So, what can we expect from " The Alphabet Girl"?
The Alphabet Girl's a one woman show. I was asked to write a short monologue, did and then saw the potential for a full play. Hopefully it's funny, disturbing, intriguing and shocking. Set in the 80's, the 90's & now, we see what seems like a normal family history turned on its head and inside out with appalling consequences.
Five years is a long time to be away from the Edinburgh festival. What lured you back in 2015?
The SpaceUK has been asking me to return ever since Bare and finally I felt I had something that was perfect for The Festival.
What attracted you to "The Alphabet Girl"?
1. I've never written a one woman show. Always good to leave your comfort zone.
2. Kaitlin Howard is fantastic. After her blinding performance in Bare I really wanted to write something else for her.
3. I love writing for women and once I started they fell onto the page and were crying to be heard.
4. I've always wanted to do a one man show but chickened out!!!
DARKCHAT is not (yet) a major player at the Edinburgh festival but we like to reward outstanding productions. ("Bare" received 4 nominations and one win for Best Director). How important is it for a company and performer to be recognised?
I think it's easy for someone who's won awards to play them down with humility and for someone who hasn't to dis them as irrelevant. It's always nice to be recognised and any nominations or awards should be welcomed with open arms. It's not the reason we write, direct, act but when you stand up to be counted it's nice to not be shot down in flames, but equally, if you are, that's the risk we take. Not putting the work out there is the only safe option and that's no option at all.
"Bare" had several cast members whilst Kaitrin Howard is the solo perfomer in "The Alphabet Girl". What are the advantages and disadvantages of a one person show?
On a practical level...cheaper accommodation, less financial risk. On an artistic level there are three characters in the play so it's like a bigger cast. However, it's much more tiring and scary for the actress... there's no time off and no one to relate to on stage. Total isolation. Much harder to drive the narrative. As a director the concentration is always intense but total trust in one person means just that. They have to be on the money and you have to work at their pace.
So, what have you been up to in the last 5 years?
Lots. I mostly arrange fights for TV and theatre (occasionally film) as well as the acting, writing & directing. The RSC a few times, lots of Hollyoaks, Emmerdale and BBC series. New(ish) house. New(ish) wife, Huge mortgage.
Looking back were you surprised how well "Bare " was received. ( It won a Fringe first).
Yes and no. Well, yes. The thing is I always felt a frissance when we were rehearsing the play and I genuinely believed in it and so did the cast. However, I truly had no thoughts on a Fringe First...that happens to other people. So I was bowled over when a) we got some great reviews and b) when we heard the Fringe First news. You just have to believe in what you write, the way you direct and how you perform...and have a thick skin. It always hurts when unpleasant things are said, but you still have to believe in yourself otherwise what's the point? Bare, is an amazing watch, but no one gets that from reading it. One day it'll strike home.
What memories do you have of this production?
The silence at the end. The laughter at things people really shouldn't be laughing at in a PC society, the individual performances...stunning. Kaitlin Howard, Paul Michael Giblin, Dean Anthony Fagan (in Corrie now), Ralph Casson, Seb Morgan (for his fight skills), Eugene Collins, Neil Gregor. So committed. So talented. The mother who thought her 12 year old needed educating. The Guide dog in the audience getting so excited by the dog noises and trying to protect Kaitlin when her character was attacked.
In "Bare" you were actor and director. This year you will only be the director. Are you expecting a more relaxed festival?
I'm also the writer so every day my words will be there. I'm also the producer. The Festival is never relaxing. The buzz is so intense. The stress of getting the show on, the previews and the first reviews will age me another 10 years. It's a bit like having children...after the first one you say "never again"...then the process is such fun you get lured back. It'll be fine.
Will you miss the buzz of being on stage?
No. I can see how terrifying performing a one woman show is for Kaitlin. She's absolutely amazing, but I so wouldn't want to change places. But anyway, it's equally terrifying to sit by my stage manager to watch my play being done. It's like a base jump. Thrilling. Frightening. And the risk of failure every single time. Why would you live any other way?
Everyone in Edinburgh battles to find an audience in Edinburgh. Do you find the marketing/ PR (like having to answer questions like these!) tiring and frustrating?
Absolutely not. Put the work in. It pays you back in spades. If you're not all out for your show, who the Hell else is going to be?
What are you most looking forward at this year's festival?
Success for my actress Kaitlin Howard. The offer of a world tour.
Are there any particular shows/ performers you looking forward to
catching this year?
Honestly I've not done the homework to make a plan yet. Kaitlin's worked with
Company Gavin Robertson who's shows are at Zoo and has friends in Man to
Man & Weekend Rockstars both at The Underbelly so she's looking forward to
those. There's always something amazing and unexpected.
Any tips for surviving this month of mayhem?
Energy, alcohol (after work), focus, stamina, a contingency fund, a shoulder to cry on, a quiet place to think, a grasp on reality.
The Alphabet Girl is on Daily (not Sundays) throughout the Fringe at 17:10 at theSpace on the Mile (Venue 39)