So, yesterday I had to crawl on my hands and knees to get access to the underground chamber where performer Martin Soan and showman Adam Taffler are constructing a one-off venue for this Saturday. It is in Zone 2 of London.
“People who buy tickets will get texted the location on the day, just like our last event,” Adam Taffler told me.
Last month Martin and Adam staged a Soirée in a Cemetery with comedian Stewart Lee headlining. I could not attend.
“How did it go?” I asked.
“Phenomenal,” said Adam. “Completely sold out. It was in Tower Hamlets Cemetery. We did a walk among the gravestones lit by candles. We had fire breathers and an accordionist and people walked through the whole experience which immersed them in the fabric of the location and the history and then they sat down for the show. Because they were immersed in the location, I liked to think that affected how they received the performance. Certainly Stewart Lee said it was his favourite gig of the last three years.
“It’s in a secret underground chamber. It’s a historical location, so some of the acts will have a historical twist. At one time, it was the biggest tourist attraction in the world. On the first day it opened, 50,000 people came through.
“Sir Francis Dashwood is played by Phil Kay with twelve monks and artists – everything from Lucy Ridley and classical dance through to comics Ed Aczel and Nick Revell doing monk and nun based humour and there’s absinthe cocktails and it’ll be a giggle.”
“So,” I said, “a mixture of comedy, cabaret and music but without the Satanic sacrifice of goats and virgins. What’s the capacity?”
“About 120. They turn up at different times. We have this process of immersing people into the experience. They turn up in groups of about ten. When the audience is ready for a show, then we will go further with it than before. I’m going for this idea of immersive comedy. I don’t want people just to laugh. I want them to have a bit of a cry as well.”
“What will they cry at?” I asked. “Will they get tortured by the monks of Medmenham Abbey?”
“Lucy is going to do this beautiful dance to Dido’s Lament,” said Adam. “And then the comedy will flip the energy right back up.”
“Who was Dido?” I asked. “Was she the one with the Minotaur?”
“I dunno,” said Adam. “But it’s a bit sad. She’s lamenting and there’s a harpsichord and a lady singing.”
“Are you going to put on these Soirée shows regularly?” I asked.
“I think we would like to do the shows every three months, maybe on an increasingly bigger scale.”
“And are you,” I asked, “still picking up random women in parks?”
Adam’s grandfather was a lady lifter – a strongman who, painted in gold, lifted women in the air.
Adam runs a company called Adamotions. The company slogan is: BEWARE YE GODS OF MUNDANITY, WE ARE ALREADY AT YOUR GATES!
“I have a new intern called Gabby,” he told me. “She’s great. We go round lifting up women together. I do the lifting. She does the photography.”
“You were in Vice recently,” I said.
“Yes,” said Adam, “they came and reviewed my Shhh silent speed-dating event the other month – it’s on twice a month in Clapham and Islington. Good places for single professional people.”
“So are Iraq and Syria,” I said.
“So,” said Adam, ignoring this, “Vice came and were very complimentary, which was amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever read a positive article by them about anything. Although the girl who wrote it did call Clapham “a kind of fuckwit caliphate run by Time Out” – But that’s a beautiful turn of phrase.”
“What else are you doing?” I asked.
“Where’s Burning Man?” I asked. “Nevada?”
“Yes. It’s the festival of festivals. You should go there.”
“They would burn me like Edward Woodward,” I said.
“We could arrange that,” said Adam. “My mate builds the structure.”
“Oh Christ! Oh Christ!” I said in the best Western Isles accent I could muster. “And you are now managing the Greatest Show On Legs and occasionally performing with them.”
“Yes. We did this lovely gig down in Totnes last weekend. What was really exciting was that lots of new gags and sketches came together. We’re planning to take the Legs back to the Edinburgh Fringe next year.”
“Are you involved with Pull The Other One in Leipzig?”
“No. Martin and Vivienne Soan do that, but I’m helping Martin with the planned festival in Leipzig, either in 2015 or 2016. It will be a week long or maybe a long weekend to start with. Start small and casual, but it’s such fertile ground over there.”
“So,” I said, “lots of fingers in lots of pies. Is there anything that links them all?”
“I’m excited by taking an audience further than they would expect to go,” said Adam. “I think if you ask people if they want to go somewhere new, they may say no. But, if you gently take them there and push them, they will love it.”
“That sounds like Apple under Steve Jobs,” I said. “He never did market research to see what the public wanted; they just made the product – like an iPad – and sold it. Supposedly because Henry Ford said: If I had asked the public what they wanted, they wouldn’t have said they wanted a motor car – they would have said they wanted a better horse.”
“I think the same thing about the public,” said Adam. “They don’t really know what new thing they want but, when they turn up and are shown it, they can think: Yeah! That’s bloody brilliant! If you give them a name they recognise or something they recognise to entice them in, then you can give them more than they expect.”
As I left, Adam was talking to someone on his mobile phone. All I heard was:
“We have to speak to the friar. We need him to supply us with 120.”