Written for Spoonfed, London Theatre in November 2010:
It’s freezing cold and Matthew Robins – creator of Flyboy is alone again this Christmas soon to open at The Barbican- has cycled to Spoonfed HQ in Islington. He’s frozen but he’s used to it he tells me. He lives in a house with no heating see, “It’s not broken” he says, “there’s just never been any heating. It keeps you feeling a bit fresh” he insists. I don’t believe him. He seems a bit mad, delightfully so.
He wants to talk to me about Flyboy. “Everyone in the town where Flyboy lives is normal, they’re just humans. I mean everyone apart from Mothboy”- What!?
Flyboy is alone again this Christmas is the story of a misfit and his misadventures as he tries to find a way not to spend Christmas alone. Mothboy it seems, comes to be an ally in this mission. Robin’s show is a stripped down, interactive shadow puppet performance that transcends generations. Packed full of clever and inspiring artwork, the demographic of the audience is wide open.
The phrase ‘for adults and children alike’ is used a lot at this time of year but Robins has a different interpretation of it for Flyboy. “A lot of those shows”, he begins “have a sexy Eastenders actress for the dads, an impressionist maybe and a lot of innuendo designed to go over children’s heads. But I like the essence of things like Wall-E, Toy Story and Pixar films where the story and the characters appeal to everyone. There’s no injection of things that granny will like and things the kids will like too”
The title implies a weird and miserable story but the tales of Flyboy are surprisingly warm and uncomplex. “I wasn’t sure they’d go for it” Robins says of the title, “the thing is, he isn’t alone. It’s playing on the idea that a lot of us feel like we don’t fit in but, you know, people like to be miserable sometimes. With Flyboy, he’s quite often surprised that people want to be his friend and that he’s not alone.”
As Robins describes his creation, I feel like I’m being pitched The Mighty Boosh. “Flyboy builds a rocket and goes to a planet full of the ghosts of melted snowmen” he says. But for all its oddities, a sweet, honest story remains is at its heart as do some unforgettable characters: “I was reading A Clockwork Orange a few weeks ago. Not only is it a weird book but it’s a really absorbing story. And the main character is incredibly likeable even though he’s you know, horrifically violent. Every time I finish the book, I really miss the character by the end. Flyboy has the same sort of thing as Alex from A Clockwork Orange, without the killing. He has that thing of being a really real character you wouldn’t mind spending time with” So why a fly? “Well, I’m not very good at drawing people”. Simple.
It also removes that easy to come by Christmas cheese that often coats festive stories about finding a place to belong. “I guess that’s one of the good things about the internet” he says, “when I was a teenager it didn’t exist. Well, it didn’t exist in Cornwall anyway. And now you can find your own little groups. You can find you fit in a lot sooner” Or not. Robins salutes people who don’t quite fit the bill too. “I find people like Jedward really fascinating. You see them on chat shows and they’re not afraid to completely disregard the conventions of what you’re supposed to do. ”
Flyboy is alone again this Christmas has a distinctly interactive element to it and a slightly spontaneous feel: “My feeling is it should be more like a music gig” Robins explains. “You go and essentially see the same things as everyone else but depending on how the night goes, the experience will be different for everyone.”