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Robin & Partridge talk bark wombs and December Nights: Tales from the Albion

  • 2010-12-06

The highly-anticipated December Nights: Tales From The Albion at The Old Vic Tunnels is less than two weeks away and already sold out. London’s most unique performance space is readying itself for the arrival of a plethora of creative minds to come together and recreate the best of Englishness throughout the ages. I caught up with comic double act Robin & Partridge who will host a bandstand full of live performance to find out more.

Robin & Partridge are an amusing looking double act. Robin is tall, softly spoken and has a knowing glint in his eye while Partridge is a spiky character sporting a moustache and a patch of hair in a style that looks like it was cut by a trainee hairdresser on the street in Shoreditch. Together they are a surrealist act formed, as Robin puts it, because they were “super keen not to get proper jobs” – Charlie adds: “When you’re doing comedy, stand-up gets a bit lonely”. So the pairing began in Edinburgh from where they headed south to London, sleeping on people’s floors and taking jobs with the hugely popular Underground Rebel Bingo Club and The House of Fairy Tales, a child-centred project established by artists Deborah Curtis and Gavin Turk. Robin said: “Through the House of Fairy Tales we’ve done a range of art gallery gigs. They are diverse, interesting parties doing shows with artists.”

Art is a big part of Robin & Partridge’s show. Their act includes animations, silhouettes and puppetry. Robin said: “Charlie has thrown himself into the animation – he has a much better computer than me, mine commits suicide whenever I go near it. But the visuals are so important. Theatre show should be interactive and very slick. I don’t find a guy talking on stage very interesting, and I love theatre, so it’s my strong ambition is to make a show that’s visually engaging and entertaining. On stage you’re being watched very closely so even the raising of an eyebrow can get a laugh.”

One man told us what we were doing was akin to a mild fetish party.

!(feature_l)http://relayer.s3.amazonaws.com/articles/spreads/4cfd6fde7d05b22dae000066.jpg!The duo do a lot more than just raise eyebrows to get laughs. As Robin explains, they do a lot of interactive storytelling, including getting audience members on stage and asking them for a subject to tell a story while they act out the characters – and they’re always keen to get people on stage. In one show they offered audience members a “natural rebirth” via a bark womb made by their onlookers. The chance to become the cult of the forest saw people give up their car, their phone and Ikea – Robin adds: “One guy came out of the bark womb and said he was parsley. There was another guy who acted as the placenta – he just kind of flopped out of the bark womb after people were born into the cult of the forest.” Another gig was for a Coco de Mer toy involving setting up a spanking post for them to get spanked. Robin said: “One man told us what we were doing was akin to a mild fetish party.”

Their creative process brings wacky results, but they have a method to their madness. Charlie explains: “Usually one of us has an idea, say ‘isn’t this funny’ and then the other says “no”. But then we refine it to find the comedy for the show.” He goes on: “We’ve got a looks that’s very DIY – we do what we can with the equipment that we’ve got. We’re keen to bring our creative elements together with the animations and silhouettes so it’s not just us talking to each other. It’s a lot like musical comedians. They’re often criticised for not being the best musicians or comedians, but they bring the two together effectively. We’re bringing our artistic skills together on stage.”

The bandstand will be an acoustic stage with an immersive and interactive vibe that will draw people in – something akin to a dirty Irish pub.

Robin’s fondness for the stage stems from the audience. He said: “With comedy you get instant gratification from the audience so you get immediate feedback that it’s going well.” For December Nights: Tales from the Albion, they’ll be in the thick of the audience as they curate The Bandstand area. It’ll form just one of several live performance areas in the unique space below Waterloo station that is being produced by the same team who put together the impressive Dark Carnival: Notes from Underground show earlier this year.

Charlie said: “This is the kind of show you can’t do on the comedy circuit and we’re always looking at doing things in unique spaces – its the kind of thing we like. The bandstand will be an acoustic stage with an immersive and interactive vibe that will draw people in – something akin to a dirty Irish pub. It’ll be full of characters, the type of place where people will be amusing themselves but then the fiddler comes in and they say: ‘It’s time for a dance!’” Robin adds: “Even when the characters are not on the stage, they’ll be wandering round interacting. They’ll also be secret storytelling in one of the rooms.”

Mary Jane Edwards, Co. Creative Director of December Nights is excited to have the pair perform. She said: “You have to go with your instincts and when I met Charlie he made me laugh so much, I just had to have him at December Nights. Robin couldn’t be there though and for a while everyone was convinced Robin didn’t really exist.” Indeed, Robin heard about December Nights over the phone when Charlie rang him. He explains: “What’s not to love about December Nights? Charlie was super excited so he called me and told me about the show while I ate my quiche Lorraine, I was so excited I spat quiche Lorraine all over the table. ‘Charlie’, I said, ‘that really sounds like our quiche’.”

Joining Robin & Partridge at The Old Vic Tunnels at December Nights: Tales from the Albion, are surrealist Doctor Brown, Unclaimed Creatures hosting a decadent dining establishment, Orlando Seale’s pack of saucy troglodytes, the University of London Union Big Band, musician and actor Antony Elvin whose song “Among The Dandies” featured in The Mighty Boosh documentary ‘Journey of the Childmen’, The Eusebius Ensemble, The Federation Dance Company, artist Bram Thomas Arnold, one man poetry party starter Chris Redmond, physical cartoonist Sara Pascoe and DJs Keb Darge and Little Edith.

_Tickets are sold out, but it you want to know more, go to www.dark-carnival.co.uk

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