DDF Preview Day 2

David Knowles talks to the writers and directors of the shows on the second day of the Durham Drama Festival

Assembly Rooms ddf Preview

David Knowles interviews Chris McQullian, James Morton and Shellshock!

Show: The Shoe Shop (by Chris McQullian)

Time: 7pm

Blurb: Kieran McCauley is learning quickly that the art of shoe-selling is not easy! He's been told it's a noble and historic trade, but faced with droves of eccentric customers, can he get to grips with it before being sacked!

Chris, what inspired you to write for DDF?

The Shoe Shop was actually written for production in Northern Ireland. It went down really well, but I was curious to see if it could work with an English audience. So I adapted some of the colloquialisms and threw it into the Festival. I guess we'll find out on Thursday night if the plan worked!

What's your show all about?

I think all the best comedies come from some kind of perennially afflicted main character. Think 'Fawlty Towers', 'Black Books', 'Father Ted'. The Shoe Shop takes that idea and applies it to a young guy working in retail (Kieran) and tracks his so-called Day of Hell. I worked in a Shoe Shop for four years, so a lot of it is based on true stories.

Why should Durham students see your show?

It's comic relief – pure and simple. If you've ever worked in retail and had to deal with stupid customer requests, you'll connect with it. Even if you haven't, it's just light-hearted fun that's witty and fast-moving. There are some really exceptional cast members in here too, who help lift the script on to that next level. It's a feel-good show, at the end of the day.

What's your favourite part of the show?

I think – at the moment – it's the entrance of Mr. Redgrave. You'll see what I mean when you see the show, but Simon Gallow has taken the character and injected so much mad energy into it, you can't help but laugh. Admittedly, it's a bit worrying that the cast can't stop laughing at him yet either…

Show: The Improvised Tragedy (Shellshock)

Time: 8:40pm

Blurb: In this improvised tragicomedy the audience send entirely new characters towards the inevitable pitfalls of fate and their chosen tragic problem, and will be left pointing and laughing at someone else's pain while pondering the pathos of the human condition.

What inspired you as a group to enter DDF?

Durham Improvised Comedy has been a thriving student society for ten years, but its profile on the Durham theatrical scene is still quite limited. DDF is an excellent forum for our performance troupe ShellShock! to participate with other theatrical groups and to showcase our unique brand of performance art alongside more traditional forms. At the same time, our new show Improvised Tragedy, to be performed for the first time at this festival, was created to stretch our theatrical muscles and develop our performance capabilities beyond our comfort zone.

What exactly happens in your show?

Improvised Tragedy is as simple in concept as its name. The audience gives the performers their characters and randomly selects one of five tragic problems – star-crossed love, usurped power, natural disaster, tragic flaw, and bad luck – and from these ingredients the five performers improvise an entire tragedy, creating a community of characters with aspirations, goals and relationships, dealing with plot difficulties arising from the tragic problem, and inevitably meeting with catastrophe on a large scale at the climax of the story. All this is infused with the usual manic energy and outlandish characterisation that has typified ShellShock! throughout our performance history.

Why should Durham students see your show?

Durham students should see our improv comedians perform Improvised Tragedy to be engaged and entertained, and ultimately to discover the possibilities of improvised theatre and the range of emotion and complexity of plot of which improvised theatre is capable.

What's your favourite part of the show?

Improvised Tragedy has been created anew in each rehearsal, and there have been many standout moments. The range has run from a wife saying at least she can be happy her husband lived as she crashes a plane into a mountain, he having bailed out of the plane moments before to chase his sworn enemy, to a self-centred firefighter literally wrestling with a fire to pose for his portrait being painted while stopping every so often to admire the glisten on his manly muscles. Whether it's a deadly surprise outbreak of the black death or an impromptu game of strip chess, a new favourite moment will come without warning but linger in the memory.

Show: Marshmallows (by James Morton)

Time: 9.40pm

Blurb: Five days before starting University, Warren and Damon take their friend Luke camping to take his mind off his parents’ recent divorce. Warren and Damon, however, have their own demons to face. Will life ever be the same for the boys once they go their separate ways?

What inspired you to write for DDF?

I'm a Durham alumnus now, but when I was a student, I was actively involved in 2 Durham Drama Festivals – it's a brilliant facet of the DST calendar, and an important one for showcasing new writing talent. My two shows Marshmallows and Scream Queens Anonymous will be my 5th and 6th on the Assembly Rooms stage, and as each time before's been such a rewarding experience, why not do it again?

What's your show all about?

Marshmallows is about three teenage boys who go on a camping trip before heading to Uni, during which a few home truths emerge. Think The Breakfast Club meets The Inbetweeners!

Why should Durham students see your show?

It's a compelling, poignant piece of drama which explores the nature and significance of young friendship. And it's only 15 minutes long so there's no risk of getting pins and needles.

What's your favourite part of the show?

Couldn't say without giving it away, but a crucial point towards the end when we get to know the Damon character a lot better.

Show: The Improvised Musical

Time: 10pm

After being handed an unknown score and script just 24 hours earlier, a group of willing and unwitting participants will present to you an edge-of-your seat performance of a world famous musical. Here’s to hoping the song and dance numbers are as unforgettable for the cast as this show will be for the audience!

All shows on Thursday 22nd February are in the Assembly Rooms Theatre