Monday, 10 February 2014

Talking Sense: An Interview with Matthew Whittle, Producer of 'A Little Nonsense'

Juncture Theatre's, A Little Nonsense, is currently running at The Bike Shed Theatre in Exeter and according to the Press Release it's “A bare-knuckle look at the sharp edge of funny" and 'an original black comedy that explores the clown inside every man and the mirth that is hidden in melancholy.

It's about a man who is bitterly frustrated by a clown’s freedom to play and inability to take life seriously, so he takes it upon himself to teach this clown a lesson and beat some sense into him. Through mime, slapstick, poetry and music, A Little Nonsense follows the farcical, haunting and abstract relationship of this unloving and tortured double-act and celebrates the importance of having light and shade within our lives.

Adam Blake and Harry Humberstone in A Little Nonsense © 2013 Ivor Houlker Photography

Described by Broadway Baby as “Genuinely faultless” and Latest 7 as, “a real gem of a show”, it's picked up a 5 star review from Latest 7 and 4 star reviews from Fringe Guru, The Post, The Public Reviews and Broadway Baby, since it's debut in 2012. In 2013, it also won the IdeasTap Innovators Brighton Fringe award and was nominated for the Most Ground Breaking Act at the Brighton Fringe.

All of this makes it an interesting prospect so, I thought I'd ask their Producer, Matthew Whittle, a few questions about about the show, being a Producer and his work with the company.

Tell us a bit about yourself...

My name is Matthew Whittle and I am working as producer with Juncture Theatre on their latest production, A Little Nonsense, as it takes part in a two week residency at The Bike Shed Theatre in Exeter.

Do you work exclusively with Juncture?

I regularly work with numerous companies, artists and organisations in Bristol as a producer, director and performer. In the past year I’ve worked with FellSwoop Theatre, Tobacco Factory Theatres, Bristol Old Vic, Watershed, MAYK, Theatre Bristol, Theatre Uncut, Verity Standen, Puppet Place, The Smoking Puppet Cabaret, Closer Each Day and The Wardrobe Theatre.

How did you get involved with the company?

I know the company’s team really well from working together on various other projects over the years but when Juncture first staged A Little Nonsense at The Wardrobe Theatre in November 2012, I was really knocked out by it and I remember thinking how it was the best show we’d had at the venue all year. About 6 months ago Juncture parted company with their regular producer and they got in contact with me. Producing isn’t the part of my work I enjoy most and so I am very careful about which projects I take on but I am totally in love with A Little Nonsense and all the team at Juncture and so this one was an easy decision. I really believe in the production and therefore wanted to help it do well and for as many people as possible to see it.

Matthew Whittle

How long have you been Producing shows?

MW: I’ve been helping put on shows since I was in primary school and to this day I’m still exploring and experimenting with theatre’s different roles, trying to find the best way for me to work. There’s no single date I can put my finger on as the time I started producing shows but a significant shift in the way I work and the number of shows I am involved with came in 2011 when I was invited to become one of the co-artistic directors at The Wardrobe Theatre. Before then I’d also worked a lot as a theatre reviewer and on the marketing of lots of different productions but I eventually realised I had a huge appetite for creating theatre.

What's the best part of Producing a show?

MW: As a producer you work very closely with the director throughout a project. It’s really satisfying seeing a production come together in front of your eyes and to see your hard work pay off. The first showing of a new production is always a nerve-wracking night but it’s also exhilarating to see an audience take pleasure from something you’ve worked so hard on.

What's the hardest part of Producing a show?

MW: If you’re the sole producer on a show you are often working alone too so self-motivation can be difficult – this is why I am so careful about choosing the projects I produce. Also, as you are responsible for the vast majority of the organising and general admin of a show it can sometimes feel like a bit of a thankless task but always remember that the support you are giving your artists is invaluable.

What advice would you give to someone Producing a show for the first time?

MW: Don’t put yourself under too much pressure by feeling like you need to know how to do everything. Each time you produce a show you will learn something new – I’m still learning every day! – so just don’t be afraid to share problems and ask for advice. More broadly, the best advice I can give someone trying to become a producer is to understand that the most fundamentally important part of being a good producer is having a good relationship between yourself and the artist/company. Building a relationship takes time and sacrifice but once you have learnt to trust each other and communicate well, you can flourish together for years.

Adam Blake in A Little Nonsense © 2013 Ivor Houlker Photography

The weather outside is frightful, and the central heating is so delightful, so why should people watch A Little Nonsense?

MW: When I first saw A Little Nonsense I was totally bowled over by it. It’s just the sort of theatre I love; smart, inquisitive, dark, brooding, powerful and hilarious. It’s also open to interpretation so different audience members can have very different experiences. The writing by Oliver Hoare is wonderful with beautiful turns of poetry and humour. Anna Girvan is a terrific director and the cast of Harry Humberstone and Adam Blake are really, really fantastic. They have been working together for years and you can really see the strength of their relationship and understanding in their performances. Also, more and more I am finding clown one of the most exciting performance styles to work in. The way in which a clown on a theatre stage can form a relationship with and react to an audience is unique and something that it used to wonderful effect in A Little Nonsense.

Juncture are devising a new piece called ‘Stuff’ during the day as part of its residency at The Bike Shed, what are Juncture hoping to achieve in the time and space available?

MW: Stuff is a new show we are developing based on the book It Chooses You by Miranda July which explores people's idiosyncrasies and how people develop relationships with the objects they surround themselves with. This is the very first time we will be working on this new show and so during the residency we hope to explore the book, the ideas within it and see how we might stage some elements of it. During the process we hope to collaborate with Exeter's theatre-making community with open rehearsals, workshops and work-in-progress showings which is exciting too.

When are we likely to see the finished product?

MW: Hard to say but maybe by the end of the year or early in 2015.

And finally, we know what's next for Juncture, but what's next for you?

MW: After this Bike Shed residency, our attention turns to Edinburgh Fringe as we plan to take A Little Nonsense up there for 2014. Personally, I’ll be performing at Edinburgh 2014 too in Verity Standen’s HUG.

A Little Nonsense runs at The Bikeshed Theatre in Exeter until Friday 14th February 2014. It starts at 7.30pm and tickets are £12 (£8 Concessions), but you can watch it on Tuesday for just £5. For more information visit or call the Box Office on 01392 434169


Juncture Theatre Website
Jucture on Facebook (you'll find a lot more production photos on this page)
Juncture on Twitter @JunctureTheatre
Matthew Whittle's Blog
Matthew Whittle on Twitter @Matthew_Whittle
The Wardrobe Theatre Website
The Wardrobe on Twitter @WardrobeTheatre