Eccentric playwright Aaron Hubbard comes from a strong TV, film and theatre background, and is known for his commitment to gallows humour. His new play Clap Hands explores the darkly funny side of love-hate sibling relationships, based on his reaction to the disturbing story of the Fritzl family. The production zooms in on the trials and tribulations two siblings endure as they are locked in the basement of their home by their mother, away from the prying eyes of their community. Under the immense strain of their adoration and hatred in equal measure, Ana and Gogol begin to plot their escape, and maybe even murder. Exploring themes of responsibility, sibling rivalry and the dark side of love, it promises to be a truly challenging piece of theatre. Desperate, deviant and dreamlike, Clap Hands is about to hit Hackney Showroom with a vengeance.
What three words would you choose to describe your work?
Soothing existential dread.
How has your background brought you to this point?
Clap Hands is certainly not representative of my own childhood. That is to say, my parents never locked me in the basement or held me against my will. Although I did once barricade myself in my room and do a poo on the floor.
Where did this complex story come from?
I watched a lot of Columbo as a child, which certainly had an influence on Clap Hands. I got very caught up with the Josef Fritzl case a few years ago, which also informed the play. A key character in the play – Cruz Gentle – was inspired by an episode of the KCRW UnFictional podcast where Alex Schmidt investigated the mysterious life and disappearance of Little Julian Herrera, a musician on the East LA Chicano music scene in the 1950s and 1960s. It’s an amazing story. I won’t spoil it, but I really recommend downloading the podcast.
Why does dark humour appeal to you?
Gosh, that’s a hard question. Clap Hands is a post-Fritzl narrative: its subject matter is domestic imprisonment. Gallows humour is a coping mechanism that has evolved to help us process monstrous acts like this. The humour in Clap Hands grew naturally from the characters and the world they inhabit.
What do you think it means to endure a relationship?
Probably best to ask my wife. Let me see if I can find the keys to the basement…
What’s next for you?
I am currently writing a play about Otherkin – people who identify as non-human. They have formed a dedicated internet subculture, which means I can finally justify spending all day on Tumblr in the name of research.
Clap Hands is at Hackney Showroom, 17 Amhurst Terrace, E8 2BT from 14–25 July hackneyshowroom.com