Queen Mary based Red Cape Black Cape Theatre have had a stonkingly good first year as a company, from humble roots putting on plays with Queen Mary Theatre Company to selling out at the Edinburgh Fringe. They recently finished a five night run at up and coming fringe venue Theatre N16, with a double bill of self-written plays: Hell and Other People and A Fistful of Hunny, the latter being a transfer from Edinburgh.
For Aidan Peppin and Reece Connolly, the mere mortals behind Red Cape Black Cape, this year “feels like it is the start of something”. According to Peppin: “We’re both cautiously hopeful that in a few years down the line we’ll be doing what we’re doing now – writing shows, directing shows and putting them on in venues, but they’ll be bigger venues and it’ll be in a way that’ll be sustainable both in terms of Red Cape Black Cape as a company and to us as individuals.” However, the overriding sense is that “It’s just nice to be able to put stuff on.”
At the centre of their ethos is a sense of joy in what they do, as Connolly explains: “There has to be a sense of silliness because at the end of the day silliness is good. Life is silly.” The juxtaposition of fun with the dark, tragic and downright heartbreaking is a key element in their productions, from Fistful of Hunny’s Tarantino style take on Winnie the Pooh, to Hell and Other People’s bureaucratic pit of eternal damnation. It’s for their benefit as much as the audience’s and they take a child-hearted (if foul-mouthed) pleasure in writing, crafting and performing their shows.
Their most recent venture is the first time they’ve stepped out from the safety net of student theatre. “This is us sort of out there on the tightrope and it seems to be working,” Connolly elaborates. “So far we’ve had great responses, great audiences not in terms of size but in terms of response which is more important. We’d rather have one guy who was loving it than 60 people who don’t get it at all.” In terms of the new partnership with Theatre N16, Peppin is full of praise for the fringe venue’s support of young companies. “We just wanted to have a space to put on our work that would lead to having another space to put on our work, so it’s fab and everything that N16 are doing to support companies like us is fab and vital and important.”
Being at such an early stage in their career as a company is “both very liberating and very terrifying.” Peppin points out: “We can go off and do what we want, but it’s also a bit scary because some of those directions might be the wrong direction and we don’t want to go down those.” They are certainly showing potential and with 5 star reviews from Broadway Baby and London Theatre 1 under their belts it’s not just their friends that think so. Although they are aware of their position on the “fringe of the fringe” and clearly have a long way to go, the positive reception is reassuring as they look to the next stepping stone on Red Cape Black Cape’s path. They are under no illusions as to how much work they’ll need to put in, with Connolly asserting that “neither of us are afraid of working up the ladder, there’s nothing privileged about it and there shouldn’t be.”
Red Cape Black Cape are a young theatre company beginning to make small ripples, perhaps one day they will be making waves. It’s early days yet, but this is the moment to start making those ripples that bit larger and as Connolly puts it: “We’re both young, we’re both slim, we both still smell good so let’s capitalise on that.”