We spoke to director Duncan Hallis about alternative Christmas parody The Lion, The B!tch and the Wardrobe at Wales Millennium Centre
Tell us a bit about The Lion, The B!tch and the Wardrobe
It’s silly, sexy and a little bit christmassy! It’s a weird and fucked-up adaptation of the beloved allegorical children’s book. We are chasing queer joy and alternative escapism. We are giving our communities the same joy that mainstream audiences get from panto every year.
And who is in your team?
We have artists bringing us drag, burlesque, live music, belly-dancing, aerial circus, whip-cracking, juggling, unicycling, and lots of laughter. Our artists come from and make up the communities that we are trying to serve. This is a show made for queers and weirdos, by queers and weirdos. Our design team is also super eclectic, with backgrounds in commercial theatre, alternative performance, ballroom and couture fashion.
Did you always want to make work like this?
Not even a little bit. I used to be more into plays and literature and language. I still admire text-based work, but in recent years I’ve been much more excited by making different kinds of gig-theatre. I just make things more like the stuff that I enjoy watching/doing. Now my work is more influenced by gigs, festivals, immersive experiences, video games, community events etc.
What kind of rehearsal room do you run?
I try to facilitate a really collaborative space that lets artists get what they want out of the project. Not everyone always gets to do exactly what they want all the time, but it’s important to me that there’s a feeling of co-creation. I try to create a space that is as safe as possible, with regular check-ins, not just about how people are feeling, but also how they communicate. I am often working with neurodivergent artists with eclectic and shifting requirements, and this project isn’t any different. I’d like to think it’s a fun rehearsal room, but I guess it would be better to ask the performers rather than me lol.
Have there been any particularly funny or remarkable moments in the process so far?
We had to explain to our pianist who Britney Spears is…
What makes Cardiff such a great hotbed of alternative performance talent?
Yeah Cardiff definitely has a lot of alternative talent due to its massive diversity in cultures and communities. A lot of people keep telling us that these shows at WMC are really unique and different. But actually this kind of stuff is happening all the time here. All of our performers are constantly working, collaborating and existing in spaces and communities that commercial audiences just don’t know about. Unfortunately, Cardiff is lacking a solid infrastructure to platform and develop alternative artists and introduce them to new audiences. And its getting worse sadly. We’re losing independent venues every month, and the city centre is becoming harder to distinguish from any other in the UK. But, in reaction to that, there has been this increasing growth of people who just want something different. There’s a hunger for weird and wonderful things in a city thats slowly becoming a sterile landscape of unaffordable living spaces. We are trying to find new ways to blend alternative and commercial performance, so that we can cross-polinate their audiences and celebrate our alternative arts scene. It’s a trojan horse for WMC’s traditional audiences, and for many of them it ends up being their first time seeing artists like this. Not a lot of commercial theatres in Wales would take a risk on a show like ours, but WMC has become a much-needed platform for alternative artists in the last few years.
What is next for you?
I’m really excited about 2023, I have some really fun-looking stuff coming up. I’m directing an R&D with Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru in the new year, looking at how we can create work with Wales’s flourishing Ballroom Community. I’m working with CB4 Theatre to develop and direct Bad Boy Disco. There’s a documentary in the pipeline, that I would co-direct with Nerida Bradley (who is assisting me on The Lion, The B!tch and The Wardrobe). And I’m doing a bit of work with Sara Hartel and Jeremy Linnell on their new game-theatre R&D.
The Lion, The B!tch and The Wardrobe runs at Wales Millennium Centre 8-31 December 2022, for more info see the website www.wmc.org.uk/en/whats-on/2022/the-lion-the-btch-and-the-wardrobe