Emma Clarendon chatted to Jemma Kahn about bringing We Didn’t Come to Hell for the Croissants to the Riverside Studios.
Hi Jemma – what can you tell us about We Didn’t Come to Hell for the Croissants?
For people who don’t know me or my work (which is practically everyone on earth), I would like to tell you that it is storytelling for adults that uses lots of hand painted illustrations. So there is lots to look at. While I tell you stories. Kamishibai is hard to explain. But imagine being a little kid in your parent’s lap looking down at pictures in a book whilst mom or dad narrates the story, doing all the voices, that’s what kamishibai is, but for grown ups. There’s a strong nostalgic element. Sadly I can’t usually fit the entire audience on my lap, as much as I would love to. After performing the show for many years, I still love performing it. It’s a joy.
How does it feel to be bringing the show to London?
I’m tempted to be flippant, but honestly it’s a great honour. A home audience (in my case South Africa) will always be the most loving and familiar. But there’s a thrill to venturing into the unknown. Especially when it’s a theatre town, like London.
What do you enjoy the most about being part of the show?
When you take the time to let an audience get to know you, and you listen to them and get to know them in return – then the show becomes very easy to do. It’s like you establish a playful volley together; pok pok pok. It doesn’t always happen. Sometimes a performer will secretly be terrified and defend themselves in autopilot mode, and the show will suffer. Naturally I enjoy the pok pok pok.
Do you have a favourite story that you get to tell?
I’m a very democratic mother – I won’t single out my favourite child. Though I will say that some stories fall away over time, because they can’t consistently reveal new things to me. The ones in the show now therefore are the ones that, after many years, still manage to take me by surprise. That’s good writing.
What can audiences expect when they come along?
We Didn’t Come to Hell for the Croissants is a loving, perverse and constantly surprising show. It’s like going to a music festival or taking drugs, but without any travel or consequences. Reviews in the past have described the show as ‘the twilight zone meets studio ghibli’ and ‘theatre for the internet’; both of which I think are apt, though I wish someone would also say ‘high art that no one can live without’… No one has said that, yet.
We didn’t Come to Hell for the Croissants will play at the Riverside Studios from 17 January until the 4 February.