Looking at the upcoming Workhouse (Lorton, VA) Performing Arts Center calendar and the Capital Fringe Festival performance schedule, I spotted a show from Tasty Monster Productions that is crossing over into both. The show is BOND: An Unauthorized Parody. This BOND parody is a one actor in many guises along with original music.
With a mission “to produce cutting edge theatrical and musical works for new audiences,” I decided to set off to explore more with Tasty Monster Co-Artistic Directors Heather Bagnall and Luke Tudball.
Heather Bagnall, originally from Annapolis, MD and Luke Tudball, originally from the UK, founded Tasty Monster Productions in 2011. Bagnall has worked in DC theatre venues from the now departed but not forgotten West End Dinner Theatre (Alexandria, VA), to Hope Operas, Landless Theatre Company, Adventure Theatre, and even Disney Cruise Entertainment to name a few.Tudball, a UK native, has credits in theatre, TV, film, and radio in both the UK and US and has toured the world.
This interview is edited from conversations I had with Bagnall and Tudball, as well as with Gavin Roberston, UK playwright and star of BOND: An Unauthorized Parody.
David Siegel: What led you to establish Tasty Monster?
Luke Tudball: Heather and I had been working in the arts for a number of years but more and more had noticed we were moving into a more directorial approach to our work. We wanted to find a way to work on the projects that interested us and also make a more personal mark on our work. Creating our own projects and, therefore, our own company seemed like a logical step.
Heather Bagnall: When Luke and I met, I was at a professional crossroads because I had aged out of the roles in which I was most comfortable but had not yet aged into the roles for older women, and was, according to the industry standard, a weird “type.” I was working more and more in administration and production, but hadn’t found a home for my own work. And I had started writing, noting the deficit not just for women of my age and type but also the representation of women in general in positions of authority within the arts community.
Meeting Luke, who was so like-minded in creative style, passion and desire for collaboration, was supreme serendipity. He broached the idea of the company and it seemed an absolutely natural progression.
One of Tasty Monster’s missions is “to produce cutting edge theatrical and musical works for new audiences.” Please, tell us more.
Luke: We’re looking for new audiences in the sense that we want to attract people to the theatre who might not otherwise come; people who might have a preconceived idea that theatre is not for them or that it is too lofty, that it doesn’t speak to their experiences. But we are also trying to attract the regular theatre going audience with something they haven’t seen before, something not offered by the current landscape.
We want people to leave our shows thinking, talking, sharing, and wanting more. We truly believe in the transformative power of theatre for everyone.
Heather: My favorite of our cutting edge works was a production in Missouri where we collaborated with a local community theatre and mounted a large scale musical in ten days with eight cast members playing all of the twenty-four roles. Not only was it a great production but it transformed the local theatre going community and the individual artists far beyond the borders of the stage. I think that is our goal in every production, whether it’s our own original work such as Ferdinand, which deals with loss, bullying, and the pressures of corporate and parental life or a remount of a lesser known work such as Personals where we were able to give it a contemporary flavor and make it a celebration of the underdog.
Why did you decide to bring BOND: An Unauthorized Parody to the Workhouse and the Capital Fringe Festival?
Heather: Because it’s fun! Because it’s something that you can convince your husband or your boyfriend to see with you. It’s something you can bring your kids to. Because Gavin is wonderful and it’s something everyone can enjoy with no need for Cliffs Notes, never having stepped foot into a theatre.
Luke: Watching the news, there are horrible things going on in the world; we’re bombarded with tragedy. Everyone needs a hero, needs a laugh and needs an escape once in a while. And everyone enjoys a good spy story! And…EVERYONE needs to experience the world’s smallest car chase.
If you could invite audiences to see BOND what would you say to them?
Heather: That you’ll have the time of your life in 60 minutes. This show is fun, fast-paced and family friendly. It’s smart which means the kids will have a great time, but it’s really written to the adults, the kid in all of us who always wanted to be a secret agent.
Luke: If you look at this and think, “this is not my thing” take a second and then give it a chance. This show is unexpected. It’s intelligently farcical and surprisingly original. This is the BOND you will not see at the movies.
What inspired you to develop and “star” in BOND: An Unauthorized Parody?
Gavin Robertson: I don’t know about the word ‘star’… I’ve always taken an idea and run with it to the point where it’s a full stage show, so no-one else is going to perform it except me. That’s the journey! But to answer your question; I had made my first solo show, Crusoe which is quite eclectic and thoughtful (it marries quantum physics with storytelling) so I think BOND was in part a reaction to that inasmuch as I wanted to have fun, and get back to my comedy roots.
With so many iconic BOND movies from 1962-2012 and another one expected out soon, what led to you pick what you did to parody in a 60-minute play?
Gavin: People have asked me what movies I watched etc- but the truth is I watched none! I wanted to pick flavours rather than specifics so the show is a distillation of typical Bond moments, atmospheres and jeopardy situations. If you went to the pub with a group of friends and started riffing on all ‘those’ films, I hope what I condense into my show is pretty much what you’d have come up with. Though I guess it’s less ‘Daniel Craig’ and more the preceding twenty years! I also poke a few other long-running film franchises in the process!
What can the audience expect to witness as you perform the many different roles in “Bond”? As I understand, you play all of the roles; male, female, bad guys, good guys, and of course Mr. Bond?
Gavin: Well…yes I play everybody…heroes, villains, women and bit-parts! I’ve likened it to a kind of Bond-meets-Scooby-Doo-in-a-suit kind of style. Imagine a cartoon onstage and that’s pretty much it!
Although – to be slightly artistic for a moment – the pleasure for me is in being on one level very silly, and on the other, making as big an impact with my stagecraft and style of storytelling as I can. I think that ‘cleverness’ as well as complicity between me and the audience is what gives us a shared pleasure.
What do you want audiences to come away with after seeing the show?
Gavin: One reviewer said that I take the audience on a journey with a Bond film they think they’ve already seen but actually haven’t! My challenge is to parody the style so well it’s typical though in fact an original storyline. Of course, it’s ridiculous and improbable, and yet…If they come away having laughed, been impressed by the style, and recommend it to friends, I’m happy.
Is this time of changing tastes and the speed of social media; why do you think James Bond still flourishes?
Gavin: Before Daniel Craig I think they were in fact already a parody of themselves. I sincerely think the Bourne movies jolted them into a re-think and the Daniel Craig versions have re-established the franchise with genuine depth and credentials. Before him, they were only one step away from my stage show!
Bond: An Unauthorized Parody plays July 11, 12, 15, 17 and 18, 2015 at DC Capital Fringe at Brookland Artspace Lofts DC – Studio Theatre, 3305 8th Street NE, Washington, DC 20017. For tickets, call (866) 811-4111 or visit Capital Fringe. The Capital Fringe show page for Bond An Unauthorized Parody will be online starting June 22, 2015.