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  • Scarborough
  • Charlotte O'Sullivan
  • 10-01-2018 09:43:36

Told by an Idiot, Theatre Royal Plymouth and Arcola Theatre present the world premiere of


Napoleon Disrobed


A comic alternative history

Based on the novel The Death of Napoleon by Simon Leys

Directed by Kathryn Hunter

Design by Michael Vale

Lighting design by Aideen Malone

Sound design by Adrienne Quartly

Blog image by Manuel Harlan


What if Napoleon didn’t die in exile? What if he swapped identities with a lowly sailor and made it back to Paris? What then?


Kathryn Hunter directs Paul Hunter (Told by an Idiot co-founder and artistic director) and Ayesha Antoine (who has appeared at the SJT in Alan Ayckbourn’s My Wonderful Day, Absurd Person Singular and Surprises) in Napoleon Disrobed, a playful meditation on the significance of power, based on the acclaimed novella The Death of Napoleon by Simon Leys. It visits the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, from Tuesday 20 to Saturday 24 March.


It follows Kathryn and Paul’s hugely successful collaboration on the Told by an Idiot international smash-hit My Perfect Mind.


Napoleon Disrobed is a wry re-imagining of the final years of Napoleon Bonaparte and examines how legend can often be stronger than reality. Using the company’s trademark comic physicality, Napoleon Disrobed looks at the absurdity of trying to retrieve time and glory and dissects the notion of what it is to lose power but gain personal freedom in the transition from one identity to another.


Director Kathryn Hunter says: “When Paul gave me Simon Leys’ novella to read, I was immediately caught by the author's wit and playfulness. The story is not a serious historical proposition but a pretext to ask questions about how we live and what we regard as important in our lives.


“I am so excited to be creating this adaptation with Paul and Ayesha. Paul is pure comic genius, whose seemingly infinite invention often leaves me speechless in rehearsal. Ayesha is a performer of huge depth, strength and versatility. Together they make a formidable pair and take us on an unforgettable journey.”


Told by an Idiot explores the human condition through theatre that is bigger than life. They acknowledge the artifice of performance and make no attempt to put reality on stage, but they inhabit the space between laughter and pain, which exists in the real world. Their work is rooted in the live event and thrives on a sense of spontaneity and risk, celebrating the unpredictability of performance. Through playful collaborative writing, anarchic physicality and a comedic sensibility they create genuinely spontaneous experiences for audiences.


Through their work on stage and through their participation work they foster a sense of openness, curiosity and the desire to play. They consistently experiment with what art can be and who can be involved, and in doing so their work blurs the lines between artist, participant and audience. Their commitment to accessibility informs the entwined relationship between their productions and their participation work.


Told by an Idiot take creative risks, tell universal stories and include everyone.


Napoleon Disrobed can be seen in the McCarthy auditorium at the Stephen Joseph Theatre on Tuesday 20, Wednesday 21, and Friday 23 March at 7.45pm; Thursday 22 March at 1.45pm and 7.15pm; and Saturday 24 March at 2.45pm and 7.45pm. Tickets cost from £10 to £18, with £6 tickets available for those aged between 16 and 30 or in full-time education, and can be bought via the box office on 01723 370542 or online at www.sjt.uk.com