Interview: Danse Macabre

Updated: Sep 20, 2020

So what is Danse Macabre?

Danse Macabre is a new theatre company of York University graduates who want to stage innovative shows, with a focus on bringing a little lightness to the dark. By taking serious themes and adding our own irreverent humour, we hope that we can make people laugh at their greatest fears, whilst remaining respectful to the issues at hand.

Who are you?

We all began studying theatre at the University of York; there’s Joseph Willis, a writer/director who’s terrified of jellyfish; Sarah Warham, our inspirational lead actress and resident goblin impersonator; and Sam Essame, an amazing writer/director, who regularly gets in trouble with revolving doors. We also work with several fabulous collaborators, again all from York.

And what shows have you got coming up?

February 9th in Friargate Theatre, York, we will be doing a double bill debut of original plays; Every Breath You Take, a horror about a writer struggling with her second novel, who begins to lose the line between fiction and reality; and Marley, a black comedy about a dim-witted reporter and a high ranking police-officer as they discuss a recent case.

We’re also producing a promenade site-specific adaption of Washington Irving’s The Legend of the Sleepy Hollow to be performed in mid-July.

What’s the best and worst thing about setting up a new company? What can be frustrating is the lack of a safety net. If something goes wrong, or not enough money is raised for the shows, then we have to deal with it, we can’t just let someone else look after it. At the same time, this is also the best thing as it means we have to push ourselves, our restrictions are only as problematic as we make them. If we need to make £500 then it’s only ourselves that stand in the way of that getting done.

“We take themes such as existentialism, corruption and writer’s block, and turn them on their head”

Do you ever find that there is a stigma to ‘setting up a new company’? Again, it’s a bit of a double-edged sword, as everyone who graduates after studying theatre does seem to set up a company, and so there is always someone willing to make that joke. At the same time, it is also the best way to get your work put on, as roles and opportunities are scarce and over-subscribed. It allows you to hone your craft, and as you write a show and give it to an audience who have no idea who you are, you’re definitely going to get an honest response.

And what sets you apart from other companies? We like to use innovative staging in our work: previous shows have been performed entirely by torchlight. We like to take established genres such as police dramas or horror, and widely-used themes such as existentialism, corruption and writer’s block, and turn them on their head. By poking fun at them, we can still discuss the themes, or exploit the genre, but in way that makes them fresh and interesting. And all this is done with a slight gothic touch, or as someone described us ‘like Tim Burton and Billy Wilder decided to start a theatre company’.

Do you have any other influences?

We adore Martin McDonagh, and Alistair McDowall: the former for his wickedly dark humour and skill for spinning stories, the latter for his mixture of fantastical high concepts and grounded settings. Camilla Whitehill for her brilliant way of exploring a whole story and era entirely through monologue. And Annie Baker for her powerful naturalistic dialogue. Hopefully you’ll be able to notice these influences in our shows, rather than imitations. We’d rather avoid seeming like some random theatrical tribute band.

The Danse Macabre Double Bill is performing at the Friargate Theatre, York on the 9th of February at 7:30pm. Tickets (£5 adults, £3 concessions) available at the box office and online (

#BlackComedy #Horror #FriargateTheatre #UniversityofYork #Comedy #drama #theatre

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