Dan Onslow is the co-founder of Intuitive Creatures, a newly formed theatre company that just finished performing their most recent production, Intuit This, at Camden Fringe. The group takes inspiration from the work of Jacques Lecoq and aims to create a connection with the audience whilst exploring absurd worlds with irreverent humour. MouthLondon talks to Dan about his performance style, setting up a production company and how he interacts with the audience.
MouthLondon: Intuit This sounds a lot for the audience to handle, visually and aurally – are you intentionally loading us with a maelstrom of action?!
Dan Onslow: I think we always want the audience to follow and feel engaged by the performance, however absurd or surreal. This is the first time we’ve taken a show on a run and its been really interesting to see the different reactions each night. Some nights they’ve been with us the whole way, other nights their laughter has been more contained. As a performer, that’s really interesting. You think to yourself, why are we getting different reactions? What did we do differently? how can we adapt to suit a different audience? I think the opening moments are really important. they determine whether the audience is ready to accept our weirdness!
ML: How did ‘Intuit This’ develop as a production?
DO: We did a sketch show called ‘Intuitive Creatures present a Sketch Night’ in December and January, both in Deptford, south east London. One of the sketches in that show was Renata and Steven complaining about the bee. We’re really proud of that show and we thought of bringing it to Camden, but some of the sketches were too different from one another and we wanted to bring a show that had more of a flow throughout. We thought Renata and Steven was one of the more successful sketches and so we decided to take it further.
…We like to break the 4th wall and make contact with the audience…
ML: A key aim of Intuitive Creatures is to connect with the audience – do you think you’ve succeeded in this? What is the key to developing an impactful connection with the audience in the short time you’re on stage?
DO: We try to be open and playful when onstage. We like to break the 4th wall and make contact with the audience. That way you can really bounce off their reactions. I think theatre needs to highlight the fact its a live event, otherwise why not just go to the cinema or watch tv. That’s common sense to most but still some people still don’t follow that way of thinking. When I go to the theatre I want to see aliveness, honesty and vulnerability in the actor.
ML: What sets you apart from other theatrical tragicomedy acts?
DO: I’m not quite sure of the exact definition of tragicomedy myself! I’d say that we like to do ridiculous, surreal theatre with over the top characters and we hope that all these characters, however grotesque, are able to convey a sense of fragility and the human passions that drive us.
…rehearsal spaces as the rent in London is absurd…
ML: As your website says, you are a fledgling company. How difficult have you found it to secure bookings and support for your productions?
DO: We’ve found everything ridiculously expensive. From rehearsal spaces to venues. Especially rehearsal spaces as the rent in London is absurd. We eventually found a good deal and invested in a rehearsal space together that was looked after by a property guardian company. In order to save money, we’ve had a DIY approach to previous performances, putting work on in disused spaces that we’ve turned into makeshift theatres for the night. Camden fringe has been a big financial investment but hopefully we’ll have gained a bigger following from doing this.
ML: The company takes a lot from the teachings of Jacques Lecoq – are there any other people or groups you’d cite as influences in your work?
DO: We all studied together at LISPA, a school inspired by the pedagogy of Jacques Lecoq. The teachers don’t teach you a method or anything like that, its more about being open on stage and being playful, teaching you to be good observers of the world and increasing your awareness of your own body and the performance space.
We have loads of other influences. We all love theatre and performance. In particular, we’re influenced by people who make live alternative comedy. By that I mean, not regular stand up, something more theatrical. For me personally, Dr. Brown, Carlo Jacucci, Spymonkey and Peepolykus hugely inspire me.
…I have a solo show called ‘The Rain in Spain’…
ML: What can we expect in the near future from Intuitive Creatures?
DO: We all do different things as well as group work. Paula has a solo act called Madame Señorita, which won her best female act at the Camden solofestival, Roisin and Chiara are working hard at making comedy clips for Vimeo and I have a solo show called ‘The Rain in Spain’. Group wise, I’m sure we’ll start to work on a new project some time in the future. We’ll just let this settle a bit. We also like to perform at cabaret nights, including our own Random Blossom Cabaret.
For more information on Intuitive Creatures and what they’re up to next, check out their website.
Check out our review of Intuit This right here.