Old Fire Station Blog

News, happenings and goings on from the Old Fire Station, Oxford

CELL – company Q&A

After being diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease, Ted goes on the trip of a lifetime…and so does his pet fish.

We’re delighted to welcome the highly-acclaimed CELL to Oxford, and managed to track down Matt and Molly (from Smoking Apples) and Will (from Dogfish) to ask them a few questions about their work:


Why did the two companies choose to collaborate?

Matt: We met through Creative Youth, who have previously supported us. It caught my eye the way that Little Cauliflower [Will’s previous company and original co-devisors of CELL] used lots of  props and a large kinetic set; we thought that this would compliment our style and form which is very strong and characteristic of our company. I wanted to know what would happen if we brought the two things together.

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What led you to choose to explore MND as the theme for CELL?

Will: The loss of movement associated with MND made it a very interesting subject to explore through puppetry as puppetry is all about animation. People diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease effectively lose their ability to self animate. My grandfather died of Motor Neurone Disease when I was 14 and so once we had found an artistic framing device I knew that I could bring my personal experiences into the rehearsal room.

How did you work with the subject to create the story?

Matt: Initially, even before we got round to talking about MND, we wanted to tell the story of a man on a journey, encountering obstacles and overcoming them. It was through this we explored MND as the ultimate obstacle. This is not a show about a medical condition but about a man who has a medical condition. It’s human and tangible.

CELL is almost entirely nonverbal, why did you decide to do this?

Molly: It has been a great challenge! MND is not an easy disease to get your head around and as such, we not only needed to find a way of giving clear information, we also needed to find a way to make it accessible to audiences. MND is so much about movement and mobility that we felt as though the piece needed to speak through movement, through visuals.

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Both companies work with puppetry, what is it about that form that you like so much?

Will: I like working with puppetry because it offers different opportunities. I personally don’t like theatre that uses too many words and tells me what to think. I like to interpret the story myself as it develops. Puppets never shout and demand your attention, instead they exist in their own world and you can sit and watch the beauty of their movements, allowing for subtler storytelling.

Molly: When an actor is on stage everything from the movement, voice and emotion is all something very familiar to the audience. Puppetry is often used to explore difficult themes because of the distance it provides. I think puppetry allows for new and multiple perspectives to be explored in a relatively fluid manner, for example, reality, dream, imagination, the impossible.

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What are your future plans for CELL?

Molly: We are really delighted to be touring CELL for a second time, taking the show to an even wider range of venues and diverse audiences. We are also very excited to be taking CELL to Germany in May 2016, on it’s first international outing.


CELL is at the Old Fire Station on Thursday 12 May, with support from Science Oxford. Tickets are £15 from www.ticketsoxford.com or 01865 305305.

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This entry was posted on April 22, 2016 by in Out and About, Theatre, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , .
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