ORLANDO – The Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival kicks off at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, May 16 at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center, and runs through May 29. This year the nearly three-week long festival will feature the largest line-up of shows in its history.
It’s common for a Fringe show to touch on plenty of topical subjects, but this year, one show is looking backwards — in history, that is.
Tasty Monster Productions was founded in 2011 by Heather Bagnall and Luke Tudball in an effort to mix the theatrical talents of artists from some of the best new talent in the United States and the United Kingdom. In the past six years, they have done innovative theater, cabarets, small ensemble shows and musicals. Last year, Tasty Monsters was at Fringe with the musical comedy “The Space Pirate Puppy Musical.”
This year, Like noted, Tasty Monsters is going in a very different direction, taking what he calls a “hard-hitting new look at the Falklands War.”
“Falkland” looks back at 1982 Falklands War, also known as the Falklands Conflict. It was a ten-week war between Argentina and the United Kingdom over two British overseas territories in the South Atlantic.
Written by Heather and directed by Luke, it focuses on two unlikely friends, an idealistic young soldier and a reluctant farmer turned Captain, who find a new camaraderie as the theater of war plays out all around them.
“Bitter conflict, questionable politics, and moral debate engage us in a traumatic, but necessary, journey through the lives of the two men and the many twists and turns they encounter on the road to redemption,” Tasty Monsters noted.
Intrigued, Freeline Media reached out to Luke to learn more about the show.
Freeline Media: Tell us about the origins of this show.
Luke Tudball: It started out with a conversation, as many things do, after seeing the amazing Pip Utton performing his solo show “Playing Maggie” at Edinburgh Fringe where he plays Margaret Thatcher — absolutely brilliantly — and after reading the wonderful yet terrifying book “The Tin-Pot Foreign General and the Old Iron Woman” by Raymond Briggs. We started talking about Thatcher’s legacy and discovered that, as a woman growing up in the eighties in the United States and as a man growing up in the UK, we had very different opinions of her effect on the world. After the show we started talking about Thatcher’s influence. As a young woman in America, Heather was inspired by a powerful, influential woman in office running the country and I, as a young man, growing up in the UK seeing the effects of Thatcher’s administration had a very different view. This, as well as the campaign of Hillary Clinton, started a longer conversation of compare and contrast and we eventually fell upon conversation about the Falkland’s War.
FM: The Falklands conflict dates back to the 1980s. What inspired you to build a show around that incident?
Luke: The Falklands War was a huge thing to the people of the UK but relatively unknown here in the United States. When we started this of course, the election had not yet happened and we joked in the abstract about the fact that many Americans believe that war for political gain is an American invention. Then we elected Donald Trump. I won’t go through the list but with each passing day this show has become more significant and in some ways, more difficult to write. For this reason, we have used the Falklands as a backdrop to tell our story, but we have chosen to create a story line which is not historically representative of any one figure from the war, but instead created characters comprised of many different stories while supporting the story we needed to tell.
FM: Did current events inspire a look back at the Falklands conflict, perhaps as a comment on where we are now?
Luke: Like so many others, prior to the election, we were as political as we felt necessary to be informed at the polls, but the election and subsequent actions of the administration, the global fear, the bully pulpit have weighed heavily on us and influenced the storytelling. We never set out to write a history play, but it has morphed drastically because although it is peppered with the past, it absolutely mirrors the disillusionment of the present. I think as an artist, we have an obligation to use our platform to comment on current events, especially as reflected by the past, and in light of the absence of a long view by our president.
FM: Is this a fairly dramatic, even intense, show?
Luke: This is a drama about people coping with their own fears, and with how to deal with the very real threat of war. There are some pretty intense moments but it’s primarily a conversation. There are some graphic moments in the narrative, which are drawn from first hand accounts but it’s primarily a story about how war, warranted or not, changes people.
FM: Lastly, what’s next for you Tasty Monsters?
Luke: We will be running our family shows at the Kraine Theatre in New York in the fall and touring ‘Ferdinand’ in the schools nationally. Our mission has always been about inspiring conversation, communication, and kindness. Heather is also considering a change in direction, continuing our work as artists but refocusing on a commitment to political activism for social change. It’s always been an aspect of our mission, but lately it’s become more of a calling. We continue to pursue collaboration and are always keeping our eyes open for new projects.
“Falkland” will be performed in the Green Venue on the following dates:
* Friday, May 19 at 7:15 p.m.
* Saturday, May 20 at 4:30 p.m.
* Sunday, May 21 at 8:45 p.m.
* Tuesday, May 23 at 8:45 p.m.
* Friday, May 26 at 5:15 p.m.
* Saturday, May 27 at 4:30 p.m.
* Sunday, May 28 at 11:15 a.m.
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright and author of the book “Koby’s New Home”. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com.