Spotlight – Director of Party

David Knowles asks the questions of Dom Riley

Comedy Dom Riley party

So Dom, why did you choose Party?

I was performing up at the Edinburgh Fringe during Party’s original run in 2009, and was instantly interested because of its fantastic reviews and its cast, which read like a Who’s Who? guide to exciting new comedians on the circuit. I didn’t get to see it in the end, because it clashed with my show, but it was always at the back of my mind. Then earlier on this year, I found out that Party had just been published and rights made available, read it, realised just what I’d been missing out on two years ago and promptly secured the rights. It is quite frankly one of the funniest scripts I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.

Can you sum up the story?

In a garden shed in suburbia, four young idealists decide to form a political party to save the world from itself. A new fifth member, Duncan, has turned up believing it to be the more conventional kind of party, but ends up trying to save the world from them. Tensions build between the five as they blunder their way through deliberations over the party’s name, their line on China and the ethics of un-fairtrade coffee, culminating in tense, yet farcical leadership election.

What are your favourite moments in the show?

Well, it’s an absolutely fantastic script, packed with political satire, character comedy and visual humour, and on top of that the cast have really brought the whole thing to life, so all in all it’s quite hard to pick a favourite moment or two. However, the leadership hustings (or, as Jared calls them, hostings) is a brilliant scene, and there’s a fantastic sequence where Jones and Mel argue over whether or not Mel’s car is powerful enough to kill a child (it honestly makes sense in context, but you’ll have to see the play to understand how!).

How are the set and costumes coming along?

Both are coming along nicely, thanks, although the set has been by far the bigger challenge. To effectively create a garden shed interior including windows on the Assembly Rooms stage has been a massive challenge, and I’m indebted to two Bens (Weaver-Hincks and Saunders) for all the time they’ve put into designing and building the set, and on a shoestring budget, too. Costume, on the other hand, has been easy to sort, except for sourcing Duncan’s very intricately described “tie with skeletons having sex on it”. A word of advice: don’t try searching for this on google…

Any hilarious moments in rehearsals you can share?

Too many- it’s been a really fun production to work on, and the cast are all hilarious people both in and out of character. It got to the stage where I started writing down stupid quotes from cast and crew in the back of my notebook, and I’ve nearly filled four pages now! Just to give you an idea, here’s one of my favourites: “Would that be a civil partnership if you married yourself?” I would reveal the author, but I’m not sure that Ben would appreciate it.

Do you have a philosophy of acting and directing?

I think it’s quite difficult to have an overarching philosophy, as each play will inevitably require a slightly different approach. For example, my approach to Party has actually owed far more to my philosophy of comedy than anything else, which mainly involves performers staying immaculately in character and forging a connection with the audience as early as possible, so that they feel involved enough to laugh with or at them. However, I generally believe that the fundamentals of directing are organisation, attention to detail (I can be terribly pernickety in rehearsals), and an ability to manage a cast and mould them into a strong working unit. If you can manage all these, and have a fair bit of creative flair to boot, then you’ll go far…

What is your dream show to direct?

This is a tricky one… I’ve always wanted to do something with Aeschylus’s Oresteia, but ever since I saw an interactive show called “The Hotel” in Edinburgh, I’ve really wanted to devise and direct an interactive comedy show in and around the Assembly Rooms itself. But it’ll probably never happen…