An ageing comedy duo, stranded in an out of season fishing village, must decide if the devil you know is better than the devil you don't.
Washed Up is a bleakly comic study of a personal and professional relationship in crisis. An unflinching look at the combustible tension that drives Desperate Men, one of the UK's best loved street theatre companies, to keep making vital work, for and with the people, after 37 years. The creative and emotional mechanics of their fractious yet fruitful partnership are laid bare, as they reflect on personal and collective mortality, ecological precarity, and a unique legacy of desperation.
UK. 2018. Duration 39:46. Colour.
"It just took 40 minutes of my life and repaid me with beauty, heart, art, love, humanity, soul, warmth and wisdom. I wish I could embrace you both and weep for life passing, art made and tides turning."
— Tim Crouch —
"It is eye wateringly hilarious, beautiful, daft, dark, honest, melancholic and exquisitely filmed & edited. It hits the sweet spot somewhere between Beckett and the End of The Pier."
— Dave Young (Trans Mutation) —
"It's brilliant... it's quite a thing of beauty."
— Loz Samuels (Artistic Director Devizes Outdoor Celebratory Arts) —
The tender antagonism of what appear to be dysfunctional, codependent relationships fascinates me, particularly when it is a critical driver of vibrant cultural production. I also love cantankerous comedy double acts and redemptive buddy movies. After working with Desperate Men to develop their Proxi and Peri characters (the tides made flesh), I wanted to understand how, and why, they kept working together despite significant personal differences.
I was intrigued by the hybrid documentary potential of locating the simmering resentment of Channel 4's Peep Show in widescreen frames inspired by Sergio Leone's iconic westerns, which is why we shot in Cabo de Gata, Spain. I see Washed Up as a Peep Show spaghetti western, which blurs fact and fiction to put a professional marriage under the microscope, and reveal how mutual disdain is conquered by love.
In playing semi-fictionalised versions of themselves in an out of season Spanish fishing village, Desperate men also embody humanity, facing a looming threat of environmental catastrophe. Their candid reflections, from the vantage point of four decades of politically informed street theatre, echo contemporary anxieties in response to anthropogenic climate change.
This is us, warts and all, grappling with each other's moods and motivations, yet again working very hard for almost nothing, but doggedly keeping going to produce something interesting, and perhaps worthwhile. I'd like all our peers to see this and laugh out loud at our petty absurdities, but also to recognise something of their own creative struggles, and the sense of time running out.
This film means a lot to us - after 38 years of the company's existence and 25 years of Richard and I working together, it's an honest look at how we manage to function and create new work despite our differences, sulks, stubbornness, and volatility. I hope it teaches us all a damn good lesson.
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men
Holy Sonnet 10 (Death Be Not Proud) - John Donne
Nathan Hughes Director/Writer/Producer
Nathan’s work across documentary, drama and design fiction was cited as 'demonstrating a distinctive cinematic and artistic vision’ by Encounters Festival (2012). He is currently seeking to finance a dark comedy feature set in West Wales, from his screenplay developed through London Screenwriter's Festival Talent Campus initiative 2016, and London Comedy Film Festival’s Kick Start Your Comedy Career Masterclass 2017.
Jacob Parish DOP/Editor
Jacob has worked in film and TV for over twenty years and splits his time between editing high-end BBC nature documentaries and working as a DOP on a variety of docs, dramas, commercials and music vids. Jacob is currently working as a DOP on an original Netflix conservation series.
Jon Beedell Co-Producer
Hates working at laptops, e-mails, mobile phones, and screens of any kind, and is happiest in a field full of actors and artists grappling with the impossible. He believes street theatre can change the world – reconnecting people, reclaiming public spaces, inviting participation and direct involvement – the imperative democratic performative – with provocative thinking, happy tears and new ideas.
Richard Headon Co-Producer
Joined Desperate Men in 1996. Recent projects include Co-Artistic Director for Wye Valley River Festival (WVRF) 2016-18 and Bristol 2015 Green Capital project Bristol Loves Tides. Previously provided creative direction for The Nativity Cycle, The WVRF 2014, Battle for the Winds (Cultural Olympiad 2012), The Severn Project (2006-09). Performance work includes Slapstick and Slaughter, Darwin and the Dodo, and The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
Elizabeth Purnell Composer
Composer, arranger and sound designer working in film, theatre, TV and radio. Elizabeth is also an orchestrator who has worked on many BAFTA, EMMY and Academy Award winning scores for feature films, TV Drama, pop arrangements and BBC natural history series.
Angel Pérez Grandi Sound Design
Angel is a Sound Designer and Field Recordist. With over 10 years experience recording and designing sound effects for films including Fury (2014), The Gunman (2015) and The Human Centipede (2009). His field work immerses him in different cultures and remote locations.
Chris Lyons Colourist
Chris has worked across multiple stages of post production for over 8 years, and currently works in distribution for Oscar winning Aardman Animations. He is an in-demand colourist, creating desired looks and aspirations for a broad range of independent film projects.
Robert Stevens Designer
Over the last 20 years, Robert has worked for many of the top London design and advertising agencies on high profile and household brands. He designed the film's end titles, the Washed Up film poster, and this website.
5 Denmark screenings as part of Desperate Men’s Danish tour 2018.
View poster [PDF]
Washed Up was completed thanks to our generous Crowdfunder campaign supporters.
Washed Up and Desperate: New Frontiers for Desperate Men
Theatre Bristol article
Washed Up - EPK