Gruff Rhys on The Insatiable, Inflatable Candylion

The Super Furry Animals frontman talks through his wacky new show for the National Theatre of Wales

The new project from Super Furry Animals frontman Gruff Rhys is a madcap theatre-gig mashup for all ages. Inspired by his 2007 album Candylion, Gruff has worked with writer Tim Price, director Wills Wilson and National Theatre Wales to create the a weird and wonderfully surreal world of music and morality.

The Insatiable, Inflatable Candylion sounds mad. Can you explain what it is?

It sort of takes the format of a rock concert. But it will be a memorable rock concert with a very unusual band and a cast of actors. There’s a narrative and there’s movement and dialogue, but not much dialogue. I’ll be playing in the band every night. Everybody is in the band, in fact – all the actors.

Where did the image of the Candylion come from?

I put out an album called Candylion in 2007 – there was a song called "Candylion" on it – and I worked with an illustrator called Pete Fowler to make a physical Candylion. It was a cardboard cut-out that came with the album. I have been working with Pete for maybe 20 years, he took a lot of inspiration from Japanese manga. The character of the Candylion begins insatiable and grows and grows and is corrupted by greed. And that’s a hallmark of a lot of Japanese manga: there's a transformation into a monster.

Where did the idea of this theatre-rock-show come about?

After the album release I toured it – at the time I had no experience of theatre at all, but I wanted to try to put together a unique concert. We sang out of a giant TV set which we had to build and pack away each night. It was a kind of crude attempt at doing a show with a narrative to it. I worked with National Theatre of Wales on a previous project Praxis Makes Perfect, and they asked me if I had any ideas for a show that would work for people of all ages.

So it’s a family show?

I’ve got no interest in doing something specific for children, because it often becomes sentimental rubbish. But Candylion quite randomly happened to resonate with people of all ages. There’s an element of political allegory in there which people can grasp whether they are extremely young or if they are a bit older as well. But there will be some late-night shows where we will do an encore of Candylion material and we’ll have DJs too.

Musician Gruff Rhys
Musician Gruff Rhys

Will it be like a gig in that there won’t be an interval?

It will run all the way through. We wanted to make an immersive piece that had a very human connection. People are surrounded by screens all day and we really need an antidote to that so it’s purposefully very low tech in some areas. Audio-wise it’s very high tech, it’s a surround sound show the stage completely engulfs the audience who are sat in the middle.

Are you nervous because it’s a slightly new adventure for you?

No. I’ve done several theatre performances before. I’m just extremely excited to get the opportunity to experiment with what a live performance can be.

Are you a theatre buff, when you’re not making music?

There’s a tradition of combining music and theatre that’s beyond musical theatre, which I'm interested in. I enjoy being inspired by very different mediums, like theatre, that I don’t know much about.

The Inflatable, Insatiable Candylion is at the National Theatre Wales until 2 January.