At Idiot HQ we have always been inspired by creators in many different art forms, and we have been fortunate to collaborate with acclaimed jazz musicians, poet laureates, hip hop choreographers, carnival makers and highly skilled practitioners in a variety of forms. We also continue to be challenged and provoked by a generation of younger artists. Here's ten young provocateurs who have inspired us.

Paul Hunter, Artistic Director, Told by an Idiot

 

1. ROSE GLASS - writer / director

Rose Glass is a young British film director whose debut feature Saint Maud was one of my films of the year in 2020. It tells the story of a hospice nurse Maud (played by Morfyyd Clark), a recent convert to Roman Catholicism, who becomes obsessed with a former dancer in her care (Jennifer Ehle), believing she must save her soul.
It is a brilliantly disturbing blend of body horror and psychological thriller, that blew me away. It is so audacious in its storytelling and its choices, it has shafts of black comedy and a truly remarkable ambiguous ending. Glass has said the concept she came up with when selling the film was Travis Bickle as a young Catholic woman living in an English seaside town. I love this notion.

Danny Boyle described Glass’s debut as:
‘a genuinely unsettling and intriguing film striking, affecting and mordantly funny at times, it’s confidence evokes the ecstasy of films like Carrie, The Exorcist, and Jonathan Glazer's Under The Skin’

To write and direct such an electrifying first feature which has a really  strong flavour and doesn’t compromise its vision takes some doing. Rose Glass is definitely someone whose work I will look out for, and her hypnotic and strangely atmospheric movie has certainly stayed with me.

 

2. FIONA MOZELY - novelist

Elmet the debut novel by Fiona Mozely made a big impact, being shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. This brutal, bleak, modern yet timeless story also had a strong effect on me. Mozley has spoken of writing the book whilst holding down a full time job and dealing with a lengthy commute, snatching moments to write down bits and pieces on her mobile phone. This makes the end result all the more remarkable. This savage and delicate fairytale tells the story of siblings Cathy and Daniel living with their father in the house he built deep in the woodlands outside Elmet. Through their encounters with the brutal landowner Mr. Price and his sons, the tale builds to a shocking and compelling climax. The book has the feeling of a great contemporary Western with a Yorkshire setting. The relationships both human and with the landscape, and the showdown at the end combine the domestic with the epic brilliantly, the whole thing has a narrative drive that is never less than gripping. The fight over land has universal resonance and in this respect Elmet reminds me of Andrey Zvyagintsev's astonishing movie Leviathan (2014), in fact it wouldn’t surprise me if at some point Mozely’s acclaimed debut also made it to the big screen. Elmet deals with big themes, but the story is always first and foremost highly engaging.

Mozely said:
“It’s fine for novels to have interesting ideas, but they have to be entertaining. That’s not me trying to be populist, but a novel that is only intellectual and not emotional has failed.”

I wholeheartedly concur with this statement and I can’t wait to get my hands on her second novel Hot Stew -exploring class and money through the inhabitants of Londons Soho - published in March.

 

3. ZOONATION ACADEMY OF DANCE

This week instead of choosing an individual we are selecting an organisation, and what an inspiring organisation it is. To be precise we are recognising the influence on Told by an Idiot of one part of ZooNation: The Kate Prince Company, their academy (ZAD) which is their not-for-profit education arm. It was founded in 2008 out of a desire for the company to work with young people:

“ZAD is a place where young people of all ages (4-21 yrs), abilities, and backgrounds come together to build relationships and develop their skills through the shared love and passion for dance and music” ZooNation: The Kate Prince Company

I first encountered the work of ZooNation in 2013 when I went with my family to see their production Groove On Down The Road at the Southbank Centre. What was immediately so refreshing was the diversity on stage, they weren’t paying lip service to something, it was clearly a passionate commitment to changing how British stages looked. They were giving opportunities to young people from all backgrounds, and allowing audiences to see people on stage who looked like them. Their reworking of The Wizard of Oz was terrific and we were all really engaged particularly my three year old son Dexter. 

The Idiots were  in development for our family show Get Happy (co-produced with the Barbican) at the time and after seeing the ZooNation show I realised that what our anarchic sketch show needed was a dancer. Eventually we auditioned Mikey Ureta (who had played the Tin Man in Groove On Down The Road) and he went on to perform and choreograph Get Happy with us. Dexter came into rehearsals a lot and he became obsessed with Mikey and his dancing. So powerful was this obsession that we only managed to get Dexter to eat his broccoli by pretending to ring Mikey. My wife or I would ask the imaginary Mikey what he was having for dinner, to which he replied "broccoli". When we relayed this to Dexter he was amazed and hurriedly cleared his plate. Mikey eventually told us about ZAD and we enrolled Dexter in Saturday morning classes when he was six years old. The positive creative atmosphere was immediately apparent, and the skill, generosity and talent of the young teachers shone out.

They did classes throughout the year and then worked on routines that were performed just before Christmas at The Place Theatre. I can safely say that these festive performances are among the highlights of my theatre calendar, it is such a joyous occasion and there is plenty of real talent and technique on display. What is more impressive however is the simple pleasure that the young people get from performing and sharing it with an audience. Something hardened professionals could do well to take inspiration from.

Something that has given me real pleasure over the last year was inviting Nuna Sandy to choreograph the dance sequence in our production The Strange Tale of Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel. I met Nuna as she was Dexter's teacher on those Saturday morning classes and I thought her approach and personality was perfect for the Idiots. Needless to say she did a great job. Long may ZAD continue to nurture, provoke and support young people in the unique way that they do. One show I am definitely looking forward to post the pandemic is at The Place just before Christmas, because I promise you there is nothing quite like it.