‘Steampunk is sexy. So is sin’

13 Aug 2013 @ 11.17 am
| News
Hannah Wallace, Roxanna Klimaszewska, Peter Birkinshaw, Chris Wilkinson Esq and Stacey Johnstone in Faustus by Six Lips Theatre
Hannah Wallace, Roxanna Klimaszewska, Peter Birkinshaw, Chris Wilkinson Esq and Stacey Johnstone in Faustus by Six Lips Theatre

Six Lips Theatre have gained a reputation over the last few years for being one of the hardest working theatre companies in York.

Following their Six Shows In Six Months kick off season, they’ve kept up the pace with a thick and fast series of innovative, beautiful and original pieces.

And now they’ve turned their hand to a musical – a steampunk musical of course – Faustus which they previewed in York and have taken up to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

I caught up with director Roxanna Klimaszewska and actor Anna Rose James to find out more.


Why Faustus?

Rocky has always wanted Six Lips to produce musicals. Six Lips have always wanted to work with new writing, and to do something a bit different.

Steampunk is sexy. So is sin. Becky is a great writer, and we happened to have gained her trust enough that she let us look at the script for Faustus.

Hence you see the reworking of Marlowe’s classic play in full song, devised thoughtfully and contributed to by a number of inspired creatives to produce another lovingly-made, well-rounded production.

I presume you’re all fans of musicals – any particular influences on this piece?

Rocky is from a musical background; Anna has acted in one or two; Hannah has not… until now! 
All the Lips are big fans of Sweeney Todd!

There are faintly disguised, revamped hints of various styles within the physical motifs, but as a rule we asked the cast to work from guttural, visceral instinct. Anything recognisable will be glints of the talent and bank of knowledge that the cast already possessed and brought to the table themselves.


How has the process been working with composer Alexander King?

The songs were all composed from scratch by Alex to fit Becky’s words, adapted to fit the voices of the cast, and are still being adjusted as we speak.

Alex is an incredibly responsive, inspired creative and really runs with the design brief. We suggested industrial, “found” sounds, and he produced a soundtrack full of clangs and crunches.

We’ve had fun singing along in our David Bowie voices because some bits have a sinister, tortured, twangy feel, and the songs have actually opened up a world of hope for all of us in the cast who are not prolific singers, because they’re approachable tunes that we can really let go to.


How does the steampunk aesthetic help you tell the tale of Faustus?

Faustus is a proud, intelligent, accomplished gentleman bored with his everyday. The threat of sin and dark practices were a lot more ominous when we functioned as a society more heavily engaged with religion, for instance, in the 19th century.

Steampunk lends itself well to the etiquette, posture, and escapism required to tell this story. Bringing in a theme of the industrial (evil) versus the natural (innocent), Rocky has universalised the context of encroaching danger within a style we can all feast upon, designers and beholders.

“This is nothing more than a cautionary tale” – except it is. It implies so much more through the visuals and subsequent readings by cast and audience alike.

Anna Rose James in Faustus
Anna Rose James in Faustus

Do you change a show when creating it for Edinburgh?

Of course there are some considerations that came about due to the performance space we will be using, the kind of shows we understand people expect to see at the Fringe, and just how good it has to be. This is the widest exposure Six Lips will have had to date on any show – an international theatre festival with a higher footfall than any other.

We are upping our game in terms of producing technically good theatre that isn’t only trying out new ideas, but realising them fully and impressively. This is a big musical in a tiny space that will be bursting at the seams.


What do you want to achieve by going to Edinburgh – and what would you like to bring back?

Obviously good reviews are always welcome, but ultimately we just want to fill the room. We want to show what we do to as many people as possible, spread the Six Lips name and image, and to open the discussion further.

We want to hear people’s thoughts on what we do, on what we’re saying, on why and how and what they think about it all. We would love to see as much theatre as we can while we’re there too. You’re nothing in the creative world if you don’t keep your eyes open.