Interview: K. B Morris Talks New Show O.L.D: Online Dating

K. B Morris brings a modern tale to the Camden Fringe this year with O.L.D – a show which dives into online dating, modern relationships and London living. The show plays the Camden Fringe at The Water Rats 25th – 26th August so I caught up with Morris to talk all things O.L.D: Online Dating and theatre…

Tell us a little about your show O.L.D: Online Dating – what’s the show all about?

Put simply, O.L.D is about a 32 year old woman who lives in London and feels as though it’s about time to settle down.  She joins an online dating site and starts to meet matches.

Your show is soon to arrive at the Camden Fringe – what does the fringe mean to you as an emerging playwright?

The Camden Fringe is a great opportunity to dip my toe in the water and see how the show goes down with audiences.  It’s an ideal opportunity to get my work out there since I have other projects in mind, so it’s a good way to get others interested in what I am doing and use it as a springboard to further creative ventures.

Your play is a comic drama based your own experiences of online dating – has it been challenging in any way to place your own life centre stage?

Not at all.  Although this is my first stage play I have been writing for a very long time and it’s habitual for me to expose my innermost thoughts for others to see and interpret.  In my opinion, if you are going to do anything creative, anything that connects to another human being, you need to be prepared to expose yourself.

O.L.D looks at how online dating has ‘dehumanised relationships’ – overall, would you say your play recognises the merits of online dating as well as casting a more critical eye over it – or does the play land somewhere in between?

I think that online dating has had a positive effect on many people’s lives as it has brought people together; people who wouldn’t normally meet as friends, lovers and partners.  People have moved across continents to be with someone they’ve met online so in that sense, it has changed lives.  However, in another way it has brought to the surface something darker, perhaps making it easier to treat people badly, to dismiss others in a cruel way.

Modern dating stories generally land in the comedy genre and your play is a comedy drama – would you say it leans more towards one or the other?

The play is perhaps, more dramatic than comedic, though I hope it makes people laugh.  Although one act, the play gets more serious in the ‘second half’ and ends on a more neutral plateau.  I’m hoping that people will see something of themselves in it, recognise their own thoughts and experiences.

Do you consider O.L.D to act primarily as a form of political or social commentary on contemporary ideas of love and dating or is this primarily a personal drama with political undertones?

I think most drama is political, even if it’s not explicit, it will still be capturing the zeitgeist.  The internet has created a social revolution and online dating is part of that; it has completely shaken up what it means to have relationships in today’s society, especially for young people who have never known anything else.  It cuts to the chase as in there are dating sites for any kind of fetish or hobbyist.  You don’t need to get to know a person or build rapport in order to meet for an afternoon of light spanking.  I really wanted to explore the idea of the effects of neoliberalism on modern relationships and as a reflection of that, what it means for London millennial’s.

What prompted you to use an electronic recipient for your character’s lamentations rather than a human character – is it connected to the idea of cyber space creating a sense of ‘increasing isolation in an ever connected world?’

We have these ‘home devices’ that can listen to anything we say in our homes, that can learn our habits and patterns.  I wanted to look at a human being pouring their heart out to a robot and to use that as a metaphor for a cold, neoliberal world where the dollar is king and people are moveable units.  The home computer device doesn’t care that the protagonist is going through an existential crisis.  It also contains an element of poignancy in that the protagonist, Kate, doesn’t have anyone else to talk to and has no choice.  They (big business, the government et al) are looking to make as much of our daily transactions computerised as computers don’t get paid and don’t have rights.  There are ideas on how to get computerised therapists and GP consultations so it’s something that will be coming into our lives, if we let it.  Loneliness pervades every aspect of our existence; it destroys lives and depletes potential and we’re becoming ever more isolated even though we are ever more interconnected.

Your character, Kate, has much to bemoan – without any spoilers, can you say if there’s hope for Kate’s happiness?

The play is deliberately open ended so it is for the audience to make up their own minds on her potential happiness.  I think it’s unfair to my protagonist who I think many people will be able to relate to, to see her as simply having a bit of a whinge.  There is far more to her predicament than that which will be evident when people see the show; she is very much a complex and multi faceted character.

How do you tie in subjects like house prices, zero hour contracts and the cost of living with a play about a woman’s dating experiences?

These issues are very much prevalent to people living and working in London and Kate is experiencing them in much the same way as everyone else.  These aren’t abstract concepts but a grinding reality for many people and their lives are the poorer for it.  Kate goes on a series of dates with others who work in London and meets people going through the same problems as her.

Does O.L.D carry a message or lesson for audiences?

I don’t think it’s for me to lecture people on what they should be thinking or feeling.  Everyone approaches something creative whether that is a painting, book or play from a unique vantage point and it is from that perspective they interpret the work.  There is no right or wrong way of looking at the play.  If it touches someone, if it changes how something thinks or feels, just a little, then that is the privilege of writing and the shared experience of the theatre.

If an audience takes just one thing away from seeing O.L.D, what would you like that to be?

‘Enjoy the moment’ – that will make sense if you come to see it.

Now for the Quick Fire Round!

Who or what has inspired you most in theatre?

That’s a very difficult question. I’m going to say Brecht.

Favourite theatre genre and why?

Another really difficult question as I don’t see the theatre in such black and white terms.  Each genre has something important to offer so for me it depends on the playwright, the production etc So I’m not going to answer it.

Etiquette debates – worthwhile or futile? Where do you draw the line?

I’m very sensitive to noise and I have been unfortunate enough to be sitting next to people crunching on crisps, popcorn or slurping drinks which have ruined my theatre going experience more than a few times.  I once sat through a ballet while someone blinded me with light from their mobile phone.  I saw a production at the Globe where the couple behind me ate a picnic, rusting plastic wrappers, throwing cans on the floor that rattled around in the wind.  It’s infuriating.

If you could bring change in terms of opportunities in the theatre industry right now, what would it be? What does theatre need?

I think we all know the answer to that!  It’s stale, male and pale.  We need more working class writers, crew and cast.  More diversity and more stories written and directed by women.  I’m also infuriated (easily so, evidently) by theatre courses that solely focus on Western male writers and the so called ‘canon’.  A friend of mine did an MA in creative writing and the playwriting part of the course only focused on male playwrights.  It’s as though women don’t exist or their voices are deemed unworthy of notice.  Bloody outrageous.

Finally, to close, sell your show to readers in just one sentence.

A slice of brilliance that will make you laugh and cry.

So there you have it! Remember: O.L.D: Online Dating runs at The Water Rats from 25th – 26th August 2018 and you can find tickets here.

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