Apart from directing and co-creating the incomparable Shockheaded Peter, Improbable have been responsible for some other very very good theatre over the years. Their trademarks are part improvising shows - Spirit opened and closed with the three performers chatting about how they were feeling about life, each other and what'd happened - addressing the audience directly, and puppetry, usually without a string in sight - the transformation scenes in Cinderella were truly magical. Oh, and things going wrong.
The latest is The Hanging Man, at the Lyric Hammersmith until the 21st June.
An architect, who's earlier created one church acclaimed as a masterpiece, is given the job of creating a cathedral - no restrictions, just do the very best possible job. The pressure of following up the earlier work is too much, so he hangs himself.
Unfortunately(?) Death isn't interested in collecting him, so he lives, swinging from the rafters. At first people are afraid and then delighted as no-one else dies either. Well, everyone except the military: what's the point of fighting battles if you don't know who's won? And does anyone really want to live forever?
What it reminds me most of is Bob Fosse's All That Jazz. Like the architect and Improbable themselves, he created a popular and critical smash hit (in Fosse's case, Cabaret). Success in the arts brings both freedom and pressure. Funders want more of the same but better. Just how do you follow a success? And what happens when the next one isn't as successful, despite all your efforts?
Like ATJ, The Hanging Man is about the process of creation of the follow up, has Death as a major character talking to the main character, and an ending where (spoiler, select the hidden text to read it) the main character only dies when he most wants to live. It has humour - the vision of Hell is particularly good - and horror.
I want to see this again, partly to see just how much does change - were some of the 'mistakes' designed in? - but also because as with all of their shows, I left feeling I'd been in the presence of genius.