The Depraved Appetite of Tarrare the Freak

Purcell-Gates, L and Calvert-Ennals, S (2017) The Depraved Appetite of Tarrare the Freak. Tobacco Factory Theatre, Bristol, UK, 25 - 28 January 2017.

Item Type: Performance
Creators: Purcell-Gates, L and Calvert-Ennals, S
Abstract: The Depraved Appetite of Tarrare the Freak is a unique fusion of puppetry and contemporary chamber opera detailing the story of real-life 18th-century French medical anomaly Tarrare. Wattle & Daub collaborated with pathologist Dr Alan Bates, award-winning playwright Hattie Naylor, internationally-renowned pianist and composer Tom Poster, Bristol University's Medical Humanities programme, and an academic advisory panel. Through a darkly compelling yet riotously enjoyable show they explore the rise of the autopsy, and its influence on the medical model of the doctor-patient relationship, through the case study of a medical 'monster' and the doctor who treated him.
Official URL:
Date: January 2017
Funders: The Wellcome Trust, Arts Council England, Tobacco Factory Theatres
Event Location: Tobacco Factory Theatre, Bristol, UK
Additional Locations: Wilton's Music Hall, London, 30 January - 18 February 2017, The North Wall, Oxford, 8 - 9 March 2017, Michael Tippet Centre, Bath Spa Live, Bath, 10 March 2017
Additional Information:

This research was funded by the Wellcome Trust’s Small Arts Award (£30,000) with extension funding of £40,000 awarded by the Wellcome Trust in 2016 for a UK tour of the show with the related public engagement event Performing the Freak: a dialogue between theatre and science about monstrosity, to be held at Bart’s Pathology Museum in London, at the medical humanities event Medicine Unboxed in Cheltenham, and in collaboration with medical departments at 8 universities across the UK. Additional funding of £15,000 was awarded by Arts Council England for the development of the show.

Sita Calvert-Ennals was the director of the stage production. Laura Purcell-Gates was head of the research.

Divisions: College of Liberal Arts
Research Dimensions: The team explored the history of medicine relevant to the case study of Tarrare, specifically the rise of the autopsy and the concurrent shift in the doctor-patient relationship. Collaboratively they integrated this research into the piece in order to raise public awareness of the history of pathology and the autopsy's influence on the modern medical model of patient treatment. Research objectives included: ● Clearly communicate to audiences the connection between the rise of the autopsy and the transformation in doctor-patient relationships in late 18th-century Europe through libretto, design, and narrative arc. ● Disseminate this research through: the show, illustrated programme, associated talk, and project website, thereby allowing the audience to engage directly with the integration of medical research and artistic creation. ● Document methods utilised during the collaborative research and show creation process, identifying those with the greatest success, and disseminate this documentation through the project website. Methods included collaborative research partnerships between medics, academics, and theatre practitioners; integration of historical research with artistic creation through libretto, design, and narrative arc; and examination of the ways in which both the research influences the show's creative process, and the transformative elements of performance creation impacts the nature and direction of the research, including implications for future related research. The piece focuses on Tarrare's medical treatment by Baron Percy, exploring his enormous capacity for consuming food (including live cats and amputated limbs), unsuccessful attempts to treat his condition, and his eventual death and autopsy - a notable example of a clinico-pathological case report. It was first performed at the 2015 Bristol Festival of Puppetry and the 2015 Suspense Festival, with a post-show discussion with the creative team and Dr Bates following the premiere. A project website and illustrated programme provided to audience members at BFP further disseminated findings to audience members and a wider public.
Date Deposited: 16 Feb 2017 18:57
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2017 18:57
Request a change to this item or report an issue Request a change to this item or report an issue
Update item (repository staff only) Update item (repository staff only)