Interview: Mercè Ribot and Patricia Rodriguez on touring Nothing Happens (Twice)

Acclaimed multilingual physical theatre company Little Soldier Productions are combining slapstick humour with absurdist Beckett as they quest for the answer to ‘why do we carry on’.

In 2018, after many successful shows, Spanish theatre makers Mercè Ribot and Patricia Rodriguez hit new lows when they find themselves dressed as flamingos in Westfield shopping centre promoting the Andalucian tourist board – and they’re not even from Andalucia. In the meantime, they’re struggling to get the rights to perform Waiting For Godot.

Devised by Ribot and Rodriguez who make up Little Soldier Productions, the performing duo have been creating joyful, honest, and innovative theatre since 2010, winning The Stage Award for Acting Excellence (Don Quixote) and the Argus Angel Award (You and Me). The production is directed by Ursula Martinez, whose work fuses theatrical concepts, personal experience, and popular forms to create innovative challenging, experimental theatre that is reflective of contemporary, post-modern world, with a commitment to exploring humour and what it is to be human.

Their UK tour began on 11 March and comes to a close on 21 April, with eight of its twelve venues remaining. Shortly after opening the tour, I caught up with Ribot and Rodriguez to find out more about the production and its inspiration.

Photo: Pau Ros

Q&A with Mercè and Patricia

What can you tell us about Nothing Happens (Twice)?

Mercè: It’s a show about friendship, failure and Waiting for Godot. Despite its irreverence, the show celebrates Beckett’s masterpiece, which we very intentionally have mirrored and merged with our own life experiences to help us tell our story. As well as in the original play, the physical comedy is inspired by the Marx Brothers, Keaton and Chaplin, but neither Patricia nor I, shy away from the tender and heartfelt emotional moments.

Also, in the words of our director Ursula Martinez, this show ‘tells the story of how utterly mind-blowing it is that in 2023 women are still not allowed to perform Waiting For Godot!’’

Where did the inspiration for the play come from?

Patricia: It came from a desire of overcoming a bump on a road as makers, a moment of hitting rock bottom. In the middle of it, in 2019, when we were discussing our next project, the possibility of  Waiting for Godot arrived as we were attracted to the idea of tackling an iconic piece. We looked at the literary canon of XX century plays, ideal for two people, ideally something strong -already written- that we could hold on to…and we found Waiting for Godot. Later on in the process, when we were really exploring and developing the material, when we were digging the history of our relationship as a company, we discovered that we had already talked about making a version of Waiting for Godot back in 2010. Beckett’s play turned out to have a stronger meaning than we originally anticipated and became the whole frame of our show. An autobiographical piece that not only talks about our friendship and our theatre journey together but also asks the question of Why do we carry on.

The play’s title makes the link to Waiting for Godot explicitly clear for the audience before the show – how important was it to make that link back to Beckett’s work explicitly clear from the outset?

Mercè: There is no need at all to know the author or the play; the show unravels its history and significance as part of the play’s journey. And this is enjoyable in itself. And for those who know the play and the author well, you’ll be able to recognise loads of elements from the original text and Beckett’s visually striking stage images. It’s really satisfying to draw parallels. By re-imagining the classic, we’re giving it new meaning for audiences today as well as paying homage to it. There is something for everyone!

How does it feel to be on tour?

Patricia: It feels great, going around the country and sharing the piece with different audiences is one of the most wonderful experiences. We are very proud of this show and we can’t wait to do it again, and again and again.  We are also looking into taking the show internationally – as we have done with most of our shows- so world, get ready, here we come!

How would you describe the show to someone considering buying a ticket?

Patricia: It is an intricate piece of theatre that has been put together by a team of fantastic artists – led by Ursula Martinez- It is fun but also emotional. You will laugh and feel a bit more connected to humanity than you probably were before the show. Also the reviews are very good!

Nothing Happens (Twice) tours nationally until 21 April.