Theatre company Joyous Gard is headed by the spectacular sibling duo of Joe and Beth Eyre. Crocodile will be their debut production, after already accumulating a slew of theatre credits in their career, and premieres this February at the VAULT Fringe Festival (London). Crocodile is a darkly surreal comedy about a couple that gives birth to a crocodile, but are nonetheless determined to bring up baby properly, and is sure to both delight and disturb audiences.
We got a chance to speak to Joe, who will also be performing in the show, and director Matt Maltby about the show, their creative process, and crocodiles.
1) What inspired you to create Crocodile?
Joe: The central idea of a man and woman having a child, and that baby being a crocodile, was just an image that popped into my head. I thought there was something surreal and funny about it, but also something very sinister. I had it filed away for a long time before I knew what to do with it. I trained at Guildhall, where you have the opportunity, in your final year, to write and perform a monologue, so I decided to work on the crocodile idea. Gradually, I worked out what the story was, and what might be an interesting way to tell it. I realised it was a story about family, about parenthood, and about love, but that it would also have elements of horror. From there, I developed the piece over a couple of years. The version that we’re presenting at VAULT is now a finished, one-act play. A phenomenally talented group of people have come together to help bring my strange little idea to life; I’m so excited to be about to share it with audiences.
2) What is the greatest appeal of dark comedy?
Joe: As a writer it’s appealing because you have to face up to ideas you find disturbing, but I think the greatest appeal is for audiences: so much of what I love to watch boils down to dark comedy, whether it’s the Coen Brothers’ films like No Country for Old Men, or plays by Martin McDonagh, Conor McPherson, Jez Butterworth, Joe Penhall… Shakespeare writes moments of pitch-black comedy inMacbeth and Othello. I love being kept on the edge of my seat, and seeing stories that can turn on a sixpence. In theatre, that mixture of darkness and humour makes an audience feel very alive.
3) Are you afraid of or fascinated by actual crocodiles?
Joe: I think most of us are afraid and fascinated by them – I know I’ve always found reptiles exceptionally creepy. Their movements are so unpredictable. I’m also terrified of sharks. Having studied crocodiles a lot for this play there’s some things about them now that I find very lovable: they’re extraordinarily maternal. I love the way they waddle, and they have some fascinating abilities. But I definitely wouldn’t want to live with one.
4) How does it feel to be part of VAULT ’17 with your own original production, considering you’ve been involved in previous fringe festivals either here or elsewhere?
Joe: It’s extraordinary to be part of VAULT, the atmosphere of the Festival is so filled with energy and creativity, to be alongside some truly breath-taking shows is a real privilege. Some of the best theatre I’ve ever seen has been part at Fringe Festivals; and the team at VAULT are passionate about reaching out to expand their audience. It’s so important for artists to have opportunities to take risks, so being part of something that does that is overwhelmingly lovely. It’s especially cool to be working with Matt again, the last time he directed me was in a production of Mojo at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, before we both went to drama school.
5) Why should people come to watch Crocodile?
Joe: It’s a very strange play that hopefully keeps audiences on the edge of their seats and shows them something very out of the ordinary.
Matt: People should come to Crocodile because I don’t think they’ll have seen anything quite like it before; it’s unique, funny, odd, and at turns a disturbing and beautiful piece of writing. It plays a fun game of surprise with the audience, asks some uncomfortable questions, and features some deliberately bad mime.
6) What’s next for Joyous Gard? Will Crocodile be performed elsewhere?
Matt: We’d love to take Crocodile on to another home; we’ve got various future plans for it, but we’d like to see what audiences make of it at VAULT, and find the right place for it. Hopefully we’ll have some surprises for you in the future…
Joe: We certainly hope so! We’ve been workshopping a big Shakespeare production with Beth, (who runs the company with me) over the last few months so we’ll get full steam ahead on that, trying to tackle a very popular play in an exciting and unusual way. We also want to put new writing at the heart of the company, so hopefully there will be a brand new play soon after Crocodile. We’re so excited to be launching at VAULT ’17, hopefully see you there!
Photo Credit: Ben Wainwright