Simone Tani, one of the founders of Teatro Pomodoro, must be completely shattered. Speaking to me over Skype, he has just become a father and is also trying to finalise bringing the company’s first full work, Cabaret From The Shadows, to Brighton Fringe Festival. It opens with the festival, playing from 5 – 10 May as one of the WINDOW: Brighton Fringe’s Arts Industry Showcase shows. Ten productions are selected to play during the first days of the festival, a way of developing and encouraging artists that are ready for the next step in their career.
Teatro Pomodoro is an international ensemble of artists and creators that formed after meeting at Ecole Philippe Gaulierin Paris. Based in Liverpool, they specialise in a blend of clowning, bouffon, music, comedy and dance to explore the relationship between audience and perfomer. I caught up with Simone to discuss his feelings about Cabaret From The Shadows going to Brighton and how the company formed initially:
Cabaret From The Shadows has been selected as one of the Brighton Fringe WINDOW showcase shows. How did it feel to be selected as one of the final ten?
It came at a perfect moment – the plan for Cabaret From The Shadows is to go on tour in autumn, mainly in the North of England, and then to do a bigger tour in the winter. WINDOW is a showcase for the arts industry, so there will be many of the bookers and people who may be interested in bringing Cabaret From The Shadows to a festival or a venue – it’s a perfect time for us. The fact that we have been selected as one of only ten shows is quite flattering. We applied as soon as we knew there was the opportunity but it wasn’t something we expected.
Have you done Brighton festival before?
This will be my first time. We’ve been to Edinburgh, Camden Fringe and two of the company have performed at Brighton Fringe but not with Teatro Pomodoro before. It’s very exciting, it feels like everything is really starting now. It feels like the right size fringe festival – you don’t get lost in it, but at the same time it’s big enough to see so many faces, people we know the work of and want to meet.
Has Cabaret From The Shadows played other venues before, or will Brighton be the première?
We’ve played mainly in Liverpool, where we are based. We’ve been lucky in having the support of venues like The Lantern Theatre and Unity Theatre. We were part of Physical Fest in 2016 with an early version of the show and that was a great opportunity to be in an amazing festival with other amazing artists. The last two performances we did were at the Invisible Wind Factory, a brand-new warehouse venue in Liverpool. We sold out both dates and it was exciting to be the second theatrical show to be performed in the space, so we could be in the same team as those building the stage. When we did those shows it felt like the venue was designed for the show.
It feels like the right size fringe festival – you don’t get lost in it, but at the same time it’s big enough to see so many faces, people we know the work of and want to meet.
Where did the idea for Cabaret From The Shadows come from?
The idea arrived when we all moved to Liverpool. We are five in Teatro Pomodoro and all from different countries. One of us was from Liverpool and based here already, but as soon as we all moved here we started thinking about setting up a bouffon cabaret, or a grotesque dark cabaret. The original idea was to create a late-night show that would change acts regularly. But when we started to work on it, we started to see that actually what we were creating was more towards a set show. We felt there were a few numbers that were so strong they were giving structure to the fixed show, rather than a cabaret with different acts, one related to the other.
We did a few early versions, numbers changed with time and then, little by little, I tried to design scenes that can stay for a long time – when the current topic is no longer relevant, the number would have to go. When we presented in 2016 to Physical Fest, you can see the transition happening in quite a strong way from that point.
We want at this point to keep the show as stable as possible, but we also know that the nature of the work is to be open and let things evolve. We always know that there is an opportunity to make certain scenes transform – of course every show night is different to the previous one. You are there, having to react with the audience, so every time it’s quite fresh. There’s also room for improvisation when you see the opportunity with an audience response.
How did Teatro Pomodoro itself first form? Five international performers from all around the world, what brought you all together?
We all met in 2011 at Ecole Philippe Gaulier in Paris – three of us were studying in the same year, the other two were one year above. We started working together during the school and after we graduated, first in smaller groups in different combinations. I was working with Carmen Arquelladas, who was also working separately with Leebo Luby. We were networking really. What we discovered was the pleasure of working together, which I think is the most important thing you need in a creative job.
So, at some point around 2013, we finished the school and moved to different parts of England. I was in London, Carmen and Duncan Cameron in Bristol, Leebo in Liverpool and Miwa in Japan but coming to London regularly. At one point, Lee suggested we move to Liverpool and collaborate as a five. At that point, we started Cabaret From The Shadows and brought into the company any other monologues or duo projects.
Why did you personally choose to go to Philippe Gaulier, where you eventually all met?
In 2010 I started to get interested in clowning and as soon as I started to learn more about it, the name of Philippe Gaulier kept coming back. Talking to someone, reading something and so on – I started to do a few workshops in London and Chicago about clowning, which I loved, but I wanted longer training. Ecole Philippe Gaulier was the obvious solution; the initial plan was to go there for three months, but with a series of lucky coincidences I ended up staying for two years. It’s very odd because staying in Paris, paying for the school, it’s not something easy to do, but the universe conspired to keep me there. I met my wife there, I met four people that I love to work with and am still here working with them, so it was lucky.
How does living in Paris compare to London or Liverpool?
They are all great for different reasons. Personally, I love big cities, even though I was born in a small town. But what I love about Liverpool are that the people are very open, especially the theatre and artistic community. Even with the boring stuff, like writing applications for funding, everybody wants to help you. Also, the venues are really open to bringing in new work, so it’s great for a company that has just started.
In London, all the things happening there are incredible. The fact that it is such a diverse community, you really feel like you’re in the centre of the world. Paris as well is very international – what can I say of a city where I started living with my wife; I went to a school that changed my life; it’s full of positive memories.
London and Paris are known for being so international and that seems reflected in Teatro Pomodoro. Coming from five different countries originally, how do you think that affects the dynamic for the company?
When you create something, being from five different countries and three different continents, sometimes it’s amazing how the same subtle thing can look the same for us all, but something seeminly obvious can mean so many different things. It’s a great opportunity to explore and we really like to leave it open for the audience to take their meaning from the show.
Sometimes we deal in things that can go into unpleasant territories, but we still want to design our own material to be sensitive. As an example, we play a lot in mocking things like racism or sexism and we like to leave the audience wondering what we meant. But what we don’t want is for the audience to think we are actually being racist or sexist; it’s very important for us to be sensitive about this and having different views from different backgrounds helps us a lot.