Delving into deranged world of the Morecambe Mermaid

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In Big Society she played a raucous cabaret performer who had a way with the audience.

Now she’s back in a raucous cabaret that aims to have all manner of fun with its audience.

Lisa Howard was last on stage when she appeared as an escapologist and all-round entertainer in Red Ladder’s Big Society, staged at Leeds City Varieties in January. That show, starring Phill Jupitus, was a huge hit for the company and the theatre, featuring bawdy humour, cheekiness and the sort of slapstick, fun routines that harked back to the end of the pier shows.

She returns with co-collaborator John Barber in a show that sounds like it has elements of slapstick, cheekiness and the sort of fun routines that used to feature in end of the pier shows.

Using puppets, the show, Captain Murderer and the Morecambe Mermaid, might sound like a children’s event, but it’s aimed very much at an adult audience.

“We have given it a 15 rating, so people realise that it’s not really a show for children,” says Barber.

Howard and Barber have worked together on a number of shows over the years, but have wanted to stage something of their own for some time.

“It’s one thing to be in a show like Big Society, where there are 15 voices in the room trying to have their say and it’s another entirely to have your own creative control,” says Howard.

“Me and John have worked together on lots of different shows and we were both aware that we shared a lot of things when it came to the sort of work we wanted to do.

“We’re both very visual and have an eye for design and enjoy devising work together.”

Barber, a fan of Charles Dickens, discovered a previously unknown story – at least to Barber – written by Dickens, Captain Murderer.

“I found it in a second-hand bookshop in Brazil and loved the story. I knew it was something I wanted to work with immediately.”

Working in collaboration with Howard, the pair came up with a new story, based on the Dickens tale, featuring the Morecambe Mermaid.

Barber and Howard created Captain Mermaid Theatre Company last year and staged the research and development period of creating the new piece at The Dukes Theatre in Lancaster last year.

With Arts Council funding, they are now taking the piece out on the road.

Howard says: “We’re based in Chapeltown and are making all our work in Leeds, so it’s great to be performing in the city, but we’re really looking forward to taking the show on the road now and getting it in front of an audience,” she says.