Ugly Bucket chat ‘STUFFED’ With Eli

Monday, 10 June 2024

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I was lucky enough to pop into an Ugly Bucket rehearsal for their show Stuffed, which comes to Unity on 20th June. I first came across these guys when someone years ago said to me ‘There’s this group from JMU doing a show, its’ really good you know’ it was, and they are, I then asked them to do a section from their first show Bost-Uni Plues at a Physical Fest Scratch night, and I could tell they really had something, there was a fire and energy in them that was shouting out. I asked them about the beginnings of their journey as a company:

We graduated with a lot of expectations, we’re going to go into a great career in theatre, which wasn’t the case… all of us had post graduate depression’

Out of stubbornness a group of us got together and did what we thought at the time was clowning, starting with nothing, I’m grateful for me then for having the gaul to just go, we will just do it, paint our noses, that’s clown! Doing NSDF was a big snowball for us’

Since then they have had massive success with Good Grief, a show in which the company processes the death of a friend, through, in their words ‘a high energy maelstrom of clowning, movement, verbatim, and thumping techno tracks’

We are now establishing what our voice is and what the link is with all our shows. The verbatim has linked everything, always coming back to connecting with the communities we are making shows for’

I asked how the idea of their new show came about…

‘The idea came to us in lockdown, we thought it was going to be about food, about our consumption and access to food.’

With the subsequent crisis it became quickly associated with foodbanks..

We didn’t really realise that when we are making a show about foodbanks we are making a show about everything, it was an overwhelming web’

The way we make the show is we do the interviews and that will take us to what the show is. As we were doing them, we thought, should we even be making this show what is it for, can we have an impact? Also, in previous shows we’ve had a personal connection with the theme, with this, suddenly the responsibility of us as a group of people that have never had the need for a food bank, I felt the pressure and we questioned it.

I admitted to them that I had the same thoughts before coming in, how without that lived experience can you make a show about food banks?

They said they went through moments in the process of really feeling like they shouldn’t make this show,

I remember Alan (Slunglow) encouraged us not to let it get in the way as we are going to raise awareness. That’s where verbatim comes in, we are just a vessel for the truth, for people words’

We haven’t interviewed any foodbank users as that’s not the focus of the show, its about the people working at the food banks. We realised that the audience are us, showing up at a food bank’

I felt whilst talking to them, they had really carefully considered it, been through a really thorough process, to conclude that, yes, they should make this show. They told me a foodbank volunteer had someone coming in and asking for a lightbulb,

Because they have one lightbulb that they have to move from room to room, you suddenly realise just how bad it is, we were aware we needed to make audiences know how bad it is, but also they have to leave hopeful’

The show is actually going on the journey that we went in the process, asking ourselves, what’s the point? But then,  wait a minute we’ve just met 20 amazing food bank volunteers, people do brilliant things everywhere!

Long term low income is making people in a constant state of crisis, its not an emergency it’s a long term problem’

I asked if they’ve found a call of action, ways audience can help after watching the performance..

We have a panel of food bank volunteers after each show, people who know what they are talking about, the audience participation has been incredible, a massive call to arms’

A lot of our audience are younger, this enables a generational gap to be filled as many of the volunteers are older, groups of uni students have got in touch to support as a result of the show’

They also have included a brilliant idea..

We have an ‘open me in the morning booklet’ so the next day after the show you have something to open, with resources showing you what you can do. It has two teabags in so we hope people share the knowledge with someone over a cup of tea, it’s about creating ripples’

We also ask people to bring food donations to the show, the audience have already done something, and we have a pre-show meal for everyone that’s comes’

Another lovely idea, encouraging community, something which often feels lost, falling apart in current times. Sharing food and time is essential,  and it’s quite rare in our culture.

We realised we don’t need to have all the answers, theatre is about asking questions. This is so different to what we’ve ever done before, we are taking bigger risks, I’m really excited for people to see it’

Of course we can’t have all the answers, but I’m very glad this wonderful, passionate group are asking questions and I can’t wait to see the show here on the 20th June

It’s going to Edinburgh next, where I’ve no doubt they will have more success in their plans for 2025 touring. Ugly Bucket are: Grace Gallagher, Rachael Smart, Jess Huckerby, Angelina Moana, Canice Ward, Adam Nicholls, Kaila Sharples and Liz Barker.


Check out what Ugly Bucket are up to via their website