have an idea for a show we want to do around Christmas but that is top secret!
‘Cabaret From The Shadows’ returns to Liverpool for one night only on 20 September at the Unity Theatre.