Ventriloquist and self-proclaimed “poof prince of puppets” Lachlan Werner is bringing you a horror puppet show on Valentine’s Day next Tuesday. The show, Voices Of Evil, is described as a tour-de-force of physical and vocal comedy, improvisation, songs and subversive, sexy, scary surprises. Wanting to get the low-down on what has summoned this piece to VAULT Festival, we sat down for a pixelated pint with Lachlan to talk all things puppets.
You can catch Lachlan Werner: Voices Of Evil at VAULT Festival on the 14th February for one night only at 21:10. Tickets are available through the VAULT Festival Box Office.
Hi Lachlan! You’re bringing a horror hit to VAULT Festival for Valentine’s Day this year – what made you decide to that?
“Honestly, I’m not sure why I am doing this. I get ticket reports and seeing it going up in two’s I’m realising the MOST horrifying thing about this is that I (single person) will be doing a demented ventriloquist show, mostly in just my pants, for a room of people on dates this Valentine’s.
For the last couple years I’ve dominated the Halloween show market quite a lot – I wanted to branch out. I think if anything is going to bring people together it’s a good exorcism.
I love doing this show and the more it seems to be reaching the kind of people who love it, the more excited I am to do it. I genuinely can’t wait to offer myself as a sacrifice at the feast of Saint Valentine’s in the Vaults this year.”
You’ve described the show as an “hour of occult frights”, give us a little taste of what the audience can expect going in.
“Actual real witchcraft. Within the show my witch, Brew, is hosting a kind of dumb seance event called ‘magic night’ – and I believe this show ends up giving a lot of that – magic. Though this show is built of very basic trickery (puppets, voice illusions, physical stupidity) there is some genuinely wicked energy running through this show.
Also, I really don’t want people to know what’s coming. It’s actually full of twists. At its heart the show tells a pretty surprising – and I hope joyful and slightly empowering – queer story, and just happens to use ventriloquism, very stupid physical comedy and horror to do that.
As far as the horror goes, it depends on people’s tolerances – some people find the show genuinely scary, others think it’s pure ridiculousness. I choose to think it really is terrifying. I think whether you like horror or not you’ll have a stupid fun time.
Oh, also spoons. The show features spoons quite heavily. I’m not sure exactly why that happened – but expect that I guess!”
As the self-described “poof prince of puppets”, what puppetry elements are going to be in the show?
“The show uses puppetry and the idea of puppeteering/control in ways I’m not sure horror or comedy have seen before. It’s nothing like the psycho horror ventriloquists in films like ‘Magic’. The puppetry and voice tricks are chiefly tools to do a horror show that would otherwise require a cast of three.
I’m also absolutely not a puppeteer a la War Horse. The puppetry is extremely muppety – with the exception of some special effect moments – and honestly nothing very complicated. My actual skill when it comes to puppets is being self-delusional enough – I fall for my own trick and fully believe my witch puppet is alive. It’s absolutely her in control.
Before every show I have a little check-in with her and she tells me how it’s going to go and that we are genuinely going to scare the audience silly. She’s the most reliable stage partner.”
Tell us a little bit about the process of creating the show and what you have been up to ahead of the show landing at VAULT Festival.
“The show has been in the works for a bit over a year, and has seen some crazy iterations. I’ve performed it at a 30th birthday, in a tent on a roundabout in Brighton, on a cliff in Anglesey. Most recently was Soho Theatre which was absolutely bonkers to see the show as such a massive theatrical experience. I began the show with an idea for a short comedy set, and kept laughing when I pictured myself as a haunted alter boy.
I’ve been working with my witch puppet for years, but had been reading about Victorian seances and the young girls who led early spiritualism, and loved the idea of creating a really beautiful occult ritual show. The show kind of became more cartoony and queer (and horny) very quickly when I started doing work-in-progress versions of it with the brilliant Sara Segovia.
Since then I’ve been working on it closely with designer, director and co-creator, Laurie Luxe. The show’s amazing visual elements are pretty much her ideas, and she’s always challenging me to find the funny in every moment possible. It’s a total joy working with a director who actually makes my cheeks hurt from laughing.”
Now that we’re gearing up for VAULT Festival 2023, what are you most excited for?
“So, so many incredible shows this year. Too many! I recently saw Trash Salad and loved it, that’s coming back in March. Liv Ello’s Swarm is one of my favourite anarchist pieces ever, genuinely unmissable. Super pumped for Julia Masli’s new WIP. Also Suchandrika Chakrabarti, Posey Mehta and Riss Obolensky. Loads of amazing clowns.
Miss Ellaneous is going to be stunning, hosted by Frankie Thompson and Charlie Wood (two of my absolute favourite performers and artists). Finally, I’m working as dramaturg on a new new ensemble show called Nitwit At Hanging Rock, written by Laurie Luxe and presented by Pointy Finger. It’s a clown adaptation of a pseudo-historical Australian gothic novel. It’s going to be probably weird and definitely hilarious, and it’s on 11th and 12th March in the Crypt.”
Fitting with the themes of our magazine, if your show was an alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverage (think cocktails, mocktails, shots, beers, be creative!) what would it be?
“Really wanted to answer something that fits the spooky vibe (Bloody Mary is a bit obvious) The show has a real flip midway through so I’d say the first half is probably a margarita. Overall quite sweet, with a salty edge and just really pretty camp. The second half is a fireball shot.”