Preview: VEGAS

What happens in Vegas, stays in… Slough?

VEGAS is the CUADC Edinburgh Fringe 2024 show, written by Louis Hadfield and Alice Roberts, and directed by Emma Gibson. With a Cambridge run at the Corpus Playroom coming up on the 11th-15th of June, I sat down with the writers/cast and directors of VEGAS to talk about their creative process and their journey to the Edinburgh fringe festival.

VEGAS follows two recent Cambridge graduates who find themselves waking up, half naked, in a messy BnB room in Slough. Trying to put the pieces together after a drunken night, they are forced to confront the intricacies of their relationship and come to terms with what pulled them apart in the past. From hilarious bickering, to the North-South divide and even heart-warming confessions, this play is an uplifting tribute to classic British sitcoms.

Writers Louis Hadfield and Alice Roberts, who also star in this two-hander, speak about how their friendship inspired the creation of this play. “We were on holiday together in Dublin, reminiscing about the beginning of our friendship, and it was mostly making fun of each other!” Hadfield mentions that him coming from Liverpool and Roberts coming from Kent also inspired the dynamic between the characters in the play. When talking about how they came up with the idea for VEGAS, Hadfield says: “Alice wanted to write about elopement and I wanted to write a more gritty drama about the North-South divide…and then we landed on this!” The writers also spoke about being inspired by classic British sitcoms, mainly Gavin and Stacey, which was their main framework. Director Emma Gibson also spoke about their research into classic British soaps, noting how VEGAS uses soap tropes in a way that’s more nuanced, rather than the sensationalist way it’s usually done. As Roberts puts it, “VEGAS aims to bring audiences back to sitcoms of yore”, reminding us of the occasional need for silliness and fun in theatre.

Image credits: Amy Riordan

The writers also reveal how a lot of their actual conversations made their way into the script as Roberts recalls how she would go: “Wait, let me put it in my notes app!”, when having a funny conversation with Hadfield. This of course does not stop the show from having a wide appeal, she mentions: “It’s a lovely leveller while it still touches on heavier things”. Roberts specifically talks about an intense female experience in the script: “Without giving any spoilers, this scene was one I really wanted to be there, and I’m really proud of it. We were aiming for a comforting, nostalgic tone for VEGAS, and I was worried about hitting the audience with a plot point which could detach them from everything VEGAS is doing”. After seeing this scene rehearsed, I was truly touched by the poignancy of it as it enriches the play, delicately touching upon an often unspoken aspect of the female experience.

Gibson talks about how exploring the North-South divide as someone who is not originally from the UK was an interesting process for them. They say, “I love how VEGAS navigates it in a very funny and earnest way. It’s a play that works really well on its feet, and it was a no-brainer if I wanted to be involved with it”. Riordan also speaks about her love for British sitcoms, which really attracted her to VEGAS. She says “This play can make you laugh so much, you don’t realise that you actually really care about the characters, and then you find yourself crying!” Hadfield also adds that “What VEGAS does quite well is it doesn’t create stereotypes. The characters are fully formed people, they are Freddie and Poppy rather than the Scouser and the Southerner – they have their own dynamic separate to that.”

Image credits: Paul Ashley

When asked about how they feel about their Corpus run as well as the Edinburgh Fringe run, the whole team is immensely enthusiastic. “I’m so scared!” is Robert’s initial reaction, to which Gibson immediately responds, “I feel like you could’ve performed it last week!”
Hadfield touches upon how “it was scary pitching to CUADC as performers as well as writers” but how “it will also be a relief to have done a run at Corpus before Fringe”. Roberts adds that the Corpus run will help them gain confidence and allow them to be a bit sillier. Assistant Director Amy Riordan also says that she is particularly excited to see different audience’s reactions and how people receive the show differently in Cambridge and at Fringe.

Sitting in on their rehearsal, I quickly realise that getting into these characters is simply second nature for Hadlfield and Roberts, who effortlessly bounce off each other and fill the room with explosive energy. Gibson and Riordan are directorial anchors in the room, Gibson’s inventive and energetic warm-ups were definitely a highlight for me. It was a pleasure to experience the raw and unmatched chemistry of this group in the rehearsal room as they impeccably work together to bring this irreverent yet delicate two-hander to life. When asked about their collaboration as a team, Hadfield and Roberts spoke about how working with both directors and producer made the experience so much better. They say, “It has been the easiest collaboration- it was meant to be! It was so natural, the whole team understood the project”.

I asked the team to describe the show in three words, and after some giggly deliberation they came up with: Irreverent. Hangxiety. Heartfelt. “VEGAS is for everyone!” exclaims Roberts, and I couldn’t agree more. This show promises to leave you in stitches, and maybe even get you emotional. Get your tickets, you don’t want to miss it!

VEGAS will be showing at the Corpus Playroom on the 11th to 15th of June. Tickets can be bought here.

Feature image credits: Paul Ashley     

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