5 minutes with Nel Crouch, Bucket Club

Nel Crouch is a wonderfully creative writer and director who has been working with Farnham Maltings for a number of years. Through her company bucket club, she is the maker of both poignant theatre pieces and wonderfully silly shows which have won awards and acclamations at festivals around the world. The outdoor family show we are touring through house this summer, Catch That Beast, squarely falls into the wonderfully silly category and we have spoken to Nel a little bit about what audiences should look forward to when it and their super cute Beast pops up in a green space near them.

What’s the story behind the story?
We made a show, Fossils, about the Loch Ness monster, and I got fascinated by people who believe it’s real. There’s a guy who’s living by the loch in a converted mobile library looking out for a sighting. He’s been there since 1991. How could you back down from that belief when you’ve invested so much of your identity and time in it? Our show is about a group who has been single mindedly hunting beasts for years to no success, and it takes a new, young member, Jessy, to show them that it’s OK to change your mind.

Were you a Guide/Scout or member of another group growing up?
Growing up I was a member of the Woodcraft Folk, a youth group rooted in co-operation and equality. One week we’d be learning how to build a shelter in the woods, the next we’d be learning about unions. When we were teenagers we’d go to Glastonbury and run games in the Kidz Field. I loved it! The colours of the Beastologists’ costumes were inspired by the colours Woodcraft Folk use for their shirts. I was also a member of the Young Ornithology Club, a youth wing (geddit) of the RSPB, which influenced Jessy’s appreciation for birds. I was a very cool kid. Joey, who wrote a lot of our music, was also a member. Another cool kid.


Is it different creating a family theatre show outdoors rather than inside?
I’ve made lots of outdoor family shows with The HandleBards, a cycling Shakespeare company. With outdoor work you have to think very visually, and consider how you’re going to hold space when there might be background noise, or you might be getting upstaged by a seagull (this happens more often than you’d think). The best bit about outdoor work is the lack of lighting, so we can see the audience. This means we’re able to interact more directly with them (though I promise we’re gentle!)


How do children normally react to the Beast?
We were worried in rehearsals that our Beast would be scary – it is eight feet tall! But we’ve been pleasantly surprised. No one has been scared and the main reaction seems to be that it’s actually really cute. It helps that it speaks in kazoo.

Does music always play an important part in your shows?
Music is an important part of every Bucket Club show, but I’m definitely not a composer! A lot of the music for this show was written by Joey Hickman, a brilliant Bristol based actor-musician-composer. But it’s a collaborative show so there is also music in there by Hanora Kamen, another multi talented actor who works a lot with the Wardrobe Ensemble and Ellie Showering who plays Lesley in the show, who is also a brilliant composer. The music is inspired by experimental folk music, morris dancing and Spongebob Squarepants.


How do you hope kids feel coming out of the performance?
We hope that kids will have a lot of fun and will wear their Showing Up Badge with pride. We also hope that Jessy’s love of birds inspires more curiosity about the everyday beasts that live among us. We’ve been told that lots of our audiences can’t stop singing the Magic Poo song on the way home. It is extremely catchy, and who doesn’t love a poo joke?


The house Catch That Beast tour starts at the Ventnor Fringe festival on 26 July and runs until 11 August at Frimley Park through Camberley Theatre. Find full tour details here.