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Ovalhouse and TOOT present

Focus Group* by TOOT

*or How to Stare Down & Transfigure Loneliness1

1 a play after David Foster Wallace

  • Wheelchair Access
  • TUES 31 JAN - SAT 4 FEB. 7.30pm. Preview TUES 31 JAN.

Running time: 60 mins

Venue: Downstairs

Created and performed by Stuart Barter, Clare Dunn and Terry O'Donovan.
Dramaturgy by Nina Steiger. Design by Jackie Shemesh. Produced by Faith Dodkins.


Inspired by the short story Mister Squishy by cult US writer David Foster Wallace, Focus Group* is an absurd comedy with a dark heart, exploring the absurdity of modern life and consumer culture with humanity and humour. It is dark, unsettling and playful. The production celebrates the human drive to continue in what can feel like an increasingly remote reality. 

Through TOOT’s distinctive style of interactive performance, the company provokes audiences to consider whether a real connection is possible at all.

Sit back, eat (individually wrapped, luxury) cake, and see a man gradually relinquish the delusion that he matters in the slightest.... And then go back to watching kitten videos on Facebook.


Suitable for ages 14+

’...this parable of limiting life down to human usefulness is as beautiful as it is bleak’ Exeunt

Join us to discuss Focus Group after the show on Thurs 2 Feb​! A relaxed and informal gathering over a glass of wine, *Discuss gives our audience the opportunity to lead the conversation. Find out more here.


  • Tue 31 Jan, 7:30pm
  • Wed 1 Feb, 7:30pm
  • Thu 2 Feb, 7:30pm
  • Fri 3 Feb, 7:30pm
  • Sat 4 Feb, 7:30pm

TOOT is a collaboration between performer/directors Stuart Barter (Left With Pictures), Clare Dunn (Unpacked/fanSHEN), Terry O’Donovan (Dante or Die) and producer Faith Dodkins.

TOOT makes interactive performances that explore the human condition, rooted in the everyday. We combine skills in site-specific performance, physical & visual theatre and live music, creating a distinctive new aesthetic in devised work.

Their first show Ten Out of Ten was commissioned by Ovalhouse for a three week run, opening their 'Beside Me' season in Autumn 2012, followed by a sold-out run at Assembly (Edinburgh Fringe 2013), and a national tour.

‘Thoroughly engaging. TOOT are one to watch’ - Lyn Gardner, the Guardian


Terry founded TOOT with Clare, Stu & Faith in 2012. 
He is the Co-Artistic Director of Dante or Die, specialising in site-sensitive performances in which he performs or co-directs. Productions include I Do (Almeida & South Street co-commissions, Irish Tour), Take On Me (Farnham Maltings & APScommission), Handle With Care (UK Tour), La Fille à la Mode (National Theatre Watch This Space, Theatre Royal Haymarket), Side Effects (Laban Theatre, Rich Mix, Royal Opera House Linbury Studio), Caliper Boy (Spirit of the Fringe Nom Dublin Fringe Festival, CPT).

Directing credits include: On the Wire (Best Production Nomination, Irish Times Theatre Awards; Wildebeest Theatre Ireland), The Secret Princess of Severndroog (Look Left Look Right for Greenwich & Docklands International Festival Commission), Home Fires & Our Dancing Feet (Zap Arts & Inroad Prods). He was Associate Director with Peut-Être Theatre for The Bug and The Butterfly (Lyric Hammersmith & UK Tour) and The Tin Soldier (Barnsley Civic, Roundhouse, UK & International Tours).

He has performed in a variety of contexts including Dance Umbrella (Dance Marathon at The Barbican & Willi Dorner's Bodies in Urban Spaces), Rosana Cade’s Walking: Holding (National Theatre River Stage), Propeller Theatre’s The Winter’s Tale.


Faith is an experienced freelance producer with an interest in the small-scale, live performance, experimental theatre, intimate performances in unusual spaces and clever work for young people.

As well as being part of TOOT, she sits on the board of Dante or Die and works with a collective of artists and producers transforming the disused St. Mark’s Chapel in East Brighton into a development space, called The Spire – a place for emerging theatre makers, community collaboration, live events and experimentation. She works part time in the Theatre & Dance team at the British Council. 

Over the past six years Faith has had work supported, commissioned and programmed at venues and festivals across the UK including Shoreditch Town Hall, Brighton Dome & Festival, South Street, The New Wolsey, The Lowry, Cambridge Junction, Camden People’s Theatre, Ovalhouse, Wales Millennium Centre, Pegasus Theatre, Harrogate Theatre, BE Festival, Pleasance Edinburgh, Assembly Festival and Latitude; and internationally at Brisbane Powerhouse, Melbourne Arts House, Intrepid Theatre and De Spil.

She has also made inclusive theatre work for children and young people –Battleship Island premiered at The Basement in April 2012, as part of Brighton & Hove Children’s Festival and toured in Spring 2013 (South Street Reading, Norden Farm Centre for the Arts and Chickenshed).

Clare is a director, performer and theatre maker. She is an associate of One Tenth Human (Sarah Punshon), as a co-curator and performer and is touring We’re Stuck! in 2016/17 produced by China Plate.

She currently works with FanSHEN on several projects including Lists for The End of The World  2017, her theatre work spans projects and shows with The Wellcome Trust, Gecko, Arch 468, Dante or Die, The Victoria & Albert Museum, Compagnie Passe Muraille and New Writing South, Bristol Old Vic, Pulse SOHO shorts, Hiccup and Little Green Pig Young writers project. 

Since 2004, as part of theatre company Unpacked she co-created and developed all of their touring shows to 2011. She is currently creating a show with Delme Thomas and Shoreditch Town Hall about food and community.

Clare is resident theatre practitioner at Sevenoaks School and has been a sessional lecturer for Reading University. She trained at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and DAH Teatar, Belgrade.


Stu is a theatre practitioner and composer from London.
Alongside TOOT, his actor musician / composer credits include theatre work with Tall Stories’, Dante or Die, Victoria Melody, Look Left Look Right and Fanshen. His song January Roars (lyrics Louise Ainsley) won the Iris Theatre panel award in December 2015, and he was shortlisted for the Old Vic 12 composer scheme in 2016.
As a founding member and songwriter of folk-pop band Left With Pictures Stu has released three albums via Organ Grinder Records, played extensively across the UK, received regular radio play via BBC6 Music, BBC Radio 2 and XFM and been published by Sony Music and EMI. 
His extensive education work includes being a Director with New Wimbledon Theatre's Young Actor’s Company, a practitioner and Director at The Unicorn Theatre, and an associate Director with Glyndebourne Youth Opera. He has worked internationally with Artis Education training teachers in creativity, and has delivered teacher workshops for The Guardian, Roehampton Universityand many others over 10 years in performing arts education.

Additional information

Focus group is an Ovalhouse co-production. Originally seed commissioned by South Street Arts Centre with support from Derby Theatre, The New Wolsey, & Shoreditch Town Hall, using public funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England. 
Photographer: Justin Jones

Click an image to view a larger version.

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