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INTERVIEW | TOBY PARK TALKS HAIRY


 


credit: Steve Gregson ©

 

Spymonkey is the UK's foremost comedy theatre company, creating and performing theatre, variety, site-specific and cabaret work, touring the UK and internationally, brings their world premiere production of Hairy to Polka theatre which is a dedicated children’s venue in the UK.


Brimming with great generous dollops of bold visual comedy, Hairy is the first show created especially for young people by Spymonkey, the UK’s longest-running comedy theatre company. The cast includes John-Luke Roberts, Matthew Faucher, Katie Grace Cooper and Jasmine Chiu.

I got to speak to Toby Park who is the co-director of the show to find out how it was creating their first ever production aimed for young people and more about the theatre company.

















 

What is Hairy about?


Hairy is about a hair called Hairnry who wants to be a head hair. His three friends aren’t sure he’s ready for such a high profile job and set him some challenges. How to cope if you are a chin hair and need to be shaved every day. How to survive an attack by the nitwit army. Alternative treatments to dandruff (which turns the whole theatre into a pretty impressive snow globe!). And the final challenge: a visit to the hairdressers including a shampoo, rinse, cut and blow-dry for the entire audience. Will Hairnry rise to these hairy challenges? You’ll have to come and see the show to find out!


What was the inspiration behind Hairy?


Aitor (my fellow co-director) had the idea to make a crazy comedy show all about hair. We thought that was a really stupid idea. Perfect - that’s how all our shows are born, someone has a stupid idea that makes us laugh, and the show grows from there.


credit: Steve Gregson ©

How does “physical comedy” come across in the show?


So there’s a load of slapstick, people falling over, standing up and falling over again, visual gags, big visual effects. We like to make people laugh using everything that theatre has to offer, rather than base it on wordplay and writing. We like wordplay and writing, but there are lots of other things which are brilliant and funny. We have some great choreography in this show, created by Jasmine Chiu, which has been a great part of making this show.


Is this the first time you have created a show for this age group?


Yes, it’s the first time we’ve made a show specifically for young people. The previews are going great, so brilliant to hear the squeals of delighted laughter from a theatre packed with kids.


credit: Steve Gregson ©

What are the key things you wanted in the show when your target audience was 6-12 year olds?


To make the funniest piece of theatre any of them have ever seen. Also to move them in unexpected ways, and really care about what happens to the characters. And to make them see hair in a new way, to value and wonder at all the varieties of ways it can exist in the world.


What is the main aim for Spymonkey when putting on a show?


We like more than anything to make audiences laugh like they’ve never laughed before. We find the best way to do this is to have as much fun as possible, first in the rehearsal room and in our design meetings, and then to distill that sense of pleasure so that the audience gets to experience something unique. We hope to create a wave of laughter that the performers can surf from the first moment of the show to the finale.


credit: Steve Gregson ©

How do you audiences react to your production style?


We have been making work for nearly 25 years and they do seem to still be enjoying it! The audiences at Polka have sometimes been so loud that the actors have no chance to be heard. Extraordinary. I’m not sure i’ve seen or heard a reaction like that ever.


What are you looking forward to being part of the Summer Fun at Polka Theatre?


I hear there is a Bear that is Everywhere. That I have to see.



credit: Steve Gregson ©

What’s your favourite moment in the show?


My favourite moment right now is the screams of delighted terror when the Nitwit Army come down off the stage into the audience. It is like a jet aeroplane taking off!


Describe the show in one sentence


Like a Pixar animated film about a bunch of hairs, starring a cross between Teletubbies and the cast of Star Trek.


credit: Steve Gregson ©

 

Helen Matravers, Artistic Director of Polka Theatre, said, “I am so delighted that Polka get this opportunity to create with the UK’s leading physical comedy company. Spymonkey’s incredible reputation for making inventive and playful work makes them the perfect team to create a truly brilliant and bonkers new piece for young audiences. Hairy will combine clowning, comedy, music, song and all-things hair – it’s a match made in heaven and will provide a summer of laughter on Polka and Worthing Theatre’s stages, without doubt.”


Amanda O’Reilly - CEO and Creative Director, Worthing Theatres & Museum (WTM) said, “Worthing Theatres are thrilled that Hairy is our first co-production; an entirely original piece of family theatre by the world-class Spymonkey. Following the London premier at Polka Theatre, Spymonkey are returning home to the south coast with this anarchic, joyful and silly celebration of hair in all its guises. We can't wait for the show to hit our Pavilion Theatre stage this summer.”


Hairy will play at Polka Theatre from Saturday 1 July – Sunday 20 August, then will head to Worthing’s Pavilion Theatre from 24 – 28 August.


credit: Steve Gregson ©

 

Important show info


HAIRY - POLKA THEATRE.

DATES: SAT 1 JUL - SUN 20 AUG

DURATION: APPROX. 60MINS

PERFORMANCE SCHEDULE: 11AM & 2PM WITH 4.30PM SHOW ON FRI 21 JUL SCHOOLS PERFORMANCES, ON SELECTED DATES.

TICKETS FROM £10


ACCESS PERFORMANCES - RELAXED: SUN 9 JUL 2PM, BSL: SUN 30 JUL 2PM,

CAPTIONED: SAT 5 AUG 11AM, AUDIO DESCRIBED: SUN 6 AUG 2PM.


WORTHING THEATRES AND MUSEUM

DATES: 24 –28 AUGUST 2023

TICKETS FROM £13.50


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