Brief Encounter

Share this article

THE SCENE: A picnic table in the Pleasance Courtyard.

THE CAST: Peter Bramley and Dawn Fleming, stars of Pants on Fire Theatre Company's new show, Splice, and Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor, creators of the Reduced Shakespeare Company's latest offering, Completely Hollywood (Abridged). Splice is billed as "100 years of cinema history in one hour"; Completely Hollywood is billed as "an epic edit of movie masterpieces".

AUSTIN TICHENOR: So, are you guys ripping us off or are we ripping you off?

DAWN FLEMING: It depends on who gets bigger audiences. We'll know at the end of August.

AT: And your show is called Splice? How did it start?

PETER BRAMLEY: Well, I don't want to sound too academic, because it's a fun show, but I studied at Lecoq...

AT: I'm sorry, who?

PB: Jacques Lecoq?

AT: Is that a euphemism?

REED MARTIN: I think it's a genre of film.

PB: It's a physical theatre school in Paris, and one of the exercises at that school is to take a movie and to find the essence of the movie and to theatricalise it - not to do impersonations of famous people or to recreate the scenes, but to take the dynamic of a shot or an angle or something like that and recreate it theatrically. We did this whole mimed piece based on Hitchcock's The Birds.

AT: Is that in the show?

PB: Yeah.

AT: OK, good, so we have competing Birds moments.

Dawn Fleming: You do The Birds as well?

RM: Yes, we have a Birds moment too.

PB: We have a whole Hitchcock montage in there. Anyway, a couple of years after leaving the school we were really pleased with that little bit of material, but we thought, well, maybe we could try other styles with other films, and so we organised this whole tour in Canada with the idea that we would do a show about movies, but we didn't know what it would be. We had five weeks to devise the thing, and we ended up with what we've got, which is basically a Vaudeville-type, fast-moving romp through everything that we know and love about films. We had to make decisions on which ones to choose, so we had to cut things out. Sometimes we ended up with just flashes of images rather than a whole movie, so Marilyn Monroe's dress flying up...

AT and RM: Uh-huh.

AT: That's a moment we talked about but cut.

RM: Yeah, because I would have had to play Marilyn Monroe and nobody needs to see that.

AT: It sounds like your show's not unlike what we do.

RM: Yeah, although ours isn't just about the movies but also about the pretence of showbusiness and the phoniness and all the clichs, you know? The mysterious stranger riding out of the west, or the master thief trying to make one last score before he retires, or the rogue cop who doesn't play by the rules, or the black private dick who's a sex machine... which might fit in with Lecoq, but that's a whole different question.

AT: And the Reduced Shakespeare Company always tries to reduce whatever the topic is to the essence of what it is, whether it's Shakespeare or history or literature or, in this case, the movies, so what we hope we've done is taken all the movies and reduced them to maybe a character description, or maybe a stereotypical line, like: [looking meaningfully at Reed] Reed?

RM: Yeah?

AT: [after a dramatic pause] Thanks.

RM: Also, we don't do anything from Star Wars. We were going to have a C3-PO, but we decided it would be safer legally if it was Real-Cheapio.

AT: Yeah, that's our yellow metallic android figure and it is not in any way related to C3-PO.

DF: In our show Star Wars is turned into a seven-minute barbershop quartet. Props turn into other things...

PB: It starts off as the beginning of a cabaret number from Cabaret, with bowler hats and bow ties, and then the music turns into the death march. The bow ties become spaceships.

DF: What made you guys think "yeah, movies, that's our next show"?

AT: We had just done all the great books, abridged, and we thought, well, everybody reads all the great books, you have to read 'em in school, but there were still people who said "oh that's far too highbrow", so we thought, "OK, movies". I mean, everybody has seen lots of movies, right?

RM: Do you cover silent movies?

PB: Yeah, we have this montage at the beginning where various figures appear, so we've got Chaplin and Buster Keaton and King Kong. But then we actually have a two-minute silent movie...

DF: Yeah, with too much blinking and funny movements.

PB: It's the generic story of two lovers and the angry strongman father.

DF: Do you move chronologically?

RM: We start with silent movies, that's as chronological as we get.

DF: We tried to move chronologically, so we start with silent pictures and then we finish with the digital age, with this big sequence of stuff from films like Crouching Tiger and The Matrix.

RM: Yeah, we have a lot of homages to those movies too. Slow motion fights...

DF: The 360 perspective?

RM: Uh-huh.

DF: We do a big Spielberg thing called Jaws Encounters of the ET Poltergeist Kind 3 Returns, and everybody's mixed up in the same plot. Jaws goes across the moon on a bicycle.

RM: We do a lot about sequels - Grease 3: The Reckoning, Whoopi Goldberg and Whitney Houston in Sister Act 3: Kicking the Habit.

AT: And we do a bit of combining movie types too - Snow White and the Seven Samurai; Don Cheadle and John Cleese in A Fish Called Rwanda. Basically we get it wrong.

• Splice: A Theatrical Ode To Cinema is at the Smirnoff Underbelly until 27 August; The Reduced Shakespeare Company: Completely Hollywood (Abridged) is at the Pleasance Courtyard until 29 August.