The Gigantic Beard Was Evil: We talk to the Company

What is The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil about?

It is a story that shows how unaccepting our society is of thing that are different. Here is a neat place, merely an exaggeration of what our society is actually like, so when Dave does something unseen before in Here – grows a beard – people don’t know what to do. The story uses a metaphor to show how our society copes with things that are different and unknown.

Kylan Stillwood, Cast Member

Tell us about this gigantic beard

The beard may begin as some hair on Dave’s face, but quickly becomes its own entity, spreading in both area and influence, angering many and hypnotising the more…impressionable citizens of Here. Really, the beard is something they’ve been scared of all along, their deepest darkest fear, hidden somewhere in the dusty storeroom of their minds, but also something they find enticing…and beautiful.

Patrick Bate, Cast Member

Tell us about Here and There

For the people of Here, Here is all they know. It is a place ruled by structure and neatness. There lurks beyond the tidiness of their daily routines and perfectly shaped island. There is something they dare not think about, full of chaos and disorder.

Elliot Winter, Cast Member

Tell us about Dave

Dave is and always has been a slightly odd chap… But that has never bothered him in the slightest. Life for Dave is all about the little things, like a freshly washed pillow case or “Eternal Flame” by the Bangles. Especially “Eternal Flame” by the Bangles, actually. People tend to think him strange or pity him but he’s perfectly happy to watch the world go by as he sits at his desk and draws his street. All in all life is practically perfect for Dave, with only one small blemish just out of focus. There has always nagged at the corner of Dave’s mind, as it tumbles over and around his thoughts and ideas, muddying his concentration and trying to distract him. Ah well, he’s always got the Bangles to keep him calm!

Oscar Adams, Cast Member

The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil Company in rehearsal - Photo by Kitty Wheeler Shaw

The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil Company in rehearsal – Photo by Kitty Wheeler Shaw

What does ‘devised by the company’ mean?

Having such a big group of us working on the show it means that no idea is shot down, merely incorporated into something everyone loves and can get involved in. I love how we can take just one line from the book and then we all put our heads together, come out with 10 different ideas and all decide what works for the show. That it’s devised by the company means that it’s not just one director (although we definitely need Steph to make decisions sometimes!) and it’s not even just the cast either, people from the young company have popped their head in to watch from time to time and so the show has developed with the influence of so many people.

Pippa Hope, Cast Member

Devised by the company means the material for the show has been created by the performers. The wonderful thing about devising is that there is no one method, each show’s rehearsal process will be different due to the director’s and performers’ style. In The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil we mainly worked like this; we’d read a section of the story and then, in groups, use it as inspiration to create a scene. This incredibly imaginative cast came up with an abundance of exceptional and often very funny material and, as is the nature of devising, it couldn’t possibly all fit in the show. That’s where the creative team step in; we refine and connect the scenes and a show begins to form!

Kathleen Fitzpatrick Milton, Assistant Director and Assistant Music Director

What’s it like to devise from a book?

Using The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil book as a stimulus to make a piece of theatre with this cast has been so amazing. The group is so versatile and creative that our ideas have been bouncing off from each other since rehearsal one! With the help of the story of course, we’ve been able to break it down and create some really exciting scenes. Devising from this book in particular has been so much fun. And I feel so proud to be bringing the book’s beautiful illustrations to life.

Jennie Harris, Cast Member

Devising from a book is really interesting as it usually already has lots of information in it. As soon as we began devising I knew we had tons of material to work with. As well as the storyline, the pictures also give so much away about the type of people living in Here and also what Here is like. I’m really enjoying devising from a book and I’m sure we will carry on making the pages into amazing theatre.

Esther Myers-Insole, Cast Member

How much is from the book and how much has been added?

We have taken our favourite moments and the moments we feel are most important from the book and worked around them. We are trying to take as many details from the book as we can and work them into and around our own work! See if you can spot any when you come and watch it!

Zoe Hitchen, Cast Member

How did you feel after you’d read the book for the first time, knowing that you were going to make this into a show?

Super excited and also pretty nervous! A lot of the storytelling in the book is done through the visual imagery created by Stephen Collins and so it’s a real challenge to bring to life on stage. It’s meant we’ve been very experimental in our styles of work, from shadow puppets to montages. It’s a great story to be working with as it’s a real mix of emotions and the characters are really fun.

Esther Lawrence, Cast Member

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

Having a story, a plot and a mass of fantastic, creative and relatable ideas, but not having a fixed skeleton for the show, can be unsettling at times…but this is the challenge with most devised pieces. Also parting with my radiant hair for it to be plastered on another man’s chin is very hard to come to terms with…!

Josh Robinson, Cast Member

What is the biggest challenge yet to come?

I think one of the most difficult things will be trying to express the emotional effect the beard and Dave have on the people of Here. Up to this point many of our scenes have been quite funny with some hilarious caricatures making appearances. So I think it will be difficult to retain this humorous element whilst still showing the pact of the beard on the people of Here.

Julia Head, Cast Member

The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil deals with several concepts that take a lot of thinking about to put on stage. I think that There (which represents untidiness and disorder) was a hard one to grasp but Steph has found a brilliant way of representing it through shadow and song. The next challenge we face is floating Dave away. How do we show hot air balloons being fixed to the beard and drifting high into the sky with Dave attached? This book deals with crazy, incredible ideas which are quite hard to get your head around when dramatising it. So far, I think Steph, the creative team and the cast have done a great job tackling this fun, imaginative task.

Ben Smalley, Cast Member

Verity Standen, Music Director, talks to members of the Company - Photo by Kitty Wheeler Shaw

Verity Standen, Musical Director, talks to members of the Company – Photo by Kitty Wheeler Shaw

What’s your favourite moment in the show?

My favourite moment in the show has got to be Dave dancing along with the Bangles, it’s so enjoyable to watch Dave’s true emotions show through as he listens to his anthem.

Kizzie Tims, Cast Member

What’s been your favourite moment in the devising process?

I have loved seeing everyone’s scenes! It’s brilliant when everyone is asked to make a scene and each group comes up with completely different ideas, all of which are great!

Lucy Crow, Cast Member

When you devise you have to throw away lots of amazing material, are there any moments which got chopped but deserve a mention?

I totally agree that some amazing scenes have needed to be cut, but to be able to make a fantastic professional piece of theatre there are always going to be sacrifices made. Equally there are also scenes that have been kept. In my opinion the scenes we have had to drop have been equally matched. We have all worked together as a focused team on more scenes to make them even more amazing. The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil has brought many weird and wonderful ideas to all of our heads and not one of our voices has been unheard and every one of our ideas has been used in some way, shape or form. As a result of this diverse melting pot of ideas we have all created an individual and unique piece of work that I for one am immensely proud of.

Stephanie Jayne, Cast Member

The illegal hairdressing salon set up by people who can’t cut hair was a brilliant scene. There were some beautiful movement pieces which showed the fragmenting of time which just haven’t ended up in the show. Also, there was a beautiful scene where some young children read a book about Dave and what happened to him, whilst behind them the story is told in shadows. A lot of the really good scenes we made have been gutted like fish and had the pieces of gold pulled out to put in new scenes. For example there was a very funny pair of delivery men in the office, who still appear, but they used to have this hilarious conversation about their mothers and partners. Josh and Elliot played them really well. As the director I felt like a bully just saying ‘no, we can’t have that’ but you just can’t keep everything! So there are lots of moments that are in there somehow, but sometimes once you’ve moved them they don’t sparkle as much and you end up cutting them. Devising is essentially heart-breaking. But even the stuff you make which doesn’t make it into the final piece is still important to creating the world and feel of the piece. With each thing you discard you find the shape of your final show more clearly. And it can always be brought back if you make a wrong decision.

Stephanie Kempson, Director

Tell us about the design.

Well, it all centres around the difference between ‘Here’ and ‘There’. ‘Here’ is a very normal, ordered place. The residents’ preoccupation with neatness has lead to it looking a bit mundane. That’s why we decided to use office furniture and the office partitions to divide up the space. ‘There’ represents things that cannot be ordered. It’s present in our dreams, it’s out at sea. And it’s where the beard comes from. So any suggestion of ‘There’ had to be undefined but always just on the outskirts of your vision. So we’ve used all this black plastic to represent ‘There’ and everything that comes from it. I wanted to try and retain a sense of the style of Stephen Collins’ illustrations in the design. Hopefully we’ve done that in creating two worlds whose boundaries start to blur into each other.

Hannah Wolfe, Designer

Describe an average day in rehearsal.

We come in and usually discuss a question or something about the show. We then do a physical, and sometimes mental, warm up. Most of the time we would then play a game. After that we do some devising or script work for about an hour. We then have a break. After that we carry on working. The work involves coming up with new scenes and ideas as well as improving old ones. Rehearsals are really fun and the cast works really well together.

Bethan Barke, Cast Member

What do you hope an audience will feel when watching the show?

I would hope that at the beginning they felt like the town we lived in was impeccably neat and how did we keep to the same rituals without going insane! And then as the play goes on I would hope that the audience members would start to feel a bit more emotional and feel their love for Dave and then at the end I would want them to feel happy with tears of joy!

Rosa Hallam Fryer, Cast Member

I hope that our audience feels as confused by the beard as Dave is, as offended by it as the people of Here and as fascinated by it as Darren. I want our beard watchers to be charmed by the curious ways of Here, but also a little bit scared of Here’s response to the beard. But most of all I want them to come away feeling like they should have a shave, as soon as possible.

Kate Alhadeff, Cast Member


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