HunkyPunk return but this time their mask comedy KUNST? is for adults only

Kunst.jpg

Mask-comedy troupe HunkyPunk return to Camden Fringe with a comic nightmare Kunst? 17-21 August at 7.30pm, The Lion and Unicorn in Kentish Town, London.

Kunst? represents the next step in HunkyPunk’s evolution: it combines the theatrical equivalent of cartoon with the sumptuously well-crafted aesthetics of an art exhibition. This show uses 20 masks made by William Tombs – and it’s funny. But this time it is not for children.

William said: “In this show we are going for an adult audience. There are four people in the show. We originally thought of a sketch show, using a range of masks, but that has fused with another idea of a single narrative, an old couple, not that old, mid 70s, who just spend an evening at home watching the telly.

“They bicker and they have their problems, but the idea is that everyone is locked in their own little universe, composed of their own fantasies. The man may see himself as ever so clever and professorial and the woman may see herself as a princess, trapped in a tower by this ogre.

“So these people start as they are, but every moment is expanded into a bizarre sketch when they become a different version of themselves, a dream version of themselves, which allows us to have a lot of spectacular quick changes. Suddenly it is a different face. It is a different character with very elaborate costumes.

“The story is based on the fact that I’ve seen so many people, about that age, struggling every time they pick up the remote control to remember how that works. It may be because they have a new telly and the son has installed it.

“But then they have had it for a year and it is the same thing. Then they argue about what they want to watch. He wants to watch the TV quiz to show how clever he is. He answers one and then he is stumped and his wife answers it, when she wasn’t even paying attention, by accident.”

Kunst? is HunkyPunk’s first full-length show since the family-friendly OOK! And the Terrible Thing that Happened, which toured UK theatres and festivals in 2011-12.

Their style of comic half-mask is unique: a descendent of Commedia Dell’Arte, with elements borrowed from Kabuki, Kathakali, and a dozen other traditions, it is a discipline that blends gestural clarity and sound-storytelling with outright spectacle.

William, who also works as a teacher, illustrator, designer and an art director for board games, said: “It is weird and it is weird on purpose. When I started doing fringe theatre we did the classics. Then we started writing our own things. I did some one man shows. I had a child and I started doing children’s theatre.

“It was about the same time, I was really getting interested in working with half masks. I’d been on a tour, as an actor, in Italy and I realised that I had to be very clear with gestures and tonally, telling a story with my body.

“I started thinking about the technique to get something across, through the language barrier. I was watching Italian television and not speaking much Italian the only thing I understood was the Simpsons. I could tell when they were angry by the tone and the way they moved, the nuance of immersion, and that led me into working with masks.”

 

Kunst? is HunkyPunk’s first full-length show since the family-friendly OOK! And the Terrible Thing that Happened, which toured UK theatres and festivals in 2011-12.

HunkyPunk’s style of comic half-mask is unique: a descendent of Commedia Dell’Arte, with elements borrowed from Kabuki, Kathakali, and a dozen other traditions, it is a discipline that blends gestural clarity and sound-storytelling with outright spectacle.

Each mask takes William about two days to make. “My collaborator is a pretty excellent seemstress. It is a funny show that is like sketch comedy but it does have a through line. It is our first full adult show with masks, although we have used them in sketches and films. It is a funny show but also a moving art exhibition.”

William is hoping to take Kunst? on tour after Camden Fringe, find bigger premises and exhibit the masks and costumes.

“The level of visual design that we are aiming for is something that you don’t see on a small budget. It is something you would see in The Lion King or on film. It is that level of design we are aiming for.

“The style of masks we are using don’t exist. I have made a couple of innovations. It’s a half mask but I have discovered that if it is higher then you have more expression. A lot of half mask is practically full mask. I have not seen anyone else doing half mask that is this expressive.

“The masks are made out of neoprene (synthetic rubber) like a swimsuit. I cure it thicker. This is after years of doing papier mâché, leather and everything, trying all these different things. I have found that you can cast this and get a dramatic overhang.

“It doesn’t have to stretch like the leather. Papier mâché is very hard to wear on stage for long because you sweat into it and you have to keep making repairs.

“These masks are plastic. I can sand each mask and it ends up being smooth, like a trainer. I have to import neoprene from California. I pay as much in shipping as I do for the stuff. I have shipped two barrels of it. It costs £200-£300 a barrel, and I get a couple of hundred masks out of a barrel, it works out as less than £10 a mask because it ends up being so thin.”

David Byrne, Artistic Director of the New Diorama, said of HunkyPunk’s last show: “The quality of the show itself was high, especially the craft and mask making, which was amongst the best I’ve seen. OOK! attracted good audiences, and I wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that it became a bit of a cult classic here at New Diorama amongst staff and local families.”

For more details and tickets visit www.camdenfringe.com.

 

 

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Previews, reviews, news and interviews all from The Camden Fringe
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