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12 October 2021
Author: Madelaine Bennett [The Gingerbread Agency]

Interview with New Art Club

Find out more about New Art Club's Tom Roden and Pete Shenton, and their latest dance comedy show Cupid's Revenge, in this Q&A:

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and New Art Club

Tom - Pete and I started working together as a New Art club in 2000 with a show called This is Modern. We’re both from dance backgrounds and this was an experiment in testing boundaries - a comic history of contemporary dance.

We thought that it was probably going to be the last show we'd ever make, but it was a hit! The show was a loving tribute, but we were definitely taking the mickey out of the industry. Then dance industry went, “Oh we love it! We think that's really charming.” We toured that show for seven years around the world.

The next show that we made, Yes, was based on the music of the first Now That's What I Call Music album - it was really punchy, full of really vibrant pop music, and it was full of comic moments. It was a storytelling show which spoke about teenage love stories and explored nostalgia.

In a way, Cupid’s Revenge is a return to the same theme of love, but with a more mature approach now that we’ve lived and loved more in the intervening years.

 

2. Are you a dance act doing comedy, or a comedy act doing dance? How do you describe your shows?

Tom - A mixture of both! We steal from the comedy side of things - we love having that immediate, audible response from an audience. If an audience thinks something is funny, you hear it!

Pete - The first time I saw dance it gave me that space to let my imagination run free and reflect on things in a different way to something like theatre. I want to give audiences that same feeling.

Tom - In 2007 we decided that we were going to make an official shift into the world of comedy. We'd been to Edinburgh Fringe a couple of times with shows that were always incredibly successful in the dance programme.  So we decided to challenge ourselves to specifically make a comedy show from our dance background. It was a sort of natural progression.

Whatever the genre or artform, people create work that delves into human connections – sometimes it’s through comedy and humour, sometimes it’s visual displays. The important thing to us is our audience to relate and engage with our ideas.

 

3. You’ve your approach and style have evolved and changed since New Art Club was established. What’s influenced you to explore and experiment?

Pete - For us, a strong narrative almost prevents audiences’ reflections - the demands of the narrative keep you tied to the action, so our shows let the audience experience that story through movement and visuals as well as the spoken word.

Tom - On a very practical and human side, we're mature dancers now. We're not going out and doing backflips but we are presenting these bodies that have been on stage dancing for 35 years. The impact of seeing older bodies with so much experience dancing and moving together – it’s quite powerful.

Pete - During the pandemic, I’ve had stages of separating myself a little bit from the world; being at home more and spending time with my family. There's been some real difficulties and low moments as I'm sure there has been for everybody but it gave me a chance to reflect on what I love about (amongst other things) work. And fundamentally, I love working with Tom.

The best part my working life is spending time with Tom and Mike, making things and talking and playing together. It's brilliant to get back that.

It's been frustrating not be able to show Cupid’s Revenge to people until now so that’s a good sign - we're both really proud of it.

 

4. Cupid’s Revenge is a show about love, but it’s a very different approach compared to Yes. What’s differences do you notice in this new work?

Tom - Cupid’s Revenge is certainly very physical – it has lots of dance and movement and images - there are very beautiful bits of choreography, and extended bits of dance. But it’s also funny and really moving.

Pete - We wanted Cupid’s Revenge to explore the variety of stories around love. What does love mean to different people at different times?

Tom - We always fancied making something about the story of Cupid and Psyche. It's a myth that is rarely told in its entirety - it's broken up into lots of different chunks as part of different fairy tales and films and stories.  We wanted to take that idea and use it to look at all the different facets of love in all our lives.

Pete - Cupid’s Revenge is a big show of images and ideas, that fold over each other – it’s not a play with a straight narrative. It lets your imagination take you to new places, and reflect on your own life and experiences.

We found a way of bringing all of those strands together in a really beautiful and satisfying way.

There have been times where we've both been in tears. It's speaks to our own lives as well as other people's - about how love fits with all our different experiences.

It's such a rewarding show to perform. After shows, audience members have shared very personal stories with us. It’s a real privilege that Cupid’s Revenge speaks to people deeply enough that they chose to share parts of their own lives.

 

5. You’re touring Cupid’s Revenge until November. Have you got ideas and plans for the next project?

Tom - If it's anything like Cupid’s Revenge, I'll give you the answer in three years’ time!

I think that any inspiration for our new work will come from being together in the post-pandemic world rather than the separated feeling we all had during the pandemic.

The Holy Grail is a show that writes itself. As we’re developing new ideas, we both know that feeling when our feet hit the ground and the show takes on a life of its own.

 

See Cupid's Revenge at The Place, Thu 14 - Sat 16 Oct 2021.

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