This summer sees a landmark anniversary for The Rude Mechanical Theatre Company who will once again be guests at the Festival of Chichester.
This will be their 21st summer on the road – no small achievement and one which company founder and artistic director Pete Talbot is delighted to reach.
It feels like a confirmation of all that they are getting right: “It helps that we are being funded every year by the Arts Council. We have been funded 15 times in the last 16 years. It is good that the Arts Council believe in what we do.
“But I think there are a number of reasons why we are still here. To keep going, you have got to be able to offer your audience a good standard of work, and we do. The work has got to be good enough. The stories each year have got to be strong enough for people to want to come back. And they do. We have built up a following of probably about 10,000 people and we have got about 15,000 people on our database that have opted in to be contacted.
“But I also think we are fulfilling a specific niche. There are a handful of companies that do rural touring indoors in villages, and there are quite a few that do outdoor theatre, but those tend to play the castles and the heritage sites like country houses and stately homes. The public go to them as much as for the scenery as for the play, and the plays are usually the old classics like Shakespeare.
“What we offer is outdoor rural touring theatre that is specifically geared towards the small rural communities. One of the reasons people like what we do is because we go into their villages and onto their recreation grounds and village greens, and they can identify with us. We become part of their annual timetable.
“There are some villages that we have been to 21 times out of our 21 years!
“We are different also to a lot of other companies in the way that we have defined ourselves, our particular style which is deeply rooted in commedia dell’arte, but we haven’t just taken commedia dell’arte off the shelf. We have adapted the creative principles to make our own style. From the audience point of view, we are a company that tells stories that sometimes provoke, that tells stories that have got something to say. Many of our stories are rooted in our English culture, though this year the show is set in America in the 1950s, but the people are still what you might recognise as Trump supporters and so there is still something that will have a contemporary feel.
“And there is also the physical style with the white faces and the brightly-coloured costumes. It is colourful and it is cartoonistic, I would say, and people like the fact that the actors are also musicians and that the music is deeply embedded in the show.”
This year they will be performing a revival of their inspiring Ikarus Inc, a play about hopes and dreams.
“Set in the little town of Dreamville, Indiana, in the 50s, a travelling salesman Daedalus H Gildersleeves and his son Ikarus sell dreams from a suitcase. Secret hopes are laid bare as they begin to fly the townsfolk up into the clear blue skies to their dreams. Meanwhile the ladies of the local Buffalos Club – the Buffalesses – enter a competition to make the biggest pumpkin pie ever to raise money for ‘the sufferin’ poor’...”
Dates include: Halnaker Park Cottage, Sunday, June 16 (Festival of Chichester); Station Road Gardens, Billingshurst, Sunday, June 23; and Milland Recreation Ground, Wednesday, July 31.http:// therudemechanicaltheatre.co.uk.