Ben Glasstone is the writer/composer and musical director of The King of Nothing which will play at The Little Angel Theatre.
Monstro Theatre and Little Angel’s co-production The King of Nothing will use music, slapstick and puppetry to re-tell Hans Christian Andersen’s beloved story, The Emperor’s New Clothes.
The King of Nothing will play at The Little Angel Theatre 24 September – 20 November 2022.
The King of Nothing is coming to The Little Angel Theatre, what can you tell us about this production?
It’s a brand-new rollicking and anarchic adaptation of the Emperor’s New Clothes. It’s also a “Puppet Musical” – by which we mean a small-scale musical that uses puppetry and is not too long (as many shows can be…!)
And tell us a little about Monstro Theatre who are producing this new show?
MONSTRO was formed about ten years ago out of artistic relationships that developed via the famous Little Angel Theatre in London. I was first introduced to the place when I did a musical called The Mouse Queen, inspired by Aesop’s Fables. We needed to use some puppets and I was introduced to puppetry director Steve Tiplady. While he was Artistic Director at Little Angel back in the mid-Noughties we worked together on many shows and through that I developed this idea of the Puppet Musical where people, puppets and objects can all sing songs! I’ve written songs sung by a key, a snake, a Christmas stocking and many more: MONSTRO’s last show, Book Story, was about a whole load of books in a library. And yes, they sang songs!
What inspired you to write this retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s Emperor’s New Clothes?
I remember the exact moment. I saw a teacher in the Primary School I was working in holding up two sticks and saying “Year 2 is doing a puppet show of The Emperor’s New Clothes in a two weeks’ time – and this is all that’s arrived!” I thought: “Brilliant, a version of the Emperor’s New Clothes where there are no actual puppets, or set, or anything else, we just have the performers TELLING everybody that there are!”
The “actors” are the “swindlers” of the story and it’s all about suspension of disbelief. Over the years that we’ve been developing this piece and that initial idea has grown and changed, so for example there will actually be some puppets on stage (beautiful ones designed by Alison Alexander!) – but the essence of this idea had remained.
The other obvious inspiration has been that the Emperor’s New Clothes is always such a relevant fable – and no more so than today in the age of endless advertising, where we have to always keep learning (and teaching our children) how to tell when we’re being hoodwinked…
What do you enjoy most about writing for younger audiences?
Children are experiencing everything for the first time. It’s an incredible privilege to be making this early and profound impact on developing minds and sensibilities. And they experience everything so much more intensely than we can now remember or imagine (as adults). My daughter Rachel once came to see a show I’d done, in which my friend and co-writer Tim Kane had played the part of a Lion. Tim came round to our house a bit later to see us and after he left, Rachel asked me: “Daddy, is Tim really a lion?”
And what’s the biggest challenge in creating a show like this?
For me, at the moment, it is letting go. If you spend a lot of time thinking about and developing a piece of writing, then the moment when you let the cast and director take it into their own hands and do their magic is both exhilarating and, at times, painful! But the collaborative process of theatre-making is the whole reason I love it, so I have to be brace and trust my fellow artists… And I do trust them, they are brilliant.
What would you say to anyone thinking of booking to see The King of Nothing?
Do it! Your kids will thank you and you’ll thank yourself. It’s profound and ridiculous and it features a torch-song sung by a mouse.