Way back in 2013, we were out-of-work theatre makers debating the difference between a freedom fighter and a terrorist in a basement flat in Shepherd’s Bush. One debate led to another (thanks in part to a bottle of Cuban rum we were sharing) and that summer we were at the Edinburgh Fringe with Bin Laden: The One Man Show having ad hoc post-show discussions in the bar with audiences from all walks of life.
Since being made on a shoe-string Bin Laden: The One Man Show has received seven awards internationally and toured the UK, USA and Australia. The post-show debate has become a kind of Act 2 to every performance and a cornerstone of the identity of the company – connecting audiences over difficult conversations. This initial success convinced us to form a company in 2015.
Our second major production was an interactive adaptation of Karel Čapek’s science fiction classic War with the Newts with immersive set and sound design. This saw 86 performances throughout the UK including Summerhall (Edinburgh Fringe Festival), Royal Exchange, Manchester and a three week London run. War with the Newts received Summerhall’s Lustrum Award for Outstanding Theatre. This show sparked debates around colonialism, capitalism and the exploitation of the ‘othered’ which we held in a more democratic, open space model.
We have since continued to work across many styles and genres experimenting with new material and forms with which to explore the dialectics of our time. Smaller scale projects include: Pain, the Brain and A Little Bit of Magic a public understanding of science project funded by The Wellcome Trust for adults with Chronic Pain in collaboration with University of Manchester; Antarctica is an interactive work for schools about climate change with Manchester Camerata funded by The UK Antarctic Heritage trust; experiments in immersive, interactive gameplay theatre with the Royal Exchange and various festivals; and explorations of future technology with academics from University of Leeds funded by the DARE foundation. We also collaborated with Impermanence Dance Theatre on their dance adaptation of Bertolt Brecht’s Baal (Bristol Old Vic).
Now, in these uncertain times, we are experimenting with digital engagement and exploring how we can empower other voices to make work that connects audiences through sparking important debates. This has lead us to create a new online venue, Knaïve Theatre presents: A Digital Lyceum, which launches its inaugural season including new works by Lavinia Murray and Dr Robert Bentall, Covid Lockdown Breath Machine, and Kamal Kaan, Us, (Post 23/3), in October 2020.