Tales of woe, tales of science, tales of curses, tales of defiance. Also, some juggling. Reach into Fanny’s cabinet for a musical voyage of hilarity. But beware! Somebody’s out to sink her ship… Riddlestick Theatre are dedicated to tickling fancies with weird and wonderful stories and enchanting live music. Choose the tales we tell in this riotous celebration of curiosity and imagination with Fringe show, The Cabinet of Madame Fanny Du Thé. Kate Stokes, Co-Artistic Director of Riddlestick Theatre, lead writer and performer, spoke with The Fountain about the influences behind the show.

TF: You are performing at the Edinburgh Fringe this year, how exciting?  

It’s incredibly exciting! Last year was our first time taking a show to the Fringe as a company, so it was exciting but pretty daunting and we were very much finding our feet. This year we’re taking the same show back, so it’s a bit less daunting now that we know the ropes. And we’re so excited to be on at the Pleasance Courtyard at the very sociable hour of 9pm, as last year we were on at 11:30pm and became a bit nocturnal. 

TF: The Cabinet of Madame Fanny Du Thé certainly sounds intriguing, what is the premise? 

It’s about a very fabulous, flamboyant 18th century explorer called Madame Fanny Du Thé (who I have the pleasure to play) and her adventures travelling the world. She invites the audience to choose an object from her cabinet of curiosities, and for whichever object is chosen, Fanny and her servants re-enact the tale of how she got hold of it. But as the show goes on, it transpires that Fanny is hiding from somebody, and all is not as plain-sailing it seems! (That was supposed to be a travelling pun by the way). 

TF: And what drove the project, where did your influences lie?

We were inspired to create a show based on the concept of cabinets of curiosities after visiting one in a gallery in Berlin (Me Collectors Room – I’d recommend!). In the renaissance period, people would fill their own museum-like rooms with all kinds of odd souvenirs from their travels, and the richness of their cabinet would supposedly reflect the richness of their lives. We liked the idea of telling the story behind each curio, and letting the audience choose. We were also interested in exploring the character who owns the cabinet, and the reason she’s so desperate to flaunt her collection. Films like The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Around The World in 80 Days, The Duchess, and Marie Antoinette all had an influence. A huge part of the show is the live music played on guitar, accordion, and cello. The music is influenced by the various settings of the tales, so we’ve got a whole plethora of influences, including Django Reinhardt, Kraftwerk, and the film scores of Michael Nyman. (In fact, here’s a Spotify playlist of our musical influences: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/7ClAObOFlCJV1Iv3BFII8Z

TF: What are your plans for the Fringe, having been before are there any tips or musts you would offer to first-time performers?

I plan to see many more shows this year. I’m a big fan of comedy, musicals, and storytelling. I’m looking forward to the new show by fellow Bristol-based company The Wardrobe Ensemble, and I’ll probably go for a few viewings of Murder She Didn’t Write by the fantastic Bristol improv troupe Degrees of Error. I recently saw a work-in-progress performance of Sh!t Theatre Drink Rum With Expats and it was really great, so I’ll definitely be catching the finished version.

I also plan to climb Arthur’s seat as I didn’t do that last year. And eat lots of haggis, which I did do last year.

My tips would be: Pack clothes for all weather conditions. Go see free shows! We were part of the free festival last year and we’re so grateful to all the audience members who joined us. Go to the Turkish baths on Portobello beach. And lastly, make sure to get some rest!

TF: And what are your future plans beyond The Cabinet of Madame Fanny Du Thé

We’re currently working on a sort of Shakespearean cabaret/sketch-show called FOOLS for Bristol Shakespeare Festival. We’re also set to do a late-night Christmas show called Undercover Christmas Club at The Wardrobe Theatre in Bristol, so we’ll be getting in the festive mood as soon as the Fringe ends. We’d love to keep touring The Cabinet of Madame Fanny Du Thé, particularly in strange, unexpected places and festivals. In general we just aim to keep on making shows and entertaining audiences! 

You can see The Cabinet of Madame Fanny Du Thé at Pleasance Courtyard from 9th – 26th August at 21:00. For tickets, go to https://tickets.edfringe.com/