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Q&A with Georgie Bailey and Hal Darling – Chewboy Productions

Bringing a new show to the public is always an exciting moment for writers, directors, actors and producers, and Chewboys’ new production Tethered gets its world premiere at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre in July.

Chewboys’ new production TetheredI caught up with Georgie Bailey and Hal Darling to talk about their new show. I started by asking the guys to introduce themselves:

GB: I’m a writer and producer. I wrote Tethered and I’m also one of the co-founders of Chewboy.

HL: I’m an artist, actor and filmmaker and I’m the other founder of Chewboy and a third of Tethered.

TE: How did Chewboy come about?

GB: We worked at Chichester Festival Theatre for about 3 or 4 years and met through that and started have a lot of creative discussions. We made bits and bobs, and then we were challenged by a friend of ours at Chichester called Euan to write a play for his birthday just using his name and then that turned into our show Euan.

TE: Which I saw at the Tristan Bates Theatre

GB: Yes, back in 2019. From that we sort of wanted to create a company together and we were really focussed on comedy and surrealist comedy. We’re really fascinated by an audience perceiving things through different ways and now here we are, three years down the line. Three or four, I think.

HL: I don’t know, the last year was kind of a write-off (both laugh).

TE: Love the fact you are sounding like a married couple who can’t remember their anniversary.

HL: (laughing) it is like that.

TE: I’ve just re-read the press release for Tethered and there are two characters, Sans and Moins, and I bet I’ve pronounced one of them wrong, so tell me if I’m right and a bit more about the play.

GB: That’s a running joke in the play so you’ve fallen right into that one. We really found it funny this idea of social distancing and the idea of the two metres and how you could play around with it in a theatre space and make it physical. So, there’s going to be a two-metre-long rope that’s going to tie the two characters together for the entirety of the play.

HL: Keeping the rope taught

GB: The idea for the show came about during the first lockdown. We’re associate artists at the Lion and Unicorn and they said, let’s try and do some socially distanced work and we started thinking how can we make a joke about that and that’s how the show came about.

HL: But it definitely isn’t a COVID play.

GB: Yeah, we should stress this, it’s not a COVID play.

TE: As you’re saying that I’m thinking that there is a parallel to lockdown especially for people being forced to be in their home with people they would normally only see a few hours each day.

HL: Thematically the play touches on those things, almost subconsciously because of when it was conceived. But we’re never making jokes about (COVID) and you can hopefully forget about it when you’re in the theatre.

TE: What was the writing process for Tethered?

GB: I guess for me, my process writing-wise is very collaborative, so it was talking with Hal and our Director Lucy (Betts), and thinking of the different ideas we could explore. I wrote the first draft of the script really quickly in a couple of days. I think that was being inspired from lockdown and thinking about that hope and what’s out there and the next steps. We had a week of R&D a couple of months ago…?

HL: April

GB: Thanks, I keep forgetting where we are in the year now. During the R&D the play changed quite a lot so now it’s quite ‘meta’ in a sense. Me and Hal play George and Hal in the play who are playing these other characters as well. So it was a really collaborative process in terms of it started from one thing and then developed and grew and is now more of a celebration of theatre and also thinking about where theatre is going to go after the pandemic and exploring that. There’s a lot of serious things wrapped up in Tethered but it’s also quite a funny play.

HL: It does ask a lot of questions about theatre and what theatre is and what it might mean to different individuals who are in theatre or acting in a theatre. We really found many of these things over the R&D week.

TE: Something I noticed that’s unusual is that audience members will be involved in deciding the play’s running order.

GB: This is terrifying for us, but this was an idea we thought about right at the start, playing around with the idea of how the audience can see the story. Hopefully, it will still stick when we’re in the theatre. We are still doing some research and development for the show, and that’s the one part of the show that we’re still wondering if it will work.

HL: We’re just so fascinated about audience perspective and how they’re viewing the work we do and what it means. How something we do can mean such different things to different audiences. So, I think that this idea was something that took this a little bit further and to play with that or tease that is kind of really interesting.

GB: That was the thing with Euan as well. Everyone we spoke to had different interpretations of that. Some people thought Euan was like a woodlouse, some thought he was three students living in accommodation. I don’t know how they got that reading but they did.

HL: Others thought he was a dog.

GB: He was an analogy for Brexit. There were so many things, it was crazy. And that really fascinated us and we thought how could we take this one step further and encourage that a bit more. It’s been good fun but we shall see.

TE: How would this voting idea for Tethered work?

GB: The things we have been considering are, is it a vote for everyone or do we invite two people and they come and play a game and whoever wins decides the order? Or do we select members of the audience to do something that’s not just a coin toss. Because we started with the idea of a coin toss and had a lot of fun in rehearsals about what we could do with that, maybe a tug of war with the rope or some form of game. We really wanted to avoid a 50/50 split.

HL: Also we considered who would want to watch three minutes of us counting the audience?

TE: You are the writers and actors in the show so you will have had an idea of how it should work, but t you hand it over to a director who may see it differently, how does that work for you?

GB: I really appreciate the outside perspective. You’re right, I’ve written it and I know what’s in my head. Then I would say 90% of the directors I’ve worked with then take it to such an elevated level it ends up 10 times better than what was in my head anyway. Especially as what was in my head probably wouldn’t have worked. Particularly with Lucy who I’ve known for 9 years, and who I’ve worked with on projects previously, and we quickly established a strong working relationship. I think the main thing for me is trust. I trust Lucy to take on the script, stage it, understand it and question where needed. So this play is completely different from where it was three months ago thanks to the collaboration between Hal, Lucy and me.

HL: It’s nice to be in a room where you can make suggestions and try things out in a trusting environment.

GB: And Lucy is so playful as well. She’ll ask us to do the most ridiculous things and out of that will come the best things we’ll ever do. I think she does really elevate everything we do and we’re very lucky to have her.

TE: Earlier you mentioned what happens next to theatre is a major talking point. Do you think the current mixed – online and live – approach is going to sustain in the future?

GB: Personally speaking I think it should. I think the online aspect of theatre makes it more accessible and allows more people to interact with it and takes it away from that elitist idea it can be wrapped up in. I graduated from a writing course at Bristol Old Vic last year and we weren’t taught anything about how to write for digital theatre, but I wish we had in a way because it kind means you’re making up a new rulebook which is exciting on its own. I think also for actors it’s (online) such a different skill from traditional theatre what I’ve seen and heard. It takes different talents and experiences to be able to do that well, because it’s not really film either, it’s very different and straddles that middle ground between the two forms.

HL: Everyone was kind of shoved into making online work and we almost needed that shove otherwise maybe things would have just stayed the same. So maybe it’s just a re-education so that we can now start to think we do need to make online content and people need to know how to do it.

GB: A few months back I ran a writing for Zoom workshop and it was interesting because you got such a varied opinion on digital theatre. It’s a bit like marmite at the moment in that some people hate it and some love it. And especially coming out of lockdown, people want that shared experience again, so digital may have a battle on its hands if it’s going to stay.

TE: I was at a live show recently and really wished I had been sat at home watching. Mainly because I had forgotten how annoying audiences can be.

GB: That’s the thing with watching at home, you don’t have to deal with that. For us, digital is great because we’re a multi-arts company moving across film and theatre so moving online has enabled us to flex some of our skills and has been good for us.

HL: We did want to do more film stuff and it was difficult finding the time. So we got sort of landed the perfect time to do it.

TE: How would you describe your comedic style?

GB: I would say, I prefer fast-paced things. I get bored quite easily. So, I like to put myself in that position of being “OK the stuff that excites me and makes me laugh is fast-paced, witty. I play around a lot with wordplay, so there’s quite a lot of misunderstanding and confusion. So that’s where I think comedy is the best, not farcical, but those elements of farce where there are people having very different understandings of situations and that creates confusion and conflicts later. That’s where my comedy lies. I always say it’s dark, but I don’t know that it is that dark comedy really.

HL: I think our film stuff and our theatre stuff are very different and the film stuff is more thematically dark but finding the light in that and finding the jokes. And then it’s almost the opposite in the comedy in the theatre stuff. It’s fun and funny but finding the darkness in that. GB: And as you can probably tell from the sounds of Tethered it’s very physical comedy. We like to play around with shapes and moving around. I always found with Euan it was always the case of finding the game of Twister in any scene. How could we run around enough so that we would be falling over things and each other? That might all sound a bit broad but hopefully, it’s more intelligent than that. I think the best way to put it is that it’s very conversational, like its very rooted in our world but in a surreal context.

TE: You’re at the Lion and Unicorn with Tethered for five nights in July and then what’s next for Chewboy?

GB: We’ve got another show coming up in September which is still under wraps but is about a primary school DJ and that’s all we can say. We have a magazine coming out. It’s called “Chewing the Fat” and it’s going to be a celebration of a lot of different works. It’s kind of inspired by some E-galleries we did over lockdown which celebrated works from 85 artists I think?

HL: Yeah from all over the world. We did a call out for pieces of art, little writings, poems etc and people sent them in. We started in March during the first lockdown.

GB: And now we’ve done 4 altogether. It’s called Quarantine Collective, and is still available on our website. Then we thought we’d like to condense that more and get it into more of a physical format so now we’re doing a magazine. So that’s the main things coming up but we’ve planned for the next couple of years as well (fingers crossed no more lockdowns), with a few more film projects in the works as well. We’re also doing a lot of workshops as well, with a lot of outreach and community projects with venues like Chichester Festival Theatre. So, we’re having a great time.

TE: And are you planning to take Tethered on tour or anything?

GB: We’re doing this run of Tethered and then potentially take it on tour next year. We’ve also never taken Euan to Edinburgh and that’s something we would like to do so hopefully, fingers crossed, we’ll take that there next year potentially with Tethered and our next project as well. HL: By the time we do Tethered it’s going to be two years since we were on a stage, so it’s all a bit terrifying but in a good way.

GB: I’m buzzing about performing live again. I’m really excited. I feel like we’ve changed a lot in the last two years and have got a different perspective on what we want our theatre to be and what we want our work to do as well. I’m just looking forward to being in a space with an audience and having fun again. We’ve even found it in rehearsals. We’re having such a laugh and such a good time that being able to share that with an audience is going to be really nice to get back into.

HL: Yes, what he says (laugh). George has put everything that I felt into words perfectly, which really sums up the company.

TE: you seem to have quite an eclectic range of company output, why is that?
GB: There are quite a few reasons, I think. Our aim has always been to play around with a lot of things then bring them together in a blended format, which we are starting to move towards with a few of our projects. But also, if we’re brutally honest it’s so we don’t get bored. We don’t just sit and create theatre all the time and it means the audience doesn’t have a set expectation from us, they don’t necessarily know what’s coming next.

HL: I have more of a background in film stuff and it’s so fun to do film stuff because it’s nothing like theatre and if you try and make film- theatre or theatre-film independently of one another they don’t really work so treating them separately and going from one to the other is just really fun.

GB: It also allows us to collaborate with loads of people. If we just stuck with theatre we’d only work with theatre people, and they’re lovely don’t get us wrong, but this way we also get to work with other disciplines outside of theatre. So the other year we did a poetry book and got to work with some other poets and publishers to learn how that works. So it enables us to gain more skills and get a wider experience of the industry and hopefully start to make larger-scale work having established a wide network we can pull a team from.

TE: Well good luck with Tethered, you’ve really got my interest piqued, so best of luck with the run.

*******

Sans and Moins are getting saved. The prophetic printer has told them so, and they’re very excited. Adequately excited. Kind of excited. As it’s not the first time they’ve got a message like this, and the real question is, will it be the last?

As they traverse their sparse landscape tethered together by their mysterious saviours, Sans and Moins learn more about humanity, each other and the things that are better left unsaid; leading to secrets being held, a sense of belonging being lost, and a madness created by the cyclical nature of hope.

SHOW INFORMATION:
WRITTEN BY: Georgie Bailey
DIRECTED BY: Lucy Betts
DURATION: 1 Hour (No Interval) – Latecomers will not be admitted.
20th-24th July 2021
WEBSITE: https://www.chewboyproductions.com
TWITTER: @ChewBoyProds
INSTAGRAM: @chewboyproductions

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