An Interview with Wilkie Branson, Choreographer of Varmints

Bristol Old Vic Associate Artist Wilkie Branson is a BBoy, a choreographer and a bit of a tech whizz. After finishing an international tour of his company’s show White Caps (watch the vodcasts of the India part of the tour here), he’s gone straight into creating a new production from Helen Ward’s picturebook Varmints with Director Sally Cookson. We caught up with Wilkie to talk about the production…

Varmints resize

How does it feel to choreograph and perform in such a big piece?
Varmints is an ambitious show, to try and capture the epic and cinematic nature of the book we are working with a lot of different elements and a large creative team to support that.  In a lot of ways it reminds me of when I made White Caps for Theatre Bristol and Bristol Old Vic four years ago; its a massive challenge to try and realise the vision, but for all the stress and hard work you get a sense that we are creating something unique and something special. Working with a cast of four is one of the key challenges for me as I’m also performing as one of them. With so many elements, like projection,  extensive set design and narrative that are coming together it can be very difficult to fulfill both roles and keep hold of the bigger picture. But that is where having such a great creative team carries us all though. Having worked with Sally and the Bristol creatives on the project before, we trust each other and that makes it possible to work like this.

How is it to work with a theatre director (Sally) on a dance piece?
This is the third dance piece I’ve worked with Sally on (How Cold My Toes & Boing!). Every time we have worked together we set about trying to find an equilibrium between the dance and theatre elements, and I think we are continually learning where each can be used to its strengths and how to incorporate the two into a common language for the work. It’s a really great privilege to work with someone of Sally’s calibre but also with the her other regular creatives. Having a team in the studio that can work so effectively together to build a harmonious and shared vision is a real testament to how she works.

What does the story of ‘Someone’ mean to you?
Our protagonist “someone” saves the last little piece of wilderness before his world is destroyed and transformed into a busy metropolis. What is so special about his journey is that his actions to save the plant don’t come from a conscious decision to become a hero and save the natural world. He values what is around him and he choses to save it because he sees its value even when ultimately it seems hopeless that he can make a difference.

Varmints is on at Bristol Old Vic 10-11 May. You can find out more about the show here.

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