August 1998

Underbelly, Edinburgh


Iona, Gargantua

"The weekend! On a Friday night you can smell the air of freedom, a lightness, colours are richer, the air pulsates with richer, darker, more pungent smells; air vents ooze chocolately scents, the roast of hops hangs in the Edinburgh air, so thick, you could almost swim in it, like diving into a thick, cool pint of Guinness, the cream enveloping your body, oozing into its cavities, entering all the orifices, the mouth, the ears, every crease and fold… ."

Inspired by Rabelais’ book Gargantua and Pantagruel, the production was initiated by a twelve-day devising period, followed by two weeks of writing and four weeks of rehearsal.

Such an extended period of creation meant that the piece became arguably the company’s most successful to date, winning great critical and popular acclaim. The piece was structured by the environment of an old bank, and the building itself became a living, breathing character.

We investigated the contemporary phenomenon of the working week and the weekend binge through the device of four grey-nosed clowns who then transformed into red noses and white costumes for a weekend of fleshy excess, celebrated through personal stories, texts from Rabelais and Isabel Allende and recipies.

Ben Harrison

" Gargantua had a long genesis. I first became interested in the idea of Carnival, in the world turned upside down, whilst studying Carevale at the University of Venice. The idea of the last, rampant, farewell to flesh: literally, carnem levare, to leave meat, before an enforced period of Lent, seemed to echo in our less religously precise times in the weekly ritual of work and living for the weekend. For many people this ritual is literally true."

Winner Scotsman Fringe First Award for New Writing 1998
Nominated Stage Award for Best Ensemble