Baby lues


rson, Louisa Ludgate and Little Otik

Little Otik is the darkest, most surreal piece of theatre you'll see this year. Kirstin lnnes talks to actor Sandy Grierson about parenthood and flesh-eating trees

(il'imm/l’ ‘.\ly BABYY‘ The air in the ('iti/ens' 'l‘heatre is thick with the smell ol‘ peat. spread all oy‘er the stage where actors Sandy (irierson and

It‘s a bit ol’ wooth "l'hat‘s my baby'!‘ ‘lt‘s a bit

Louisa l.udgate are rehearsing what. taken out ol‘

context. must seem like a wry strange argutnent.

Things are going to get eyen stranger too: the bit of

wood in question is about to come to life and polish oil the postman. With eerie prescience. giy'en that the dark secrets parents hide in their cellars are all too uncomfortably topical. Vanishing Point and the National Theatre of Scotland haye chosen to adapt idiosyncratic (‘/ech l‘ilmmaker .Ian Syankmajer's grim liastern liuropean l'airytale I.lil/(' ()ti/x‘. about an inl'ertile couple. Karl and Bosanna. whose obsessiye desire l‘or a baby transmogrilies a tree sttunp into a flesh-eating monster. Still with us'.’ (ioml. Because. like the murky. nightmarish stories ol‘ the Brothers (irimm. Little ()tik has its roots (sorry) in Very real. yery human hopes and fears.

‘lt’s a modern myth. really. Despite the lact that the baby‘s made of wood. the story probably traces quite

closely the emotional. psychological impact ol'

actually being a parent says (irierson. who also co- adapted the script with Vanishing Point‘s director. Matthew Lenton. ‘l‘ye neyer been a dad. but I can understand Karl's growing realisation that this creature he’s spawned is gradually monopolising his wil'e‘s al'l'ections and attention. but also his income and his energy. as he tries to keep this insatiable appetite content. Barring the wooden baby. I don‘t really see that the journey ol' the characters themselyes is all that different from the darkest dark dreams ol~ a parent!’

'l’hat dread that you'll wake up one day and scream

86 THE LIST 1 L’ l.l.’:. 2 a...“ ./

'oh my god. He raised a monster“?


Actually raising that monster. though. seems to have been the least of the challenges for the company.

‘We‘re working with liwan Hunter. who designed and animated the wolyes in (early N'I‘S production) The it'll/rm in l/lt’ Hit/ls. and well. he woulan thank me for calling him a puppeteer. liwan comes limit a line art background. and he‘s been collecting roots and branches and brush. and using the natural moyemenl ol‘ those elements —- tree residue. I suppose! l‘y'e always thought that ()tik could and will come to life brilliantly on stage. We spent a lot ol‘ time together trying to work out where the flaws lay in translating the lilm to the stage.’

It‘s certainly not the easiest ol’ transitions. Syankmajer’s original lilm mixes liye action with the auteur"s signature animation. the psychological parables ol‘ the narratiye conyeyed in sequences where Rosanna sees babies being netted in the sea and sold wrapped in newspaper. or where paedophiliac desire is signil‘ied by a groping arm growing telescopically from a trouser l’ly. ’We'ye started out by creating our own. yery dill‘erent. yery strong \‘is'ual element.’ says (it'iel'soii. ‘and the perl'ormances. the tone ol' the whole piece. are settling around that. Matthew likes Syankmajer. but he‘s not an alicionado. We‘re not doing Little ()tik as Sy'ankmajer l'ans: we're doing it because of the challenge of telling this complex. brilliant story in a theatrical way.~

Little Otik, Citizens’ Theatre, Glasgow, Fri 23-Thu 31 May (previews Wed 21 8. Thu 22 May), then touring.

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