Nicole and Martin are two Swiss performers who’ve spent their lives enchanting audiences with their retellings of fairytales and folk stories. They’ve performed over 2,300 times in 400 venues and 9 countries, they’ve had a sold out run at the Edinburgh Fringe and won awards across the world.
Now they’re bringing their special brand of theatre to Walmer Castle, Audley End and Kenilworth Castle between 21 July and 7 August. We caught up with Kate Higginbottom, their collaborative director (who also helps translate the shows to English) to find out more about the wonders in store this summer.
‘The first time I saw them… I was completely enchanted.
It was really one of the best things I’d ever seen!’ – Kate
Expect the unexpected
‘Really, we’re a theatre company, with acrobatic elements. People can expect to be told a story in an unexpected way and to get swept up in it,’ says Kate. ‘They can expect to be surprised, they can expect to laugh, they can expect to get goosebumps. And they can expect their children to be spellbound.’
‘What’s so fantastic is that it’s universally enjoyed in the way that a really good Disney or Pixar film is. There’s something for everyone. We have as many teenage fans as we do 6 year olds as we do 86 year olds’.
It’s theatre and medieval magic
Nicole and Martin draw on old techniques and traditions to create something that delights their audiences.
‘They’re using all these old techniques that Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplain and all the great physical performers have used for centuries,’ Kate continues. ‘They’re putting it in a form that we don’t really see anymore. It’s very traditional, although the trouble with the word “traditional” is that it makes it sound really boring, and it’s really not! It’s really fun and very entertaining.’
Each performance uses a lot of instruments and masks, juggling and acrobatics, as well as acting and speech to bring their tales to life.
The team are all really excited about performing at some of English Heritage’s historic places. ‘When we’ve been on jousting fields or next to castle ramparts before they always feel like fantastic places to be…’
‘There’s something really medieval about our setup. We pitch up in wooden wagons and we unfold a theatre and stage. And then we tell stories of kings and queens, princes and princesses, and serfs and serving maids. It fits very well in a castle setting.’
It’s a family show… in more ways than one
Nicole and Martin met at a circus school run by an old clown called Dmitri in the mountains in Switzerland. ‘It trains people in quite traditional forms of performing like cabaret,’ explains Kate. ‘All those old skills of being an acrobat, a musician and knowing all the songs – just being part of a very long, virtuoso tradition.’
They have been honing their craft for 17 years, and founded their own company in 1999 – ‘because they’d never seen the kind of theatre they wanted to make.’
The couple’s sons (aged six and nine) both perform in all the productions. They even have major parts in Iron John, a new show for 2016 all about a brave young prince.
Their stunning White Tent gets pitched up wherever they go. ‘It’s an amazing wooden canvas structure which is very beautiful. It’s a round space which is lovely because it means the audience can see each other across the stage. They can see everyone else’s reactions, which really adds to the fun.’
There are four folk tales to enjoy
The company will be performing four shows at each venue, each based on a folk story collected by the Brothers Grimm:
- Iron John – a coming of age tale about a brave young prince who encounters a wild man
- The Girl Without Hands – an incredible adventure story about a girl accidentally sold to the devil by her father
- The Musicians of Bremen – the dramatic story of four animals as they try to start new lives
- The Fisherman and His Wife – a humorous tale about a couple who are never satisfied with what they have
Whichever performance you come to, expect to be delighted, just as Kate was when she first saw Nicole and Martin perform.
‘I was dancing in Switzerland and a friend said to me “you’ve got to come and see this company, you will love them.” It was completely mesmerising, I was enchanted… It was really one of the best things I’d ever seen.’
How to book tickets
Call our Ticket Sales Team on 0370 333 1183 to book tickets to any of the performances. Lines are open 8.30am-5.30pm Monday to Friday, and 9am-5pm on Saturdays. Tickets will be available on the day if there are any left, but we advise booking in advance to avoid disappointment.
See you in the White Tent!