The Brothers Quay showcase and Q&A

Photograph by Tom Arber, 2012
Photograph by Tom Arber, 2012

Overworlds and Underworlds

From Guest Blogger Morticia Maguire-Broad, @ladylugosi.

I’m with John Waters when it comes to sports – that is I hate it. I mean play games and run round all you want but stop polluting my tv and radio with it. Honestly little makes my heart sink more than the dread phrase ‘and now sports news’ but I think I may have to grudgingly reign in my sports hatred as it is thanks to Leeds Canvas – a coalition of arts organisations that are responsible for commissioning Yorkshire’s contribution for the Cultural Olympiad. And what they have commissioned is only one of the most exciting things to be happening in Leeds for ages – namely the Brothers Quay taking over of the city from 18-20 May 2012 with their Overworlds and Underworlds production.

Last Tuesday Stephen and Timothy came to the beautiful Hyde Park Picture House to tell us a little bit about their work and their plans for Overworlds and Underworlds. In person they are quiet and thoughtful and reminded me a little of Mrs Bridges of Upstairs Downstairs fame, if only hairwise.

They showed us four of their films – Maska, Street of Crocodiles, Stille Nacht 1 and In Absentia and then they answered questions from a large and appreciative audience and said it was a treat for them to see them on a big screen with an audience as that was the way they intended them to be seen rather than individually on a small tv screen. They also talked a little about their influences – both musically and philosophically but they left us tantalised as to what is actually going to happen to the big canvas of Leeds under their stewardship.

Their films are macabre, disquieting, occasionally slightly ghoulish but ultimately charming. They often feature puppets (who they said are a joy to work with as ‘they don’t talk back’) and tell dark tales of obsession, love and madness. Filmed in stop motion animation they can take up to eighteen months to produce and result in occasionally grim visual prose poems often with little dialogue and dissonant aurally jarring soundtracks. They told us they enjoyed the tactility of building their little worlds and the objects and puppets which inhabit them and the full control over those worlds which it gives them. They also said they had been wanting to work in Leeds ever since they had visited the Dark Arches a good few years ago as it was such an inspiring and stimulating environment.

It came as no surprise during the Q+A when they revealed that one of their favourite composers is Charles Ives (who apparently lived in the middle of town and so could hear marching bands approaching from both ends of town) but it came as somewhat of a surprise when asked what film then would watch if they wanted to cheer themselves up and they replied ‘a good old American musical’ and closer questioning afterwards revealed them to be big fans of (the best musical ever written IMO) South Pacific.

Despite lots of probing they remained enticingly reticent about what we can expect in May though they did reveal they have hand picked the artists they are working with and are looking forward to the challenge of working in an unpredictable environment as opposed to their usual studio one where they can control everything. I for one am really excited about this and can’t wait to see what they will produce. Hope to see lots of you in and around the Dark Arches of Leeds on 18-20th May 2012.

You can keep up to date with the plans for the city by logging onto or following @ow_uw or #owuw on Twitter