Feral Productions' hoping for another fairytale ending at The Courtyard in Hereford

Hereford Times: A scene from Feral Productions’ first piece, The Gingerbread House. A scene from Feral Productions’ first piece, The Gingerbread House.

ONE of the outstanding arts events in Hereford in recent years was, without doubt, The Gingerbread House, the first piece of work from new local theatre company Feral Productions. And they’re back later this month with the much-anticipated Locked (Rapunzel’s Lament).

The new production is another radical re-telling of a classic fairytale, given a contemporary twist to cast light into the darker realms of modern life, with the story of Rapunzel used as a metaphor for isolation and how loneliness has become such a theme in today’s society, particularly with young people.

“But it will be quite far removed from the story,” says Estelle van Warmelo, founder of Feral.

Locked, like the earlier piece, will be another silent disco promenade production with the audience once again insulated from the wider world with headphones and led into unknown territory beyond the confines of The Courtyard.

She won’t, though, reveal exactly where the journey will take the audience. All she will say is that it definitely won’t involve leading 40- odd audience members across Edgar Street as The Gingerbread House did. “That was very scary.”

Explaining the direction she has opted to take with Feral Productions, Estelle says there are two principal catalysts: “Artists get bored after a while as what they do becomes formulaic – as you grow you have to reinvent yourself.”

And that is what she and choreographer Tamsin Fitzgerald, founder and director of 2Faced Dance company, are committed to doing with Feral Productions.

“We want to shake ourselves up a bit,” says Estelle. “I feel too safe in black-box, text-based theatre.

Doing this takes me well out of my comfort zone. That and running a company for the first time.”

As well as collaborating with Estelle on the production itself, Tamsin is able to provide invaluable help on the business front, having run Hereford’s only professional dance company for seven years.

“Last year’s Gingerbread House was created on a steep learning curve and we learned that devising the piece from scratch was problematic.

We are working more from the script this time,” says Tamsin.

“So we’ll go into rehearsals with a soundtrack which I’ll work to. It’s more prescriptive and less collaborative, making the choreographing process simple.”

The other element that has led Feral Productions to creating sitespecific work is the ever-present tightness of funds. “It present a challenge that pushes you to choose different options,” says Estelle.

Joining the team as sound designer is Mouthmaster Murf of The Anomalies (aka Anthony Murphy), a man who shares Estelle and Tamsin’s passion for tapping into the creative talents of Herefordshire and keeping them here.

“There is no other professional theatre being produced in Hereford,” says Estelle.

“The city should become an experimental hub. What we are doing is innovative, and not just innovative for Hereford.”

■ Locked is at The Courtyard from September 28 to October 2. To book, call 01432 340555 or visit courtyard.org.uk.

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