You can discover the strangest things when you’re walking the dog in north London’s Tottenham Marshes. Musician turned Sasquatch-hunter Simon Stanley Ward is proof of that.
He presents his fascinating findings – combining storytelling, song and captivating lecture – in How I Found and Captured Bigfoot During Lockdown, premiering at the Etcetera Theatre from 23 to 25 August 2021 as part of this year’s Camden Fringe. We talked to him to find out more.
You’ve been performing non-stop since you were a teenager.
What got you into music in the first place?
When I was around five years old, I wanted to be Elvis! He was like a superhero to me. I enjoyed dressing up and doing little shows in the lounge and stuff for my parents. I was lucky to have great pals in my teens who I could play music with and pretty quickly we formed a band and started gigging.
How would you describe your music style?
It has changed quite a lot, especially in recent years. But I think there’s still a good chunk of country and rock n roll at the heart of it. In the past, I used to write with a genre in mind, but that has changed over time. I guess now I try and let the songs tell me where they want to go and then explore different genres afterwards. It’s fun to try things out.
Where do music, theatre and comedy intersect?
I think a lot of the performers I enjoy watching tick all these boxes, even if they don’t intend to. When I see performers who can get to the middle of this Venn diagram, it is exciting. This is where the cool stuff happens!
What was the inspiration for Bigfoot?
I have always been interested in myths and paranormal phenomena such as Bigfoot, Loch Ness, UFOs, Big Cats, etc. I enjoy the stories and the slim possibility that they might just be real. (Bigfoot actually is real as you’ll see if you come to my show!) I also like the skeptical, more actual science stuff too. I guess I’m a Professor Brian Cox fan by day, and Finding Bigfoot enthusiast by night.
In your show, you talk and sing about IVF and your personal journey through it.
What made you want to include this?
Yes, my wife and I have been trying to start a family for a few years, and our first IVF cycle fell during lockdown. The reason for including it was never one of wanting sympathy. I think the male perspective of the IVF process is something that is helpful to share, as it is something that is often overlooked and under-represented. There is a taboo about the subject of fertility amongst men and not talking about it can lead to serious issues such as depression and anxiety. Inspired by Rhod Gilbert’s recent documentary on the subject, I wanted to share some of this journey onstage in an entertaining way, through the vehicle of this Bigfoot lecture!
Tell us about the development process.
I have been really lucky to work with Madeleine Hutchins, who is directing the show. She is a very talented teacher and actor herself and has helped so much with the more theatre-ish and storytelling side of things. As someone who normally stands in front of loud bands, singing in pubs, I had lots to learn and it’s been really interesting. The show was written during the height of lockdown, and it became a source of hope to think that I might actually be able to perform it one day. As it turned out, Hope is a big theme in the show.
Do you think Sasquatch really exists?!
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned about the legend?
Take a look at the Patterson/Gimlin footage from 1967! 100%. Not only that, but I’ve only gone and caught a UK one, haven’t I? Come and see it, everyone! It’ll be there at the theatre. Most interesting fact? That Bigfoot is no stranger to these isles, with records of a Wildman in England dating back to the 12th century.
How has lockdown been for you overall?
I have undoubtedly missed performing as that is what I really enjoy doing, and it has, until 18 months ago, been a constant in my adult life. I enjoy gigging, watching gigs, being inspired by other people. I hope all of this and more is ahead of us again.
What is it like performing again in front of live audiences?
I’m a proficient wobbler, and it’s good to have that sense of underlying panic that I get before walking on stage back in my life.
Why did you want to bring your show to Camden Fringe specifically?
Camden Fringe has really taken off in recent years, and I’ve been dying to try a long-format, story-based show for a while. I live in North London, gig regularly in Camden, and can’t wait to try this out on home turf.
In a nutshell, why should audiences come and see Bigfoot?
What would you like them to take away from the show?
Okay here is an elevator pitch! You know when they brought King Kong to a New York theatre? Well, it’s going to be like that, but instead, I’ll be bringing Sasquatch to Camden Town. I hope it will be a great moment for zoology and fringe theatre. Oh, and naturally there’s some IVF insight thrown in there too! To take away? Irrefutable evidence!
What’s next for you?
Well, we hope to do more of these shows in London later in the year, and beyond that, perhaps take to it Edinburgh Fringe and some other festivals in 2022. Perhaps a tour around UK ecology centres or something. We will see how it goes. In the shorter term, on the music side of things, I will be playing gigs with my country rock n roll band The Shadows of Doubt at Maverick Festival in September and elsewhere in London. Hopefully a third album soon. They are great musicians who I have been lucky to play with now for almost eight years.
Anything else to add?
Go and see things and keep supporting live music, comedy and theatre! The industry has never needed support more than now. Go and give something a go!
During Camden Fringe 2021, How I Found and Captured Bigfoot During Lockdown runs 23 to 25 August at the Etcetera Theatre, 265 Camden High Street, London NW1 7BU, with performances (60 minutes) at 7.30pm. Tickets are priced £8 (£5 concessions). CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!