Frantic Assembly

How to speak through limbs and language

Frantic Overview

Frantic Assembly creates thrilling, energetic and unforgettable theatre. The company attracts typically young audiences with work that reflects contemporary culture. Frantic Assembly's unique physical style combines movement, design, music and text.

Frantic Assembly has toured widely throughout the UK, building a reputation as one of the country's most exciting companies. Internationally Frantic Assembly has performed, created and collaborated in 30 different countries.

In addition to its productions Frantic Assembly operates an extensive Learn & Train programme introducing 6,000 participants a year to the company's process of creating theatre, in a wide variety of settings.
Frantic Assembly also delivers Ignition, an innovative vocational training project for young men, particularly targeting those with little previous experience of the arts.

Company Early History and Aim

  • Founded by Scott Graham and Steven Hoggart in 1994
  • The two met at Swansea University in the Drama Society and decided "we were bored sitting watching rehearsals and had more fun mucking about together then we were having on stage".
  • Additionally were involved in a production with Volcano Theatre company that made them aware that there is more than naturalism out there.
  • Formed Frantic Theatre Company right away, "as students, we had recognised that no one would come to watch Swansea University Drama Society perform at the Edinburgh Fringe and that a brand name like 'Frantic' might hide the fact that we were all amateurs."
  • 'Frantic Theatre Company' was changed both due to the cumbersome nature of the name and a threatened lawsuit from another 'Frantic Theatre Company'.
  • Beyond the artistic duo driving their early pieces they claim that it is the people who also saw their vision and felt the desire to push it that made them stand out.
  • "Here was our manifesto; the direct address, here and now, warts and all style. It felt good. People took notice."

Letting them speak for themself:

Frantic Assembly - A Guide to Devising (excerpt)

Frantic as an Establishment

After putting up a number of successful shows Frantic Assembly's buzz started getting them known for the work they were doing, and instead of having to force out work with underpaid, over-worked actors they were able to start creating full-scale professional work.
They refer to this as the shift from the 'get in the back of the van!' years to the 'meet you in the bar' years.
This refers to the Artistic Directors either having to be part of the process of bumping out and moving set on to the next location;
"Having formed the company proper in 1994 the two artistic directors were still touring, performing, and putting up and striking the set in 2001." : Back of the van.
Alternatively, as time went on, they became able to network after the show and possibly sell their show on to further locations/festivals, the bar years. An ability which they felt was invaluable in being viewed as a professional, accessible company.

Frantic Assembly's Othello

Shows as a synthetic sum of more than it's parts.

Frantic are known for, and keenly advertise the fact, that they take design and music into huge account when creating a new show.

"We use contemporary music because this is what tends to inspire us. We do not use it exclusively but we are massive music fans and find that a lot of our ideas come from music. We have quite eclectic music collections and use whatever excites us at the time."

In addition to having the soundtracks for their shows designed by contemporary artists (Imogen Heap and Underworld did the sound design for the last two Frantic Shows) they involve these artists in the process as much as possible. They try and create a totally immersive piece of theatre that reaches its audience on as many levels as possible.

The designer is also a necessary component of Frantic's work and could also be one of their defining features, many of the "Holy Shit" moments in their shows come from innovative use of the stage itself. For example; in Stockholm a key scene shows Kali, the lead female feeling unsafe in her own home. To display this the furniture attacks her. This attack was done by a tank full of water being painted to look like a desk. Throughout the play the desk seems normal until it drags Kali in and attempts to drown her.

"Design is a very important element of the creative process. For example, we do our best to have our designer involved in the research and development sessions. We want them to absorb as much of the process as possible, to comment on movement ideas, observe the potential character work and get a feel for the aims of the project. While this approach encourages a collaborative rehearsal room there is also a very practical reason for this intense, initial involvement of the designer that have ramifications for all of our producing partners and their technical departments. We need to have the set in the rehearsal room with us, from the beginning of rehearsals if possible."

Production History

Lovesong by Abi Morgan (2011) Lovesong intertwines a couple in their 20s with the same man and woman a lifetime later. Their past and present selves collide in this haunting and beautiful tale of togetherness.

Beautiful Burnout by Bryony Lavery (2010) A thrilling, highly physical piece that immerses the audience in the explosive world of boxing, challenging preconceptions about the most controversial sport of our time.

Othello by William Shakespeare adapted by Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett (2008) An electrifying take on Shakespeare's most brutal and gripping thriller-tragedy of paranoia, jealousy, sex and murder.

Stockholm by Bryony Lavery (2007) Treading a fine line between tenderness and cruelty, Stockholm reveals a relationship unravelling. It's beautiful, but it's not pretty.

pool (no water) by Mark Ravenhill (2006) A visceral and shocking play about the fragility of friendship and the jealousy and resentment inspired by success.

Dirty Wonderland scripted by Michael Wynne and devised by the Company (2005) A unique guided tour of excess through the ballrooms and bedrooms of a Brighton hotel.

Hymns by Chris O'Connell (1999/2000, revived in 2005) A sadistic hunt for weakness, four friends push each other until something snaps.

On Blindness by Glyn Cannon (2004) A serious comedy about the complications of perception and desire.

Peepshow by Isabel Wright (2002) A musical which tells the story of seven little lives in one big city.

Heavenly by Scott Graham, Steven Hoggett and Liam Steel (2002) 59 things that will never happen to you again once you are dead.

Tiny Dynamite by Abi Morgan (2001) An impossible love story is given a second chance and three scorched characters learn that lightning does strike twice.

Underworld by Nicola McCartney (2001) Hard, dark, fast and frightening. A ghost story for the 21st century with a breathtaking mix of touching realism and bruising physicality.

Sell Out by Michael Wynne (1998) An argument grows from an honest word among friends. And it grows quickly. Sell Out starts with a whisper snowballing to an irresistible force spiralling out of control.

Zero devised by the company (1998) The house party where all is revealed before the clock strikes in the new millennium.

Flesh by Spencer Hazel (1996/97) Four performers offer their bodies for the price of a ticket.

Klub by Spencer Hazel (1995/96) A relentless look at the importance of club culture in mid-nineties Britain.

Look Back in Anger by John Osborne adapted by Spencer Hazel (1994) A new version of the 1960's classic 'angry young man' drama.