Fossils’ Nel Crouch: “Theatre is alive and well at the Fringe!”

Award-winning theatre company Bucket Club are melding together playful theatre with a live techno score for Fossils, a sceptical quest for the Loch Ness Monster at the Pleasance Dome. Alexander Gillespie sat down with writer/director Nel Crouch to find out about how the show was made, and what’s next for Fossils after the Fringe.

Character comedy is more and more of a cool thing

So you both wrote and directed the show – where did the idea for Fossils come from?

Our first show, Lorraine and Allen, was an adaptation of the selkie myth, which is about a man who falls in love with a seal. It was a modern, playful retelling of that. We talked to some people afterwards who said that we should look more into mythology, and we thought about what the most enduring myth was in this country – which was the Loch Ness Monster – and we made a story out of that. Although I wrote it, we are very collaborative in coming up with the story, and everyone has input, and we have a big day of story planning and putting ideas on paper and talking about music. Then I go away and write it up. We change it quite a lot in rehearsals as well. So it’s writing, but it’s quite collaborative writing.

Was music an important part of the show from the beginning or did that evolve into it as you went along?

Music was always going to be a big part of it. It was in Lorraine and Allen, and Dave who plays Miles in the show was a composer (it was the first time he had acted really in the show). So it was always going to be a big part of it, and I work very collaboratively with Dave to find the right sort of sounds for each bit. Some parts I’ve written the lyrics for, and some parts Dave’s written the lyrics for, and one of the theme’s a Scottish folk song. So we’ve worked with Dave in the room the whole time, just responding to what’s going on.

How do you normally approach the rehearsal process then?

We have what we call a scroll day, where we lay out big bits of paper on the floor and segment the story into different parts, and think about what ideas could go in those parts, visually, story wise, music wise. Then we go away and write. Then I scratch most of that and write it again. Then we had two weeks’ rehearsal, working from the script and devising any bits that need filling in. We had another big gap (because of availability) of about six weeks where I could go into the polishing stage. Then we had a five-date preview tour. So by the time we got here we kind of felt like we were ready.

There are a lot of people now who feel that the Fringe has become more of a comedy festival than a theatre festival. Do you think theatre is still alive and well at the Fringe?

I don’t see very much comedy at the Fringe, so I think that theatre must be alive and well because there is still loads that I want to see. I think it’s just different circles, but I like it when people cross over a bit. I think our show is quite funny. Companies like Kill the Beast are doing a really good job at blurring the lines between those two. Character comedy is more and more of a cool thing – and that is quite exciting as it feels like a theatrical thing. So I think that theatre is alive and well at the Fringe!

Fossils plays at the Pleasance Dome this Fringe. Full Edinburgh listing: Find them on Twitter @wearebucketclub.