Sabotage Theatre’s latest play, The Looker, criss-crosses the threshold between dream and reality. This dystopian tale, by local author Zoe Hinks, is set in a post-industrial future, but staged at rural venues around Sussex with the help of a horse and cart. It is part social commentary, part fantastical journey. And it’s superb theatre.
The main character, Vera, lives in a 9 to 5 routine in Ashford. She’s earning to consume, stuffed with technology. So when she hears about the intriguing ‘Looker’, she quits the office and heads off in pursuit.
It quickly gets scary. She is knee-deep in a recycling dump patrolled by scavengers living on the margins. There are howls from the pit. She moves on. Her journey is punctuated with fantastical creatures and tantalising hints about the ‘Looker’. Finally, she reaches a cliff edge between violence and insanity. She is at Dungeness facing the oncoming nail bombs. We won’t spoil the ending.
We caught up with Zoe Hinks and Carl Boardman from Sabotage Theatre after a stunning rehearsal at their Copperdollar Studios in Kemptown. Zoe described the lead characters as “so stuck they can’t escape” so they seek transformation through dreams. For Carl, who directed the lighting, theatre is excellent on these themes. “We can go into outer space, fly, move out of time.” The actors and audience are “close up and vulnerable”.
The production combines actors and masks with creatures enacted by lifesize puppets or conjured by roving bike lamps. Zoe pointed to the resurgence of puppetry in theatre for all ages. The puppets – made by the Sabotage team – star alongside the five actors. Many props originated from rubbish tips.
The drama doesn’t end with the play. They will pitch up and perform in villages across Sussex and Kent travelling by horse and cart. But why rural – and why by horse?
First, they’ve got form. In 2015 they completed a tour through Kent, travelling about 12 miles a day. On arrival, they needed to “get grass for the horse, firewood, toilets… we require people’s co-operation, we’re relying on them – and they know it,” according to Carl. This created a strong connection with the audience. The journey also added to the performance Carl reckoned. “When you are in the wild, travelling in costume, how much more theatrical you are!”
Second, Sabotage’s manifesto states they want to make plays that “surprise, entertain and emotionally engage” and bring them to “rural and isolated communities”. Zoe reminded us that there used to be “world-changing theatre in rural areas” and “there is no reason why it should not be cutting edge.”
She added that: “Sabotage Theatre is small and rough round the edges. We’re forced to find creative solutions to avoid creative disasters!”
The play comes to the Brighton area in June. Look out!
Balsdean (near Woodingdean), Friday 16th June, 8pm
Stanmer Village, Sunday 18th June, 5pm
Visit www.sabotagetheatre.com for tickets and directions.
Words by Mike Aiken
Photos by Zinta Gercans