I met with Lily Ashley and Hugo Hamlet to speak about performance, music, art and falling in love at clown school in Paris.
Hugo Hamlet is one half of Voo Le Voo. He grew up in-between Sydney, Stockholm and London, where he is based at the moment. He studied painting at Sydney College of the Arts and last year attended the L’Ecole Philippe Gaulier just outside of Paris, otherwise known as ‘clown school’. Within the first month of being on the course, Hugo met Lily Ashley who was also learning to be a clown, they went on to form a band call Voo Le Voo.
Hugo developed an interest in performance at a young age. Both of his parents were dancers, his mother a ballerina and his father performed on London’s West End stages in ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ and ‘Phantom of the Opera’ to mention a few. These performances were taking place whilst Hugo was growing up so, naturally he found himself gaining an intrigue in the world of performance. “My interest In being a rascal however must have developed in the classrooms of life, more so the dazzling interest between wit and twit.” Says Hugo, with an extremely cheeky look on his face. When Hugo’s not performing, painting or making music he spends his time becoming fascinated by everything and anything.
Lily Ashley, otherwise known as Slink (on stage) and the other half of Voo Le Voo, was born on a full moon May morning in London and was then taken to the valleys of Mid-Wales where she was brought up. Lily is now based in London although she is trying to be as “un-based” as possible.
Lily is a performer, though she has explored many different artistic outlooks on her journey of life so far. She began expressing herself professionally through film-making and photography and she then went on to make plays of which she did the concept and performed in; ‘The Girl Who Gave Birth to Herself’ (2013) ’Theres a Monster in the Lake’(2014-2015), ‘You Are Me And I Am You’(2016), ‘Mary Mary Quite Contrary (2018) and ‘The Slinks’ (2019). She started writing poetry and performing at poetry gigs around London in 2016. Lily formed a poetry collective with James Messiah and Grace Pilkington called Little Grape Jelly (2017), together they published a book of poetry called ‘Hell-P Me’ (2016-2017) “Anywhere with an audience – I perform!” Says Lily with a smile from ear to ear.
Lily studied performance design and practice at Central Saint Martins in London and after took a course on the Miesner technique, an approach to acting developed by the American theatre practitioner Sanford Meisner. She then went to the E’cole Philippe Gaulier in Paris, where she met Hugo, and formed Voo Le Voo (2018).
I asked Lily ‘How did that lead you to where you are now?’, she replied with:
“Saint Martins was the ultimate eye opener to a world of unconventional performance, the teaching was broad and allowed me to explore whatever niche avenue i desired. The Meisner training taught me how to listen, every page of my notebook read LISTEN furiously scribbled across the entire page, finally Gaulier taught me how to be happy…the most important thing, when you are so deep in studying you forget to to be happy, you can become so self reflective that you forget to enjoy this beautiful path you are going down, i am forever grateful to Philippe for re-enlightening me with joy!”
Surrounding Lily’s possessions are stacks of books written by various greats, it’s clear that Lily has a very sophisticated taste for her age. She named a few main inspirations; James Thiérée (and previously Chaplin), Robert Lepage, Emma Rice, Peter Greenaway, Sally Potter, Martha Fiennes, STASIS, PT Anderson, Pina Bausch Company, Gaby Agis and so many more that I couldn’t keep up!
Lily developed an interest in performance very early on. One specific memory she told me about was aged nine, at her primary school in Wales, she was given a feather boa and asked to play Mrs. Potiphar in Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat. Lily explains; “I pranced around the stage being as “beautiful’ and “seductive” as i could and received a lot of laughter and applause…” Later on that year she formed a band with a couple of friends called “Pony Love” and they began touring the local fairs, soon after she was performing abstract devised pieces in chapel services and being driven to Cardiff to perform in the big theatres as a member of the welsh schools production of “Ice Cream”.
When Lily’s not performing she makes art and mends clothes, “a very useful habit, [as] it calms me down, i love hand sewing” she remarks. Her art pieces include framed, pressed flowers, which she displays all over her studio/home in west London.
When watching Lily perform there is a certain truth and honesty to her work that touches the audience members, I asked her if there is a particular feeling or emotion she gets when performing, she answered with; “Yes, i don’t know what to call it but it makes me want to do a handstand, or run up stairs, or spin on one leg with my arms stretched out super wide.”
Future plans and aspiration of Lily’s include taking a show to the Barbican, a theatre that she loves, and working with her heroes, some of which she’s already had the pleasure of working with and some that are “still waiting in the wings” as Lily put it. “Future…isn’t it just as fairytale as the past? It is impossible to know what it will be until i’m there, maybe i will go totally off grid and never be seen again!” Lily commented with an element of excitement in her eyes.
Lily and Hugo were born in the same hospital in London, only a few months apart, it took them twenty five years of galloping around the world to finally meet in Paris at E’cole Philippe Gaulier, fall in love and form their band Voo Le Voo. Here is an interview I did with them:
Whats the name of the band?
VOO LE VOO
How did you choose the name/where does it come from?
When did you start the band?
Christmas Eve 2017
Is it a band?
Bande à part? A passion art/music/theatre/comedy project.
What made you want to start it?
Where did you meet?
A clown school
What’s your objective?
Is there a theme that runs through your work?
Passion, romance and lemons
Would you say you had a ’sound’, what is it?
No. When we have that we will become bored.
Whats your desired audience?
We are strictly non-exclusive however audience members must be OPEN. Mind off, heart on.
Where have you performed?
Crazy Coq’s, Live at Zédel’s, HowTheLightsGetInFestival, Platform Southwark, The Cockpit, Laylow, The Islington, The Shacklewell Arms, Young Blood Initiative in Hackney…this list is growing as we speak.
Where would you like to perform?
The Barbican, venues with grand pianos and anywhere with machinery and room for Lily to fly.
Who would you like to perform with?
A symphony orchestra, various animals and some (though many dead) magnifique performers.
Have you performed in any other countries ? Where?
France and Australia
Favourite piece/performance/song? What do you like about it?
Our performance at Zédel’s was spectacular, the audience was eclectic and so very joyous. We seduced everyone before transforming into Robin and Robina Hood and playing out the roles of over dramatic lovers….
Is there a specific time of day that you like to make work?
Hugo wakes at 5 in the morning…thats his time, usually we work in the morning. Lily is a midnight kind of bird.
What kind of instruments do you like working with?
Oboe, Piano, guitar, VOICE, bass, drums…. ocarina.
Up and Coming gigs of Lily’s:
Poetry reading on May the 1st in Central London.
Voo Le Voo at the Roughler Club in the 5th May.
An acoustic set at HowTheLightGetInFestival at the end of May.
Art project in the second week of June TBC….
Art Performance with Young Blood Initiative in the first week of July in London
In August “The Slinks” by Voo Le Voo at Edinburgh Fringe Festival performing with Underbelly at their venue “Dexter” at 22:50.
Up and coming gigs of Hugo’s:
April 18th Unit 12 Brixton, London
April 19th Laylow, London
April 27th Comedy Cafe, Berlin
April 29th Barkett, Berlin
May 4th Five Bells, London
May 5th The Italian Job, London w/Voo Le Voo
May 15th 26 Leake Street, London
May 23rd An Evening in Paris Everyman Screen in Angel, London
May 25th How The Lights Get In Festival, Wales
AUGUST Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Scotland, solo show and Voo Le Voo Theatre Show.
Follow @hugohamlet on Instagram
Follow @lilyashleylilyashley on Instagram
Are you a Libra Like Me by Hugo Hamlet, film by Lily Ashley