A Short Concrete History of Clawhammer
(as opposed to the rank hyperbole of the wilder, more aspirational one) Clawhammer was founded in 2011 by Gil Garratt, upon moving back to Toronto after 10 years living in Huron County.
The company has the stated mandate of “creating, developing, and producing innovative works of performance and theatre”. The name Clawhammer is drawn from both the hand tool, used to build and tear apart, and the old time banjo playing method used to simultaneously play melodically and percussively. Both of these definitions have served to philosophically inform all of Clawhammer’s work to date. This broad mission statement has allowed the company to pursue an eclectic array of projects in the past three years including the creation based workshops of:
*How to Stay Fucked: a play based on the banned pornographic writings of Henry Miller and Anaïs Nin, with a strong emphasis on both erotic poetry, pornographic diary, and movement based performance, (a project funded through the OAC’s Creator’s Reserve under the recommendation of the Cabaret Company) Workshopped Winter 2012
*Celtic Forest: a Theatre for Young Audiences’ adaptation of Celtic fairy tales complete with highland dancing, live bagpipes, banjo and fiddle music, (a project funded through the OAC’s Creator’s Reserve under the recommendation of Carousel Players in St.Catharines) Workshopped Spring 2012
*Misshapen OR Sideshow Love: a text based play about a Tall Man who falls in love conjoined sisters named Edith and Piaf , and the subsequent tragedies of their pregnancy and separating surgeries. Workshopped and read by Clawhammer in Toronto, in the spring of 2012
Clawhammer’s work is characterized by high theatricality, challenging content and design, live music, and a perverse flair for the beautifully bizarre.
Gemma James-Smith became an associate artist of the company in 2013,
when she and Garratt collaborated while both working as puppet builders in the studio of Ronnie Burkett Theatre of Marionettes, for his latest touring show and Luminato offering The Daisy Theatre. In the spring of 2013, after discussing their mutual love of Derek McCormack’s novel The Show That Smells, they met with the author. Following numerous emails, and exuberant, exhaustive, exchanges over coffee, Garratt and James- Smith were offered exclusive rights to adapt the work for performance. James-Smith’s decade and a half creating puppets for Ronnie Burkett, and Garratt’s work as a playwright and old time musician, along with their respective careers as performers positioned them as ideal candidates to build this piece. Through Canadian Stage’s RBC BASH program, Clawhammer was offered the opportunity to workshop and present The Show That Smells, at Canstage in February of 2014, to a sold out, standing room only crowd. This project was also funded by the OAC and the TAC.