Departure Lounge here we come!

The Foo and their Emporium ready for takeoff at DEparture Lounge festival this Friday 

By Séana Maggs-Cooke

I’m back again with Maison Foo and it’s as if I’ve never left! They’re rehearsing PENDULUMS BARGAIN EMPORIUM in Derby Theatre's Green Lane building (the same as February), the only differences being the room size and The Foos summer attire as opposed to coats and scarves. 

I am dropping in each evening for an insight on how the new rehearsals are going for the run up to their final preview performance of PENDULUMS BARGAIN EMPORIUM at Departure Lounge festival at Derby Theatre on Friday July 19th and indeed the polished version ready for Latitude Festival and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

I enter Monday’s rehearsal late in the afternoon to discover that the aim of the day has been to rework the ‘Desperate Tango’ scene- which is my favourite scenes from the play (if I was desperately forced to pick a favourite.) To my surprise I discover that the scene has changed quite dramatically from when I last witnessed it just before Pendulums first showcase at Deda; the tempo has changed quite a lot, as have the lyrics- but the same catchy melody remains and I am instantly bobbing along and singing to the song as I had done some 3 months previously.

I am informed by The Foo that things with Pendulums have changed almost radically in some places: the same plot and conventions remain but a larger focus on the fairytale aspect and the tale of the Elves and the Shoemaker has been added, and as such a story telling element has been entwined into the whole piece.

One of the main characters in this tale, The Shoemakers Wife is portrayed as a manikin, and things seem to have changed with the image of even this character: She is no longer represented as a Manikins head with electric Blue hair, but has been given her own accessories and full costumes to represent her status throughout the play. It’s amazing to see just how many details have been added to the piece since its first showcase tour.

The Foo spend most of their time on their feet and on the move, but I realise from watching them that sometimes the best and only way to work is by sitting at a laptop and scripting crucial lines for a scene. This is always followed by a get-up and go ad-libbing session, whereby so many obscure words and phrases are produced by the cast, it seems to be almost a game of ‘who can out bizarre the other.’ Nothing is too peculiar in this refining rehearsal process; every word and movement is acknowledged and re-visited for potential future use. The cast are completely in tune with each other and random outbursts of personal Foo jokes add to the optimistic atmosphere that devising Pendulums brings; even the notion of the Emporium stocking a ‘Travel Iron’ is revisited, and soon a whole hilarious side story is developed for some light-hearted relief (it really is as bombastic as it sounds.) Moments of frivolity such as these are what make The Foo live up to their name: Mischievous Mad Fools. Indeed!

A new routine has been adapted for the first song in the play and now a conveyor belt has been added; this scene involves Kate and Beth manipulating gift bags from behind the Pendulums counters to give the aesthetic of travelling down a conveyor belt- it’s slapstick and hilarious as ever, and these intentional moments of blissful cheese are ones that you cannot help but adore. 

Matt, as always is the self designated sound effect man- he also multi roles as the protagonist of the play, which is pretty nifty for someone who isn’t ordinarily an actor. If an effect is needed Matt will assuredly have the sound; this he proves by immediately producing a ‘crash’ effect on cue with the improvisation of the conveyor belt scene and unfortunate death of ‘travel iron’- which gains a laugh of approval from us all. He also spends some time conjuring ‘fashion music’, the stereotypical high street hipster beats that lures the youth of today into shops (Ie, me!)

Just as every word is utilised to full potential, the props are equally as well thought out in this rehearsal process, even up to the tackiness of Morgan’s glasses when he plays the character of the game show host. At one point of the rehearsal Matt throws a hammer at me- to which I flinch but discover on impact that it’s a polystyrene invention of Morgans, and just goes to show that resourcefulness is everything!

Beth and Kate show me their handy work in the form of three hand-knitted babies which are used to great effect when the girls demonstrate their puppetry expertise; they develop subtle movements which performed in unison gives life to the ‘blanket babies’. This is far more sophisticated and intricate than a ‘Punch and Judy’ show, but conventions such as these add to the eerie fairytale dynamic of this entire story.

By the time I enter Wednesday’s rehearsal; the team are contemplating and discussing the ending of Pendulums. This was originally worked out in February, but it seems that the new dimensions of the play have created a loop hole to explore potential new endings. After a much needed one minute free-style dance session The Foo gather around the oracle: Beth’s lap top, and type as much dialogue as possible, testing it practically as they go. Kate exclaims ‘we’re almost there!’  And that they are! This seems like the hardest part of the whole process by a mile, and I’ve soon realised after all the endless hours of work that Maison Foo have put into this play, finding and polishing an ending for Pendulums Bargain Emporium will also mark the end of every rehearsal and every idea ever explored long before The Foo ever entered this Green Lane building, it’s a ground-breaking achievement for team Foo. 

Reworking the entire play seems like a rigorous procedure, especially considering the effort put into the original devising process, but the cast seem to be enjoying the challenge. Beth discusses with me the revelations and differences that have come out of these recent re-rehearsals. I feel that I’m watching a new piece entirely, and now I’m equally as teased and excited for the rest to be revealed to me as I was a few months ago.

You can get tickets to see the final preview of Pendulums Bargain Emporium at Derby Theatre's Departure Festival (19th July) before it heads to Edinburgh by clicking here  

To have a peek at the promo trailer click this link