Soap Soup are proud makers of devised visual theatre, using their many years combined experience of puppetry, object manipulation and clowning to create theatre for family audiences. We caught up with Artistic Director, Tomasin Cuthbert Menes, to chat about their latest show, ‘MathildaMathilda’.
Your latest show in development is ‘ MathildaMathilda’. Can you tell us a little about the story and how it came about? Who are the creative team?
About 4 years ago my Mum, Ros Cuthbert RWA, was rummaging around in her studio and found a bag with her old doll, Rosebud, inside. All the joints had perished and she was a bag of doll parts, but her sister’s doll’s head was also in the bag, making all the parts of a two-headed doll. A few days later she was in the village and found a white paper heart with a child’s writing who had been practicing writing her name: Mathil-daMath-ilda. The two things came together in her mind, and she began working on a series of mixed media paintings inspired by this two-headed baby diva. That year my parents went to New York to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary, Mum found an image of two-headed girl made from stained glass and MathildaMathilda’s story began to unfold.
I found the paintings very inspiring and suggested that we see what it might be like to make a show together, combining my love of puppetry and theatre with Mum’s two-headed character, love of Jazz and a combination of our visual aesthetic. This was the start of what has been an 18 month journey of story-craft, puppet making, design, composition and song. We brought together people that we both loved to work with from Mum’s pool of talented composers and musicians and my trusted collaborators, creating a very special team of people with a wide variety of skills.
The jazz is composed by Ashley John Long, one of the London Philharmonic’s young composers of this year, and our MD is Jannah Warlow, a Bristol based singer and theatre maker. My husband Chris Menes is bringing the sound world together with his sound design skills, and all the elements are combined under our Director Adam Fuller’s experienced eye. I am designing the show, and working with a widening pool of skilled makers. Pod Farlow from Croon Productions is our set builder, Abi Kennedy our costumier, Jess Jones created a prosthetic head/puppet and Rhyannan Hall is our textile artist working on the painterly fabrics in the show.
You’re working with co-artist and performer, Ros Cuthbert, who is also your Mum. What is it like to work with a parent? What are the challenges and rewards?
I wanted this show to be a gift to Mum. She is probably the most talented person I know, and has fought hard over the years to get her art and jazz out there. I wanted to do something where she could let all her talents shine, where she could sing to audiences and show off her amazing visual world. In a way, working with a family member feels quite normal and natural. My husband and I have been collaborating for about 3 years and my parents have worked together for most of their careers, so it doesn’t feel as strange as it might for others. Having said that, there are the inevitable patterns that show up. I am fighting the urge to turn into a stroppy teenager and when Mum is fussing over me, worrying I’m going to cut myself with a Stanley knife; it is quite amusing seeing as I’m almost 40!
You have supported the show’s development by fundraising. How did you go about doing this?
Fundraising is something I’ve had to do a lot of over the years. For this project we have pulled out all the stops and done a bit of everything! We’ve had two fundraising events, both exhibitions, with the added bonus of a cake and vintage clothing sale tacked on. We’ve got some Arts Council funding, a seed fund from BARN and from Theatre Orchard, as well as raising £2000 through crowdfunding. Because this show is a little more ambitious than my previous work, we have needed an extra financial boost, so have worked that bit harder. The main extra thing we have needed to find money for is forming the Soap Soup Community Choir – costuming them, paying for music composition for them, as well as paying our fantastic choir leader, Jannah. We will be supported by about 15 choir members at the premiere at Weston Museum on the 18th and 19th of May, who we will have been rehearsing over 6 weeks.
It’s going to be amazing!
Interview with Emma Windsor
Catch ‘MathildaMathilda’ on 18- 19 May, 7pm at Weston Museum (Co-Presented by Theatre Orchard); 02 June, 2pm at The Wardrobe Theatre, Bristol; 19 October, 07:30pm, at Theatre Shop, Clevedon and 20th October, 7pm at Creative Workspace. Find out more about Soap Soup Theatre on the website: https://soapsouptheatre.com