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Tangled Feet Review 2012

July 19, 2012

Arts | by Danny & Josh

I often experience a moment of anxiety when I ask a director what their play is about. I think it’s because I know what’s coming. A coy smile. A lengthy nasal exhale. It’s political.

Oh is it? Like I didn’t  know.


I know the next hour well. Cramped, dark room. Lots of silence, lots of serious voices. On, off scene change lights. Reference to contemporary ‘issues’ (London riots). And arrogant, uninformed ‘political’ opinions that might as well have been formed by an over excited, prepubescent squirrel.

But it doesn’t have to be like this.


One year ago I wrote an article on Tangled Feet Theatre company. In fact, I did so for Candid. The real crunch in this company is their unique ability to balance visually engaging, physical work with discussion. It’s politics without the coy smile. Their latest feat, Inflation, is a rough, riotous devised piece that I managed to catch outside the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith. The show came as part of The Lyric’s ‘Theatre in the Square’ season.


About ten minutes late and with an awkward announcement about derivation of the word ‘castles’, the performance had subtly begun. Within an instant, the castle expert had become trapped under a growing, inflatable bouncy castle, and a series of ludicrous props (including a David Cameron mask and a blow up hammer) had been unveiled to a sea of confused spectators who had been innocently grazing on Pret sandwiches just moments before.


But in and among this mocking, manic, seemingly trivial existence, Inflation managed to isolate moments of reflection, short instants where we would be introduced to the genuine injustice that is caused by a society dominated by its economy. But then with the same energy that brought us to this point, we would be swept back into an infantile, inflatable world again. Perhaps forgetting briefly, how in touch this performance was.


But anyway, back to my fear of directors.

Tangled Feet’s creative director Kat Joyce was kind enough to meet me after one of her rehearsals for Inflation. What followed was a conversation in which the term ‘bombastic’  was used overtly.


How long does it take to make a performance?


– Fifteen days to make it and then I think we’ve got seven or eight performance days



And what is Tangled Feet ‘taking to the streets’?


We have made a lot of outdoor work in recent years, particularly in the Summer because people commission us to do festivals. So this year we packaged up all our shows to make a season of outdoor work, all of which have political undertones or are economically provocative. Three of the shows we have worked on; Inflation is brand new.


Does your work change as you come to revisit it?


-Yes we tend to add new layers of choreography but then, when you change performers things just change. They have new ideas, new perspectives. We really have an ethos that performers own their performances. Everything is made by negotiation. So yeah, stuff moves on, it gets stronger.


Does being outside change things?


– You have to go reasonably bombastic to read above what is just happening on street level. There’s just so many distractions. Someone standing there talking, like you might have indoors won’t cut it. Our talent is creating a spectacle, not just for the sake of creating a spectacle but to keep the sophisticated nature of political content. Because there’s a lot of outdoor theatre that is just about spectacle.


Is interaction part of what a contemporary audience want?


– Totally. There’s been a big movement in interactive theatre in the past years. And why not, no one wants to be stuck in a seat in the dark being quiet. If people don’t like us they can interrupt us or even just walk away. And on a busy high street why should we expect anything else? People won’t sit there quietly, that’s silly.


Have you had bad experiences with audience interaction?


– I don’t think there is bad interactions. Just interactions. If things go wrong we deal with them and that’s fun to watch. Unpredictability is a great thing about being outdoors, it’s not a limitation.


Design is a big part of your construct, how did that come to be?


– We play with objects. And then a play evolves out of the objects we are playing with and the possibilities of they have. Often it comes from a kind of physical metaphor. Like with inflation we use a bouncy castle to create an economy, the air goes out of it.


And finally what companies do Tangled Feet love?


– It’s a diverse one. Tangled feet is a big collective. I could tell you about the theatre I love but our work is informed more by the music that we love, or the books that we read, maybe even the politics we engage ourselves in, just really bombastic things! A few of us saw the Simon Stephens show at the Lyric and we loved the theatricality of that. But if we look at companies like Complicite or Forced Entertainment, these are the companies that are our heritage.



So perhaps not all political theatre is doomed. Just most of it.


Find out more about Tangled Feet at




Words Oz Page, Imagery Tamara Dahab