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Phil Willmott

Preview: GREEN GINGER’S INTRONAUTS. Part of London’s International Mime Festival

Intronauts — Photo by Paul Blakmore — with Emma Keaveney-Roys and Adam Fuller. To mark London’s International Mime Festival we asked Chris Pirrie about the inspiration behind his new piece - Green Ginger’s Intronauts – which you can see at Jackson’s Lane Theatre from Jan 11 to 13.

He tells us -

Intronauts is set in a not-too-distant future when people can buy personal cleaners - miniaturized human workers injected into their bodies in order to carry out essential maintenance. These are tiny submarines travelling through the alien internal world of the human body, encountering problems and dangers as they go.

Green Ginger's new show propels audiences into a microscopic journey deep within the human body. It tells a madcap story about advancing technology, big syringes and a tiny submarine. Taking its cue from classic sci-fi movies, and fueled by absurd visual comedy and innovative puppetry, Intronauts offers an intoxicating inner body experience that is out of this world.

The starting point for all Green Ginger productions is a singular visual idea suggesting a world or environment from which a good story might unfold. From here we build a narrative in which that world is central to the action.

Intronauts came from two distinct inspirations. I grew up loving a popular children's comic called The Beezer and eagerly awaited each weekly instalment of The Numskulls; tiny technicians who lived inside the head of 'our man' and each responsible for a particular sensory facility. I also loved the a cult 1966 sci-fi film The Fantastic Voyage in which a team of scientists board a submarine that is then miniaturised and injected into the body of a Russian defector in order to remove a blood-clot in his brain.

We too have ventured inside the body but have done so in our own inimitable house style.

It would be hard to ignore the impact of digital media and its dominance in every sphere of our lives. Intronauts was an opportunity as theatre-makers to reflect on the very earliest years of the digital revolution; the naïvety, fear and wonder of that nascent period. Superficially, this is reflected in the graphic tone of the animated sequences and other scenographic choices, but on a deeper level, the show may mirror or allude to our disconnection in an increasingly connected world.

We do not set out to make didactic theatre - we prefer to offer provocation for contemplation and leave it to our audiences to form their own opinions...

We are very much ensemble led and create teams of talented designers, performers and fabricators who work alongside dramaturgs and directors to devise the company's shows in a design-led process.

The company has a reputation for puppetry but it's just one tool of many that lie at the top of our toolbox. We are extremely confident and experienced in its application, but it is never an instinctive choice to make a 'puppetry' performance. Many fine pieces of theatre have been ruined by the crowbarring-in of a dramatic device, purely for the sake of it 'being cool'. However, for Intronauts, we wanted to tell our story cinematically and puppetry can allow us to take our audiences into the most extraordinary and fantastic environments inside the human body, and to move seamlessly between wide-shots and close-ups in an instant.

We created this show in three stages; firstly, a Bristol-based team met to research and develop an initial provocation based around themes of hazardous waste disposal and nano-surgery. A design phase included the fabrication of puppets, props, costumes and scenic elements that were then shipped out to our co-production base in Lofoten, 500km above the Arctic Circle at the top of Norway. A small team then flew out for a seven-week residency centred around devising rehearsals with a director, two dramaturgs, three devising performers, a composer and a VFX animator.

What we have produced is a whole internal world which is both intimate and weirdly out of this world. Here the action takes place. Sitting alongside the familiar and comic familiarity of manual work there is the danger and jeopardy presented by an alien environment. This is sci-fi theatre and what it offers is a cracking hour of visual entertainment that really gets under the skin.

Intronauts plays at Jackson’s Lane Theatre from Jan 11 to 13 as part of the International Mime Festival and is touring the UK. For more details and tickets - https://www.jacksonslane.org.uk