In May 2018 I met and interviewed two lovely young theatricals preparing to take their show to the Edinburgh Festival. Their names are Linus Karp and Joseph Martin and the show was Awkward Conversations with Animals I’ve F*cked. Move forward to April this year and the show is about to open at Islington’s famous King’s Head Theatre and I met up with the guys once more in the wonderful ScandiKitchen to find out how things had been going. I started by asking about the run in Edinburgh
LK: It was good. I did a full run of 25 shows which sold really well. It was really tough, so much hard work as I was doing pretty much everything for the show. I was doing producing, marketing, performing, everything. I’d been to Edinburgh before but only performing so this was completely different. It was a great experience but I don’t think I’d ever do it that way again.
JM: Unfortunately I missed all this as I spent the summer with the National Youth Theatre so could only provide moral support over the phone but my parents went as a surprise to Linus.
LK: My parents went as well. They even went out flyering on the streets which, when you consider the title of the show, was good fun. People were asking my mum if she was in the show! Even my sisters hired a car and drove from London for the day. But once the families had gone, I was pretty much on my own. Both Director Katharine Armitage and Stage Manager Jasmine Law were working on other shows at the same time.
TE: Were there lots of late night phone calls regretting going to Edinburgh
LK: Not really. It was such fun to do and get reactions, which it always did, from people from all over the world. Plus, for the last two weeks I was also doing another show – comedy improv – so I was doing an emotional comedic one-man play, then having a lot of silly fun with my friends.
JM: And if you can go to Edinburgh and make a real success of a show on your own then that it shows you can do it in pretty much any other instance.
TE: I’ve never managed to get to the fringe, but I imagine the audiences are very dedicated and regular theatre-goers. How did you find them?
LK: I think there was a bit of everything. One of the surprises was that in London there was a really positive reaction to the show and afterwards you could go downstairs into the pub – The Lion and Unicorn – and chat to people about the show. But in Edinburgh, there were a few times when people left as soon as I mentioned having sex with animals, leaving me wondering if they had seen the title of the show before coming in. And, once I had done the ‘get out’, which has to be pretty quick, and gone downstairs the audience had all moved on to the next show. I think a lot of people go to shows spontaneously – so don’t necessarily know exactly what they are seeing in advance, and are often surprised by the play, especially as, although it is a funny play, it covers emotive issues such as dad issues, loneliness, toxic masculinity, etc. which they may not be prepared for.
JM: It’s not a stand-up gig. It is funny, it is a comedy, but it’s also a play where people learn to value things they weren’t potentially expecting. Considering the title, you shouldn’t surprised to find out it’s about bestiality.
LK: I find it funny when people get upset. The play is fictional, and yes it’s about animals, but most people will sit through plays containing war, rape, death etc. and still happily clap at the end.
JM: And what is theatre if it isn’t challenging taboos and making you think?
LK: It’s important to remember that this is a fictional story and we don’t have any animals or anything offensive on stage. I think it’s interesting how people can connect with Bobby in the play. He talks to his partners as if they were human, in the way that anyone would talk to a lover or friend. I think it’s easy to forget he is talking to a dog or a cat but then suddenly he references an animal and brings that side of things back into the limelight.
TE: I know what you mean. The opening lines are lovely, then there’s almost a mental double-take as I realised who Bobby was talking to. Going back to Edinburgh, with 25 performances, was it easy to keep your performance levels constant?
LK: I went through periods where it was harder to perform than others, such as if there had been a tough show, I could be almost scared about the next one. But you have to get out there for the new audience. I think there were times when my feelings for the play went up and down, but I still loved it and near the end of the run, I was thinking “I’m not going to have that many more chances to do this so had better make the most of it. Obviously doing it every night is a lot but I still love the play afterwards.
TE: What was the one real high spot that you have taken away from Edinburgh?
LK: I think the fourth show felt like a really good show. Opening night is always a bit difficult as you are trying to make sure you get everything right. By the third show, it felt like everything was nearly there and then the fourth, it all just fell into place. Because it’s such an intimate show it’s really important to not just have the words that Bobby speaks but also to find the meaning beneath, and that night felt like I had really nailed it. Plus my parents were there and it was a large audience so it was really one of the highlights.
TE: And what about the lowlight?
LK: Well I got a chest infection and wasn’t well but still had a show to do. And it happened on the weekend when I had the reviewers coming in as well. It was tough doing it not feeling very well.
JM: Hijacking the interview for a moment, what was one of your favourites shows that you saw up there?
LK: I feel like I missed so many shows, as I was working when many of the ones I wanted to see were on, but the one I enjoyed the most was Austentatious – Jane Austen Comedy Improv – it was so, so good. I went one day and found myself laughing more at it than anything else I saw there.
TE: And you’re coming back to do Awkward Conversations again in London?
LK: Yes, it’s either love or madness!
TE: Into the King’s Head, in Islington in April. How are preparations going? I seem to remember that when you went to Edinburgh you had to build Bobby a new bed, are you doing the same again?
LK: Yes, we are getting a new bed. I decided not to bring it back from Edinburgh so gave it away to a charity up there. It’s going to be interesting in the King’s Head as it’s quite a small stage, especially in depth. So I need to work out how we are going to fit things on the stage. We are piggybacking on the back of another show so will be working around their stage set up and fitting ours in.
JM: It’s really a sign of a good theatre that we could go ‘this is our requirement, this is what we need’ and they replied, yep, great, okay, and this is what we can do to work around it.
LK: Yes, they seem very accommodating. The King’s Head was the venue where we wanted to stage the show originally.
JM: Unfortunately it wasn’t to be at that time.
LK: Then they came to see the show in Edinburgh and offered us this run.
TE: I can see why you would want to stage the show in the King’s Head. They have a really great audience who will definitely be able to cope with something a bit different. So when are you on?
LK: 12th to 27th April at 9:30pm and tickets are already selling well!
TE: After performing the show many times has your perception of Bobby changed at all?
LK: Yes, I think that was inevitable. I’ve worked with two different Directors on the show – Maddie Rice and Katharine Armitage – both of whom were amazing, I got so much from them. And I think, especially for the Edinburgh run, we went further with everything, more into Bobby and his back-story. We started rehearsals this week, and I’m looking forward to seeing where it will go this time. I’m working with Katharine again, and it’s going to be interesting, as the two previous runs felt very different from each other.
TE: Do you think you now have more of an idea as to why Bobby behaves the way he does?
LK: Yes. A lot of his actions are because he is very lonely and doesn’t fit in. And that’s probably something most people can identify with as they went through their childhood to adolescence. Plus I identify with some of Bobby’s social awkwardness. It’s fun to do a show where some of the things about me that could possibly be seen as a negative are shown to be a strength instead. Plus I enjoy taking things a bit further than expected like making things a bit weird and uncomfortable while still funny, and that’s one of the things I love about the script.
TE: If you had the chance, is there any aspect of Bobby’s character or the overall story you would change?
LK: I remember when I first started working on the play I found the monkey scene a bit difficult because part of it was me just telling this long story and I didn’t know what to do with it at first, so it was something we worked hard on and afterwards often got positive mentions. And I thought that was funny as it was one of the few bits I wasn’t as keen on as the rest. But would I change anything? Sometimes I would like a different ending.
JM: How do you find his energy and physicality?
LK: I think doing it, you become more like him. Like sometimes you add habits to Bobby and find they follow you in real life. For example, his speech pattern which is nervous and halting which I guess isn’t an attractive thing to carry on when you are out of character. One thing I would have liked to explore more in the play is Bobby’s relationship with his mother because that’s never really referenced. She’s mentioned a couple of times but it’s very much about his relationship with his dad and that’s something that I would love to explore as well.
TE: He’s a fascinating character as he’s obviously got so much love to give but it’s just directed in the wrong place. You can’t help feeling sorry for him.
LK: Exactly. Obviously, I’ve made some decisions about his story and I would happily read pages and pages about his life and upbringing. He’s quite intelligent but obviously incapable of maintaining any type of relationship. One of his biggest problems I think is that he hates himself, which stops him from accepting love from others as well. Like he rejects his friend’s phone call even though she is probably a bad friend. I love the fact that he is a likeable and human, if terribly flawed, character rather than just a villain. He is someone you can, to a degree, empathise with.
JM: He’d be the one that if he started a new job at an office, everyone would think he was quite quiet and want to take him out for a drink to help him become part of the team. Actually, I’ve just realised Linus was right. You said he was charming and he is actually charming in his awkwardness, I’d never thought of that.
LK: Yes, but also caring. He tries to think about the animals’ needs. Having food for them and doing what they want as well. And he asks them how they felt, how it was for them.
JM: In fact, if he wasn’t charming you probably wouldn’t like him.
TE: When you’re getting ready to go on stage do you have any rituals to get you into character and ready to perform?
LK: Yes, a few. Apart from normal vocal exercises, for around half an hour before going on stage I don’t do things as myself, going on Facebook, chatting with people as Linus etc. I need to get up in the physical energy. I tend to play a lot of Beyonce and some songs now I just associate with the show, and jump around getting almost exhausted before I start the show.
TE: And afterwards?
LK: I think it depends on how the show has gone. If it’s been really good and I’ve given everything it is easier to move on but other times I may have the emotions with me. You do get energy from the audience as well and that can really vary. Sometimes people laugh at points which I don’t think are funny and it’s quiet at the funnier points. It all depends, which means there is a real two-way relationship between me and them.
TE: Finishing off then with a really bad question. Are you looking forward to opening at the King’s Head?
LK: Yes I am. It’s weird as we started rehearsals this week and I feel like I’ve only recently realised I’m going to be performing again. Up to now, I’ve had my Producer hat on, pushing ticket sales etc. but now I am actually going to have to do the show every night again, which as a performer is quite scary.
TE: Well, I’m looking forward to seeing the show once more. It’s on from the 12th to 27th April, at the Kings Head Theatre and tickets are available here.
Following sell-out shows at Edinburgh Fringe, Awkward Productions present their critically acclaimed production of Rob Hayes’ dark comedy about love, acceptance and boundaries.
One-night stands are awkward. One-night stands with animals are even more awkward. And when you’re as desperate for love as Bobby is, things are bound to get as awkward as f*ck.
12th to 27th April 2019