Ones to Watch: Gruff Theatre

We caught up with Gruff Theatre, formed at Goldsmiths by Tom Bostock, Holly Shuttleworth, Alistair Foylan and Phoebe Naughton, who met whilst completing their BA in Drama and Theatre Arts. Now two years after graduation, we find out more about their time at Goldsmiths and what they’re currently working on.

Gruff’s methodology is rooted in Michael Chekhov’s technique and principles of play and developed through intensive collaborative practice over the past two years. It captures the audience’s imagination in the raw interface with characters born from the textures, smells, atmospheres and histories of their surroundings.

Often working site-specifically or site-responsively, Gruff’s devising process explicitly seeks to escape the ‘beautiful’ and its attachment to boundaries.

Tom, Holly, Alistair and Phoebe

What brought all of you together? We all had very different interests, but a shared desire to explore the relationship between site and experience glued us together. Other than that it’s all down to our teacher Cass Fleming, who taught us about Michael Chekhov and introduced us to the idea of ‘play’ and that the imagination is a limitless source. She placed us together and nurtured our transition from four performers into a collective of theatre-makers.

What inspired you to create Gruff Theatre? The idea that experience can happen in any kind of way, that architecture and scenography can forge experience and inhabit people’s minds and bodies in an affecting and purely theatrical way. The idea that we can create work that is both utterly ridiculous and peculiar as it is provoking and meaningful. The need to be challenged by each other.

What experiences or events characterised your time here as a group? The sheer dedication and encouragement from tutors, three, in particular, Adrian De La Court, Cass Fleming and Mischa Twitchin, who have transitioned into mentors. Also, the final year Devised Performance pathway, which gave us an open space to constantly experiment, and start to develop our way of working as a company. It was invaluable.

How do you think your studies have impacted your work now? Our time at Goldsmiths gave us a place where we were encouraged to understand and break rules and most importantly take risks. The course offers such an eclectic mix of forms and theories that cover a massive spectrum. It tested what we thought we knew, influencing our methodology and encourages us to bastardise, test and stretch the form of theatre and performance we work in.

What are you currently working on? We are developing a new show about dreams and memory. Exploring how we perceive reality and forms of illusion. We are also collaborating on a project with Michael Chekhov Centre UK, exploring his archival material in relation to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince.

gruffYou can find out more about Gruff Theatre and their future productions on their website.

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