THE SWELL MOB – an immersive experience set in the 1800’s comes to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Name: Henry Maynard
Name of Edinburgh show: The Swell Mob
Venue: Assembly Underground, George Square Studios
Performance time: 19:45 Mon-Thurs. 18:00 & 19:45 Fri-Sun
Show length: 75 mins
Ticket price: £10 previews, £11-14

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your performing background?
I trained in Acting for three years at Mountview Academy of Theatre arts graduating in 2008. Following a stint in the west end for the Royal Court, I started working with a company called Blind Summit from whom I got my training in, and passion for, bunraku puppetry; I both made and operated puppets for them working with Punch Drunk, Complicite, Akram Khan the Royal Opera House amongst many others.

I was then cast in the West End transfer of War Horse where I stayed for 18 months, and since then I have been fortunate to work with companies such as the National Theatre Scotland, toured with Paul McCartney and in Circus 1903 operating Mervyn Millar (Significant Object)’s life sized Elephant at the Sydney Opera house and Madisson Square Gardens.

I am the Artistic Director of Flabbergast Theatre which I formed in 2010. The company has developed a reputation for producing award winning puppetry and giving an excellent standard of training to actors that have gone on to perform for TNT, on and off West End, and in broadcast media. Boris & Sergey, the company’s flagship puppetry shows have been performed on five continents and for a Saudi Prince and his private audience in the Seychelles, all over Great Britain, including at Shakespeare’s Globe, Old Vic Tunnels and Wilton’s Music Hall. They also recently featured in Plan B’s music video In the name of Man.

I am also a freelance director working in drama schools and for five years in the Caribbean directing an immersive adventure taking place over five days on different Islands for a private client.

In 2015 I began working in contemporary clown and created the award-winning ‘Tatterdemalion’ which likewise has toured both nationally and internationally, and been subject to critical and audience acclaim – it also led to me co-founding the London Clown Festival as a platform to celebrate contemporary clowning.

In 2016 I bought a double decker bus and built a 100 seat touring venue called the Omnitorium. And, most recently, I have been leading Flabbergast’s transition into narrative text through our exploration of Macbeth.

Tell me about your show, what it is all about?
The Swell Mob is an immersive experience set in the 1800s with an unexpected twist. There are featured characters and we will have guest performers visiting throughout the run, story tellers, folk musicians, character actors, cabaret artists, clowns etc…

There is an underlying narrative which you can choose to discover if you wish or you can just spend your time gambling at the faro table, drinking porter and watching the staged events.

There will be an element of gaming or escape room for those who enjoy unravelling mystery, and intense one-on-one experiences for those that enjoy drama.

How long have you been working on this show and what is it that makes it relevant to audiences in 2018?
This show has been bubbling away at the back of my mind for a few years, but this will be the first concerted effort to bring it to fruition. We have been doing research and development in between other projects for a few months and will have had two weeks of rehearsal before the Edinburgh run.

We believe that Theatre should be alive and interactive; this style compliments that. There are so many things to see during the fringe ad we wanted to make something that audiences can do; for them to have an experience rather than just spend time watching someone else have one.

Do you have any top tips for surviving the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – both for performers and visitors to the event?
For people who are back every year, don’t get stuck in patterns, try new things and keep the month fresh. If it’s your first time, do the same, take advice from people with experience but follow your own path.

What has been the funniest or most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
Once when performing in A Christmas Carol for the National Theatre of Scotland I was operating a puppet called Titsy (for obvious reasons) and I had to run around the room, I managed to catch my foot on a rug and sent myself ‘arse over Titsy’ to the delight of my colleagues.

Who are your biggest inspirations in the industry and why?
I am a big fan of Complicité and companies that concentrate on physicality and complicit relationships with both the audience and the performers, I find this leads to vibrant and exciting work. It’s something we also strive for in Flabbergast.

Do you have any pre-show rituals?

What other acts are you looking forward to seeing at Edinburgh Fringe?
There are so many to choose from and I’m sure I’ll find ones I love that I don’t yet know about. The Establishment are always great and we are lucky to have them programming out late night cabaret show, The Rotating Roster, so I’m sure to find new shows I’ll want to see after they do a spot with us.

Why do you think people should come and see your show over the thousands of others on at the fringe?
We’re offering something different to the thousands of other shows, it’s not something that you will find elsewhere and it features our trademark award winning puppetry, clowning and physical theatre.


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