Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Andrew Mapperley and Elisabetha Gruener: Mouthful Of Fingers

By | Published on Friday 1 April 2022

‘Mouthful Of Fingers’ – which has a short run at the Bread & Roses Theatre this week – called out to me from the off, not least because of the rather interesting and evocative title.

When I investigated further it turned out to be a post-apocalyptic work with a rather Chekhovian plot, which you must admit, sounds rather compelling.

It’s the work of new producing company Insecta, and its founders Andrew Mapperley, writer of the play, and Elisabetha Gruener, director. I spoke to them both, to find out more about this emerging company and what to expect from the show. 

CM: Can you start by giving us an idea of what ‘Mouthful Of Fingers’ is about..? What story does it tell and where does the narrative take us? 
AM + EG: ‘Mouthful Of Fingers’ is about the survivors of an apocalypse many years after the aftermath, when all there is left to do is wait. We follow the four remaining members of the Warbler family and the fiancé of the oldest daughter, who are living as best they can in what remains of their once great estate.

The family cling to what used to be important – status, marriage and tradition – despite the world around them being nothing but ash and radiation. They are waiting for the last Warbler member, Cousin Fandango, to come and save them, however, someone entirely different shows up, and he has a very different plan for them.

What starts as a story about futility and disappointment cascades into a nightmarish, reality twisting play about revenge, justice and the difference between truth and reality.

CM: Who are the central characters in the play? 
AM + EG: The story follows the Warbler family, three siblings – Paste, Slip and Foster – and their aged Grandfather, Gunthorpe, and Slip’s fiancé, Volvo. The five of them have been stuck in the house together for longer than any of them can remember.

Either through isolation or radiation each member has become warped in some manner, but most acutely affected is Foster, the youngest sibling, who has such an active imagination she sometimes can’t tell the difference between reality and fiction.

And the final character is the Stranger who appears out of what should be an uninhabitable wasteland with nothing but a note for the family, yet his past is tied to the Warblers and now their future is tied to him.  

CM: What themes does the play explore? 
AM + EG: One of the biggest themes is truth, and the idea that what for one person is completely true could be a complete lie to another. Our perception of events changes the facts and in ‘Mouthful Of Fingers’ no one can agree with each other on any of the facts. The second is that of revenge and justice, but we can’t really go too much into that if we want to avoid spoilers!  

CM: What was the inspiration for it? Where did the idea for the play come from? 
AM: The premise came out of trying to combine the styles of two different playwrights, in this case Chekhov and Phillip Ridley. I took the characters and setting from ‘The Cherry Orchard’ and set them down in a world that had been completely destroyed and then wrote the dialogue in a style reminiscent of Ridley’s plays. This ended up creating a world that felt stuck in time, neither the past, the future or the present.  

CM: Can you tell us a bit about the cast and crew? 
AM + EG: We’re all 2022 graduates from the Contemporary Theatre course at East15 but come from various backgrounds and countries. We’re people who get excited by doing theatre that takes both the audience and the performers out of the comfort zone in an unexpected way.  

CM: What hopes do you have for the play after the run at Bread & Roses theatre? Do you plan to stage it elsewhere? 
AM + EG: Nothing concrete yet, but we’re really keen on building a future for ‘Mouthful’ and hopefully to have a future outside the UK.  

CM: Can you tell us about Insecta? What made you decide to form your own company, and what are your aims and ethos? 
AM + EG: We love working collectively, most of the work that we’ve done has been devised and ensemble pieces. It’s always surreal what can be made by collaborating with different creatives, different minds, different sensitivities.

Insecta is formed by individuals who want to dig into and dig out the unspoken aspects of society, the poison is the antidote and vice versa. We create distorted worlds by merging time periods, clashing styles of language, music, aesthetics, with the aim of making the audience pick apart the fantasy to find their own truth underneath. Insecta eats the ancestors, feeds the future and survives.  

CM: Can you tell us a bit about yourselves now? What made you decide to pursue a career in the arts? Was it always what you wanted to do? 
EG: I’m from Mexico City, and with my family I have always been very close to the arts, it’s always been my way of understanding the world. To be honest, I’ve always felt there’s so much to be explored, to be said, to be felt, art is so interesting and vast, not only in the way that it’s been made throughout existence, but also in the way that it’s been perceived. I have kind of always been lost in that path, trying to understand it.  

AM: I’m from Nottingham and I have always loved acting – I had wanted to go to drama school from about the age of sixteen – though over the course of my training I have found a real passion for writing as well. Whilst I still want to act, I now love creating new work, I just love telling messed up stories about the world we live in, but avoiding setting them in our real world.  

CM: What ambitions do you both have for the future?
EG: I just want to keep developing Insecta and my own creative process, to learn from new creatives, to share our work, and hopefully, one day, to make a living of it.  

AM: Continuing to write and act are my main goals for the immediate future, but I would love to be part of a show that tours on an international circuit as hearing the voices and opinions of as many people as possible is how we can keep growing.  

CM: What’s coming up next for you after this?
AM + EG: We’re currently developing new plays for the Launch Festival – ‘Desensitised’ and ‘Liquid Crystals’ – taking place at East 15, and we are transferring other plays – ‘Prisms’ – that were part of the Debut Festival, the same festival where ‘Mouthful’ was released. 

‘Mouthful Of Fingers’ is on at the Bread & Roses Theatre from 5-7 Apr. For more info and to book tickets, head to the venue website here.

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