Theatre - Birthday Tour 118

Appropriately for a company who have long occupied the territory of underground theatre ‘People Show’ began its life in 1966 in the basement building of a bookshop, on Charing Cross Road. It was not long before they physically relocated above ground, but their particular brand of experimental theatre earned them a cult-like status that has kept them on the fringes of the establishment. “People Show is clearly an acquired taste, rather like the fermented mares’ milk I tried so hard to enjoy on a recent visit to Outer Mongolia”, said Benedict Nightingale of the legendary company in 1980. “I think at last I am learning how to swallow it without embarrassing its many admirers with unseemly grimaces”.

Last year the company celebrated its fortieth birthday by creating a site-specific piece in their current home in East London entitled the Birthday Show 117. This year they decided to literally take the show on the road, adapting the piece as a mobile production (The Birthday Tour 118) and performing it at various venues around the country. Tonight it comes to the Gardner Arts Centre as part of the venue’s last-ever season.

"We've taken some of the main qualities from the 117 show”, Sadie Cook, one of the steering members of the company, tells me. "And we’ve translated it into a piece which we could pack up and take with us. We wanted to spread out instead of confining ourselves to one place." For the original production, the company contacted all of the performers who had been involved with them over the years and adapted their responses into the piece as audio-visual installations and messages.


41 today: The People Show celebrates its birthday with a ‘best of’ tour