Utter Mess! Franko Figueiredo delights in the messiness and magic of human kindness.

I have always been attracted by the confluence of the old and the new, both in the UK and Japan, I am inspired to transfer everyday life encounters directly onto the stage, in a way where traditional and modern sit side by side. I love immersing myself in their extreme differences and similarities.

If we shared a common space with other cultures, if we danced, sang, shared each other’s stories, we would be so busy enjoying each other’s company, that we could end all conflict.

I have always been curious and loved sharing theatre practices, mixing kyogen with contemporary clowning; creating theatre performances that are innovative, funny as well as thought provoking. I could say I am heavily influenced by eastern storytelling as well as forum theatre. At the risk of sounding twee, I always believed that if we shared a common space with other cultures, if we danced, sang, shared each other’s stories, we would be so busy enjoying (understanding and respecting) each other’s company, that we could end all conflict.

I feel blessed that StoneCrabs is working with Busu Theatre in our latest joint production, Utter Mess! which we are bringing to this year’s Edinburgh Fringe. This is an international project that involves British, Latin-American, Portuguese and Japanese artists, through an artistic exchange, where we have been taking risks to create work that connects, creating material that could be just as magical as it could be a flop, and we will never find out until we share it with an audience. Will audiences connect with us? Will the story/message come through? We risk failure in the pursuit of laughter, connection, and change.

We were meant to have worked on this performance piece in Tokyo during the summer of 2020. Then the pandemic hit, so we couldn’t travel, it was a complete and utter mess. The world is going through something massive, and everyone has suffered in the process. Observing how different cultures and governments are responding, is massively intriguing, and it cannot but influence our work. The 2020 show has morphed into something else. We have been enjoying playing with breaking form, merging worlds and cultures, as well as time periods, and low-fi technology. I often ask myself, were we saved by technology? Or were we saved by human creativity, and our need for connection? Or all of the above?

There were some ugly moments at the beginning of the pandemic when East Asians were personally attacked, but when the reality hit and folk understood that this was a world issue, we were forced to look back at our shared humanity, and beauty happened. Remember in Italy when people found shared comfort by singing from their windows? When we offer to shop for strangers. All over the world acts of kindness brough us together. With Utter Mess! we celebrate small acts of kindness, merging our strange with our familiars.

We danced, sang together, enjoyed quizzes and celebrated birthdays over Facetime, Zoom and Teams. I recently read that “healthy relationships are as essential as vaccines”. What we did, and are still doing, really, is helping each other to keep loneliness away. Our vaccine is reminding each how important it is to build on and strengthen our social connections, and there is nothing like the shared space of theatre to help us do that.

Since you’re here…

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You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
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Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
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Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
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