Last November I reviewed one of the most unusual one-person shows I’ve ever seen. The show was Awkward Conversations With Animals I’ve F****d and dealt with the very taboo subject of bestiality. Despite the subject matter, I found myself not only enjoying but really appreciating the story. Recently I caught up with the Linus Karp, who plays the plays ‘hero’ Bobby and Producer Joseph Paterson in the fabulous Scandinavian cafe in Fitzrovia. I started off by asking how they had found the play:
LK: I was in Foyles looking for a monologue and the book stood out. It had a yellow spine and the title caught my eye.
TE: No surprise there really.
LK: Exactly, so I read the script and found that it really grabbed me. I hadn’t read anything like it before so read, and re-read it again.
TE: So what was the attraction?
LK: I found the mixture of darkness and humour was something I related to. It was my type of humour.
JP: And that’s important as the darkness works because it is funny. An hour of pure darkness without comedy wouldn’t intrigue the audience and help them care about the character.
LK: That’s right. So once I had the script we tried to get the rights to perform. At first, we didn’t, then gave it another go and this time we were successful.
TE: I noticed that in the script it calls for real animals to be on the stage for each scene. How did you approach that?
LK: Obviously that wasn’t practical so Maddie (Director Maddie Rice) and I looked at other ways. We thought of using silhouettes or shadows but it didn’t really work. Also, we wanted to keep the audience guessing as to the animal so we went for a space that I could use for my eye line. In rehearsal, this included Maddie being the animal and me looking at her, until I got the eye line perfect.
TE: Given the controversial nature of the subject matter, how do you sell the play to a theatre and the wider audience:
JP: It’s easier than you might think. The title sells itself in some ways at its rather polarising and people become intrigued about it. People really want to know what and why. In some ways, the play humanises the huge taboo subject of bestiality. The mixture of darkness with comedy one-liners, can gross the audience out but also provides a way for them to associate with Bobby. In fact, I really enjoyed producing the show and making the audience think about what they thought they knew.
TE: That’s a good point. There is this marvellous moment in the show when Bobby is talking about the hypocrisy of society in that you can do a lot of really awful things to animals but having sex with one is forbidden.
LK: Yes, we accept what society tells us. Everyone accepts it’s wrong to have sex with animals but will do everything else.
JP: Bobby’s speech is proof that it is often easier to speak about views behind closed doors than to stand out and talk about something that is taboo.
LK: I saw a documentary about a man living in a commune with other animal lovers who believe that as the animals don’t live, they have given their consent to the relationship. The problem is that at the end of the day, the animal cannot say yes or no.
TE: This leads me on to ask, what do you actually think of Bobby as an individual?
LK: I feel a lot of sympathy for him. He is a tragic character who can’t progress properly. He seems to have some form of mental health issues. He believes he has done nothing wrong.
JP: He hasn’t had a proper relationship based on love between him and other humans. He is a sad character who never wins at any time.
TE: For me, one of the really intriguing things is not covered much in the script and that is Bobby’s backstory. How did he get to where he is now?
JP: Because of the little detail supplied, the audience can often draw their own conclusions as to what parts the story represents. People draw different conclusions. After one performance, someone tweeted ‘Its equal parts, unhinged, devastating and relatable’ Pretend they are a different sort of animal.
LK: It speaks to the skill of the text that the animal thing can be set to one side and the story becomes more real. After all, animals apart, most of us have been in a similar position to Bobby with the ‘morning after’ talk with other people.
JP: If you’ve been treated a certain way, then that is how you will respond.
LK: The dog is the first real contact he has had with love. There was no judgement from the dog, just love and this was the first time Bobby had encountered it.
TE: Given the nature of the show, how worried were you about the audience reaction and reviews?
JP: I was doing the tech for the show so was above and behind the audience and could see their reaction. The first laugh is really important.
TE: The slightly nervous one because we shouldn’t be laughing at this subject?
JP: Yes. The laughter does start slowly and then the audience realises they can react so they do. You can feel the change in mood throughout the play leading to the last scene.
LK: It’s weird doing a show on your own as it’s impossible to focus on anyone else, but you can see the audience and how they are reacting. With this play, each show felt different from each other.
JP: As far as reviews went, I didn’t let Linus read any. A one-person show is different in that there is nobody else involved so the reviews feel more personal.
LK: I was scared. What about bad reviews, would I have to go back to Sweden? So I was happy not to read them but I did read some of the tweets from the audiences.
TE: The easy availability of Twitter can mean that everyone is an instant reviewer/critic nowadays. Is that a good thing?
LK: It can be both, you can hear what people really think.
JP: It can be an echo chamber if surround yourself. Twitter is rather Like listening in to people’s thoughts, but you can’t go in telling yourself everything will be positive. I love twitter and the feedback but it’s wrong when people tweet about something they’ve never seen. They should see it and form their opinion. A lot of people go on Twitter as soon as they see a show
LK: Having an account for the play (@AwkwardProds) helps to promote the show.
TE: So, I hear you are taking Awkward Conversations off to Edinburgh this year, will there be any changes from the original?
JP: Yes, we are doing the full run (2nd – 26th August) of Edinburgh Fringe with Underbelly at Cowgate – Belly Button. Tickets on sale now via the UnderBelly website.
LK: There may be a slight change to the set but otherwise it will be exactly the same. The show was first performed at Edinburgh back in 2014 so it will be a sort of coming home.
JP: We’re really pleased that Rob (Play author Rob Hayes) has given us the rights to perform the play again.
LK: He tweeted us during the first run, as some friends of his had seen it.
TE: Well, I hope the run goes well for you, it is certainly a brave show that is a lot of fun and well worth seeing.
Awkward Conversations With Animals I’ve F*cked
One-night stands are awkward. One-night stands with animals are more awkward. And when you’re as desperate to please as Bobby, things get awkward as f*ck.
2nd – 26th August 2018, 6.40pm