Nic Lawton and Ezre Holland on Butchered.
We were excited by Expial Atrocious‘ trailer for BUTCHERED which plays the first weekend of VAULT Festival (28 & 29 January). Defying the the old aphorism about watching the sausage being made we caught up with co-artistic directors Nic Lawton and Ezra Holland to find out a little more about their show, their experiences with butchery and some of their VAULT Festival highlights.
First off, tell us a bit about BUTCHERED? What can audiences expect in the Vaults in January?
“BUTCHERED” is a physical, absurdist horror unlike anything you’ve seen or heard before. Set in a dingy kitchen basement, Master Sausage only knows one thing. Eat, sleep, sausage, repeat. They cannot imagine their life beyond the butchery. But when a babbling, fresh-faced Apprentice arrives, a harsh reality is brought with them. As tensions rise, sinister questions rear their heads. What does it mean to be happy? Is there more to life than this? What’s in those sausages anyway?
If audiences want to see a show that is visually and audibly immersive and will leave them thinking “what the f*ck?”, then have we got the show for you… Expect stomach-churning sound design, a heart-felt reimagining of absurdist theatre and the want to have a shower afterwards.
Have either of you worked in a kitchen – should we be worried that “BUTCHERED” might be based on your real-life kitchen experiences?
Ez: I worked in my mum’s cafe when I was younger but luckily the kitchen in BUTCHERED isn’t one that we would experience in real life (or at least you hope it wouldn’t) However, I did make a trip to my favourite butchers at Greendale Farm Shop down in Devon to learn how sausages are made and it was certainly an eye opening experience. The butchers there were incredible and even let me go into the big carcass room! It was amazing but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were slightly confused by my enthusiasm!
“BUTCHERED” is less about haunting kitchens and more about the things that haunt our characters. Being stuck in an endless work cycle, struggling to voice your passions and doing what you need to do before you can do what you want to do are some of the main themes in the show – themes that we feel everyone can relate to in some way.
BUTCHERED is the second show from Expial Atrocious, right?
Yes, our first show as a company was a digital production we wrote, filmed and edited ourselves called Hear. Speak. See. for Edinburgh Fringe’s online festival in 2021. It’s a very weird and wonderful show and spearheaded our journey to find our niche. We started leaning into the horror side of theatre from that point, and after a long discussion about creating a thrilling narrative, poignant imagery and a shockingly emotional conclusion in a room full of whiteboards, “BUTCHERED” was born. It’s Hear. Speak. See.’s big, scary brother and we adore it.
It sounds to us like playing the “Pit” in The Vaults might fit really well with your themes and your atmosphere, would that be fair?
That’s spot-on! As the show is set underground, this will be the first time we’ll get to perform it beneath the surface… We can’t wait to truly immerse the audiences at VAULT Festival in the world of Master Sausage and their Apprentice, in the place where our show is meant to be. It’s dark, it’s dingy, it’s home.
In 2022, BUTCHERED went to Edinburgh Fringe, how did that go? Have you continued to develop the show since then?
Edinburgh Fringe was the best experience we’ve ever had. We had a blast and audiences from varying backgrounds and theatrical tastes took something from the show, which is exactly what we were hoping for! This may be a monster of a show with what seems to be a slightly ridiculous premise, but the message is universal and important.
The show will always receive tweaks here and there, and Edinburgh was a great time for us to receive feedback, especially from fellow artists who we met there and are still in contact with today. Overall, Edinburgh was filled with happy crying, lots of nerves and a bucket load of butchery and we couldn’t have asked for a better experience to kickstart the show!
Your trailer highlights some of the physical storytelling in BUTCHERED and suggests plenty of work has gone into your choreography, can you talk a little about that?
We love working physically when devising, and we thrive in the development of finding a language for a performance. “BUTCHERED”’s language contains a heaping of dynamic physical theatre, an abstracted sense of time and is set to a killer soundtrack. We’re all about the sounds and the visuals in this show, as we relish in creating lasting moments for our audiences while presenting the familiar in unfamiliar ways. That’s a big part of our company’s practice – showing how the scariest being on the planet doesn’t live under your bed. The monster is man itself.
What’s next for both BUTCHERED and for Expial Atrocious?
We had a small taste of Edinburgh Fringe last year and are hungry for more. We’ve got plans to make “BUTCHERED” even bigger and better and have a longer run at EdFringe 2023. We’d also love to tour the show to venues who support new writing, fringe theatre and something very out of the ordinary.
As for the company, we want to keep pushing and making even more nightmarish theatre.
Finally, do you have any recommendations for other shows to check out at VAULT Festival?
We recommend Holly Delefortrie’s Sex-Ed Revisited, (you can find our interview with Holly here) “Caceroleo” by Rhys Hastings and Nastazja Domaradzka, “Sluts with Consoles” by our good friends Dogmouth Theatre and the incredible Ugly Bucket with their techno, emotional masterpiece “Good Grief.”
Our thanks to Nic and Ezra for finding time to chat with us. Butchered plays VAULT Festival 28 and 29 January, further information and tickets can be found here. We are looking forward to meeting Master Sausage so do check back for our Everything Theatre review.