Paul Hunter chats ‘Get Happy’, Told by an Idiot’s family show

Paul Hunter is co-founder and co-artistic director of Told by an Idiot. He chats to us about Get Happy, showing at The Barbican 17th – 30th December.

Can you tell us a bit about your show, Get Happy?

Our show Get Happy is a unique theatre experience for all ages. Inspired by the works of Piña Bausch, Charlie Chapin and Dr Seuss. The genesis of the show came from visits to the theatre with my children Elsie and Dexter. Often in the shows we saw, when there were anarchic moments the performers never really let go. I wanted to make a show which captures the anarchic spirit that lies at the heart of the company’s work. Get Happy was also inspired by a quote from one of the founders of Pixar films, who when asked who their target audience is, replied “Basically anyone who breathes.” Get Happy is a funny, surprising, unpredictable celebration of performers and audiences.

Get Happy first premiered in 2013 – how is the new production different?

The new version of Get Happy for 2015 is different from its premiere in 2013, because we have been joined by two wonderful performers: Alicia Martel, a fantastic musician from Barcelona, and Rachel Donovan, a great physical comedian. We have also created some exciting new material especially for this Christmas, so there are some terrific new surprises.

What makes Get Happy unusual for a children’s show?

What makes Get Happy unusual for a children’s show is that it genuinely works for all the family. Also unlike a lot of children’s theatre, it is not based on an existing book or film, it is a genuinely original experience.

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What was the process for creating the show? How was your son involved?

The process for creating the show was a lot of physical improvisations and dances. With the skills of the performers we were able to create a lot of material from our inspirations. Our designer was also in the room evolving the set at the same time as the show was coming together.

The random imagination of my son Dexter was a big influence for me when we were making the show. The way in which he could be fascinated by one thing and then immediately drop it and move onto something else, informed how we put the piece together.

What do you think are the main differences and challenges of making work for young and family audiences, as opposed to adults?

One of the great challenges of making work for younger audiences is that they don’t tend to buy into the ‘conspiracy of boredom’ that a lot of adults do when they visit the theatre ie we all know when something is boring but often we politely pretend that it isn’t. Kids don’t do that which is refreshing.

What are you working on next?

Next we are working on a new piece of music theatre called I Am Thomas – A brutal comedy with songs, written with the poet Simon Armitage and based on the true story of the last man to be executed for blasphemy in Britain. On the surface it couldn’t be more different to Get Happy but they will both share a sense of anarchy and curiosity.

Finally, a question we ask everyone: Why do you love children’s theatre?

I don’t love children’s theatre, I love theatre. I am not crazy about categories – if theatre is good, it’s just good theatre!

Images by Hugo Glendinning.

Follow Children’s Theatre Reviews on Twitter @ctheatrereviews 

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