ChewBoy Productions are new on the London Fringe scene and they’re making their dèbut with EUAN at the Camden Fringe from 30th July – 4th August at the Tristan Bates Theatre. I caught up with founders Georgie and Hal to discuss all things EUAN, the company and theatre…As a new company on the scene, let’s start with the company name – where did ChewBoy Productions come from?
Georgie: ChewBoy came from many a night sat in kitchens, front rooms and gardens thinking up a company name. After going through lists and lists of possibilites, we finally arrived out of the blue at ChewBoy Productions plain and simply through word association. After weighing up our aims in our work, we decided ChewBoy surmised what we wanted to achieve perfectly as a collective company looking to make art that was a bit bizarre – by having a bizarre name to start with.
Tell us a little about the company; what’s the vision and what are your core interests as up and coming theatre makers?
Georgie: We want to make art that sticks and gives you something to chew on long after you’ve experienced it. For us, it’s about taking things in the ordinary with reality at the heart and flinging them into the bizarre and strange. In keeping with our artistic aims, we have a want to work with as many young and emerging creatives as possible in a variety of speciality art forms to diverse the ‘flavours’ we produce by experimenting in different areas such as film, poetry, theatre and visual arts. This has always been key for us – not to get cornered into one form or another.
We make everything on as low of a budget as possible with artists from working class/low economic backgrounds, like we are ourselves, which, in its creation and distribution, doesn’t alienate anyone from accessing it. We’re less about making work that ‘change the world’ directly through cramming a message down the audience’s throats, but rather look to tell stories that indirectly have this effect once they’re thought about some more after the event – consistently growing in the mind. Ultimately, however, when it boils down to it: we want to make fun work that we have fun making. If no one’s having fun, what’s the point of any of it?
London is bursting at the seams with shows of all shapes and sizes. What can you tell us about EUAN and why should audiences come and see you?
Georgie: EUAN is a fast paced, non-stop hour of pure entertainment that explores our relationships at extreme moments of panic and stress, in which the actors know about as much as the audience. It revolves around natural conversation and our interactions with hierarchy and friendship when the worst possible thing imaginable could happen. Adding to this, because of the bizarre nature of the play, there are so many faces and underlying possibilities which allow it to be interpreted in so many unique ways. This is what sets it apart – you won’t understand and receive the play like your best friend will. Is the play making a comment on the state of UK theatre? Is it about a lost childhood? Is it a play about overseas national conflicts? Is it about a lost dog? The only person who can make that decision is you. One thing is certain, though, the play definitely isn’t about Euan.
Hal: London is bursting at the seams with all different kinds of theatre, but I honestly have not seen anything like what we are bringing into London. Its not that the work is revolutionary or we are some great theatre prophet coming to the city to enlighten the masses. It is just an hour of real life conversation, which by definition delves into the bizarre and the meaningful, but more importantly entertains for the sake of entertainment.EUAN sounds like a bold debut and sells itself on mystery, energy and the promise of the abstract. In what ways is EUAN abstract? Is this in an aesthetic or narrative sense – or both even?
Georgie: By all means Euan is an abstract play that is energised with a non-stop, overlapping power. We’ve kept the straight line of the linear narrative fairly straightforward to give some sense to the piece, but the layers that’re added on top combine to create this nonsensical world in which a lot is talked about that isn’t usually talked about. Audiences are only given clues as to who these characters are, they are never fully explained which adds to the mystery and abstract side of the play and allows them to make their own decisions.
Aesthetically, it’s a mess. The world of the play the audience are brought into starts in orderly solstice with things fairly tidy, and by the end, things are sprawling everywhere due to the characters growing panic. A lot of conversation starters and dialogue interchanges come from random places and responses come rapid without much thought. The abstract aspects come from the play being set in an undefined world which looks similar to our own, with slightly heightened people with heightened emotions exploring organic themes in their relationships. Everything abstract comes from normality – and you’ll have to see the play to see what we mean.
The blurb declares that ‘EUAN delves deep into the nature of what we’d do to save our own skins in the most bizarre situations’ and also promises ‘a non-stop hour full of the nonsense of your everyday life’. How does the show go about marrying the quirky and silly with the meaningful?
Georgie: The nonsensical aspects of this piece are so ingrained with the ‘meaningful’ because we have strived to create real and honest communication between the characters. Almost every conversation in your life will have tangents which delve into the ‘silly’ and a beat later will be serious which we realised gives an art to conversation. This has given us the ability to create something that is so ridiculous at points but never feels too abstract because it is grounded in truth, mirroring the way we bounce off each other in everyday life.
We wanted all moments of meaningful nature to come organically and naturally from characters, simultaneously with the silly moments which allow the audience to sit back and realise what’s going on. By naming the characters X, Y and Z, we wanted there to be an element of realisation for the audience in that this is their lives, this is how they speak, this is who they are – regardless of their name, age, class, race, background, anything. It’s up to them to decide what is whacky and silly or what resonates with them.Would you say the show leans more towards delivering a serious message or deeper meaning within the mystery or more towards a great hour of the bizarre and the fun?
Georgie:We’ve carefully interwoven a serious message to underpin the bizarre, strange and fun. There’s a constant pinball effect between the two sides of the coin as events constantly unfold and snowball towards a dark ending point. We’re hoping we’ve done this effectively so that the ending isn’t foreseen or predictable before it happens and takes the audience a direction that they definitely won’t be expecting by leading up to it with moments of physical comedy and moments of pure absurdity. Dramatic irony features heavily throughout, and the narrative takes some incredibly daring twists; some comedic, some poignant. It’s up the audience to interpret the plays beats and moments however they wish to coincide with their everyday life and experiences.
EUAN is a new work. What drew you to new writing over a daring adaptation of an existing piece?
Georgie: I love the freedom creating a new play brings as it allows you to collaborate, play and have a laugh in the room whilst piecing something together that points more towards something inherently relevant to yourself than an adaptation or staging an existing piece would.
I’ve never written something I’ve also performed in either, so wanted to challenge myself in this respect, as well as give my mates some juicy characters to sink their teeth into. Over the last year I’ve been a member of some solid playwriting groupslike Soho’s and HighTide’s which have given me a lot of different skills and I’m still putting them to test and experimenting with each project.
EUAN is an experiment in playwriting at a mammoth level. It’s like Frankenstein made another, weirder monster using the DNA of Beckett, Pinter, your weird neighbour and your younger self. It explores things like childhood, relationships, things we don’t talk about, confusion and heightened moments of panic and stress. It’s an idea that was born a LONG time ago, and it’s slowly grown and festered in our minds whilst we’ve been away from it. When it boils down to it, we wanted to make something that said the things we always wanted to, and finally have.
If an audience takes just one thing away from seeing EUAN, what would you like that to be?
Georgie: A different thing to the person they came with.
Hal: A Programme.
George: Some sort of high.Now for the Quick-Fire Round!
Who or what has inspired you most in theatre?
Georgie: Leading and assisting youth theatre sessions. Seeing a young person’s progression from being in a timid shell to wowing an audience onstage is just incredible and reminds me why the arts is so important on a daily basis.
Hal: Performance Artist Ragnar Kjartansson, who taught me that theatre could be just a piece of art and visa versa. Also inspired by the support for young people to find their path into theatre by the work done at Chichester Festival Youth Theatre.
George: The people I’ve worked alongside have heavily affected my decision to pursue a career path in theatre. The lads I’ve met through CFT and my A level drama have given me the drive to become even more involved in the industry.
Favourite theatre genre and why?
Georgie: New Writing and Spoken Word. It’s modern, everchanging, evergrowing and the most exciting, passionateand innovative experience you can have in live performance (most of the time).
Hal: Theatre which just makes you feel a little ill because you haven’t made it first.
George: Dark comedy – I find it interesting to see how companies balance/combine light and dark moments through a piece to convey an underlying message or moral.
Etiquette debates – worthwhile or futile? Where do you draw the line? It’s a hot topic right now.
Theatre should be able to move on and change in whichever way is deemed fit by the majority of the time. Just like many have said – audience behaviour has developed over time in different theatre circumstances and societal context, ours is no different. It’s just a different way to engage with theatre.
Do you have a best ‘the show must go on’ tale?
Georgie: Went to see a college performance in front of agents, was driving up there, had performed in the play a year earlier in another school, got a call from a mate asking me to perform in it as the cast member who was playing my same part had broken his leg. Performed a whole show using an updated script being fed through a headset to me.
Hal: Full body puppet worn like a hiking backpack and strapped into arms and legs, and then central strap breaks on strange in an uninterrupted 15 minutes of stage time. Had to maintain a matrix-esque pose just to keep myself from collapsing forward.
Georgie: For a show I did over Christmas at Chichester Festival Theatre, I had to enter the stage as a dock worker amongst a big crowd of other people. One of my mates (let’s call him G) had to place a wooden crate down on the stage and sit on it every other night when he was on as a docker, quite happily so too. One night, however, when he went to sit down, we heard a huge snap and slowly all looked round to find G with his arse sunken into the box with his knees up to his head as he’d fallen through. Keeping laughter in at that point was a huge struggle for the rest of the run, especially with an audience on three sides!
If you could bring change in terms of opportunities in Theatre to London right now, what would it be? What does London need?
Georgie: An equal playing field for practitioners, creatives and performers with disabilities and additional needs – a strong platform for them to be seen and heard. The work of Graeae is incredible in changing that but we need to do more to support and develop this area. As well as further opportunities for working class creatives and those from deprived areas.
Hal: For London to just stop worrying about what people think, to get on with making theatre for theatres sake.
Georgie: I feel that because London is viewed as THE main place for opportunites in theatre, people with the hopes of doing well base themsleve there which is great, although, I think there should be more alternative pathways into the industry outside of London so up and coming theatre makers don’t feel like their work won’t excel or be seen if not in London.
Finally, to close, sell your show to readers in just one sentence…
Georgie: Guaranteed to be the weirdest hour of your life, in a play about who knows what.
So there you have it! Remember: EUAN plays at the Camden Fringe from 30th July – 4th August at the Tristan Bates Theatre and you can find tickets here.