Acclaimed theatre makers Rhum + Clay, in association with Hamish MacDougall, announce the Edinburgh Festival Fringe debut of their show Project Dictator, originally commissioned by New Diorama Theatre, from 03-27 August 2022 at Pleasance Two, Pleasance Courtyard, 18.10.
The darkly comic play was informed and inspired by conversations with international artists from Syria, Venezuela, Brazil, Hungary and Azerbaijan, all living under authoritarian regimes, whose anonymous contributions have shaped the show.
Project Dictator follows two clowns (played by Rhum + Clay’s Co-Artistic Directors Matt Wells and Julian Spooner) performing a show amid political instability; initially enjoying apparent freedom of expression against the backdrop of liberal democracy, before the production is slowly engulfed by the creeping shadow of authoritarianism. Subverting the trope of the comedy double act, this twisted comedy highlights the ironies inherent in creating art without freedom, the delicate balance between artistic expression and complicity, and the consequences of long-established liberties being swept away under rising populism.
Syrian jazz composer Khaled Kurbeh, who performs live alongside the two clowns, has devised a cinematic electroacoustic score, which adds further depth to this powerful, thought-provoking commentary.
Rhum + Clay’s effortlessly slick, cinematically epic productions blend razor-sharp dialogue and characterisation, with beautiful movement visuals and music, and can switch from heart-rending drama to incisive humour in the blink of an eye.
Following a month-long run at New Diorama Theatre where it made its world premiere in March 2022, Project Dictator celebrated critical acclaim. Rhum + Clay’s adaptation of War of the Worlds was a huge hit at the Edinburgh Fringe 2019, receiving widespread critical praise and a major midscale national tour, while previous productions Testosterone, Mistero Buffo and Hardboiled have met similar reception and toured extensively around the world.
Julian Spooner, co-artistic director of Rhum + Clay, says “This show is different to anything we’ve ever made before. We were fascinated by the challenge of using clowning and comedy to explore populism, and the role of the audience in their complicity and deification of leaders. Because of this, each performance is unique and different so we can’t wait to see how the production plays amongst the energy and buzz of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.”