Louis Hill heads to the Camden Fringe this year with his debut solo show Love and Tigers – a venture he’s undertaken as a newly graduated go-getter. The show plays at the Hen and Chickens 15th-17th August 2019 (tickets here) so I caught up with Louis to talk all things telling stories and being an up and comer…
What prompted you to write Love and Tigers with its personal but not quite autobiographical subject matter?
It was originally a short five minute monologue I wrote as part of a writing group. I just kept going with it, and after a month this one-man show started to emerge. I was also relatively recently out of drama school, and as an actor work can be sporadic, so I decided this was something I could perform. I wanted to be making my own work. The main event of the play is fictional, which was important to me. Lots of one person shows are about real life people, but for this project I wanted to create a new character, one that I could act and perform. That being said, I still set it where I grew up in Hackney, and still used loads of things that actually happened to me.
As your first solo show, what have the challenges and joys been while working on it so far?
From a writing perspective, a one-person show allowed me to get really close to the character. I didn’t have to worry about how anyone else spoke or acted because it was all coming from one perspective. I had a lot of fun experimenting with how he talks and reacts to the audience, which in many ways makes them the other actor in the show. That’s also a challenge, however as I don’t have a scene partner to react off. In drama school we were taught acting is reacting, but that’s been taken away now, so I need to find new ways to connect with the story.
You say you’d like this piece to provide an alternative to ‘the huge, world stage level news’ – does this mean that for you, this show has political foundations on a smaller scale or are you simply offering a complete release from all news?
I suppose I’m offering a different type of story. It’s less about the politics and more about the people. I wanted to write something that you could watch and connect with on a really basic human level, that is about specific individuals. It’s pretty hard to create theatre without some degree of politics or current events, so I didn’t actively avoid it. But I know I for one am overwhelmed with huge news stories that more often than not I can’t relate to, because they seem so far away or so absurd. This play is quiet and plain story about a young man trying to be a good brother and a good son.
The show explores ‘what it is to be a brother, a son, and a man’ – that certainly seems like personal subject matter from a male writer-actor. What drew you towards this kind of narrative?
I’m 24 and having left drama school I’m starting to consider my place in the world. I’m thinking more about my family, my friends, and the wider community. There’s a huge movement at the moment encouraging young men to be more open and to talk more. I recognise that reluctance in myself, and in my friends. I wanted to write something that had a young man who was able to be vulnerable and open, but also insecure and closed off. I wanted him to be real. People say write about what you know and so I did, I wrote about a young guy who cares about family and is trying to figure out who he is.
Your character shares a ‘pivotal moment’ with the audience, along with various anecdotes as well as exploring ideas of love and loneliness in London – is it an emotionally intensive performance for you?
It really can be. Because it’s a one man show as an actor I have to find all that emotion from myself and my own imagination. There isn’t another character to feed off. So yeah, sometimes it can be emotionally intensive, and I have to dig deep, but it’s also joyful, and funny. I get to muck around. I get tell stories that are light and nostalgic as well. I hope that variety is what helps bring the audience along on the journey.
The show promises to be uplifting with the power to shock – would you say Love and Tigers falls squarely between the comedy and drama genres or is one the heavier influence?
I never thought it was that funny as I was writing it. Once the first draft was done I looked back and thought I should have made It funnier, put more jokes in or something. But as I showed it around and got feedback, a recurring theme was people enjoying how funny it was. I think it’s because the narrator is just being himself – he’s silly and naive and endearing. So much of the comedy comes from him being real. So now the show is being put on, I’d say it falls pretty evenly between comedy and drama, which is the best place for theatre in my opinion.
What does it mean to you to bring this show to the Camden Fringe?
It means a lot of hard work, that’s for sure. Being an actor is a fickle and unstable career. I’m proud that I’m creating my work less than a year out of drama school. That’s what I want to be doing with my life, making the creative decision and not being beholden on others to say that I’m ‘allowed’ to work.
If you could have audiences take just one thing away from seeing Love & Tigers, what would you want that to be?
Life’s short and brief, but the little things make it amazing. Find someone you love, give em a hug, and enjoy them.
To close, in one sentence, why should audiences come to see Love & Tigers?
Because this play is a real and human story told simply and with heart, and if they’re looking to be moved, entertained, or reminded about the beautiful little things, then they’ll get something from Love & Tigers.
Now for the quick fire round of general theatre related questions!
Who or what has inspired you most in theatre?
Being at drama school. There are professional theatre companies and actors and productions that have all made me go “wow, I want to do that”, sure. But being part of a group of people for three years who all care about theatre and acting with their whole beings is an amazing experience and a sure-fire way to be inspired.
Favourite theatre genre and why?
Naturalism. I love watching two actors on stage fully angaged with each other. They could be talking about the weather for 3 hours and it has the potential to be interesting.
Etiquette debates – worthwhile or futile? Where do you draw the line? It’s a hot topic.
For sure worthwhile. As an actor I of course want an audience to be respectful and engaged with what’s on stage. Though I understand not everyone holds that in as high a regard as performers or industry people might. I guess my question would be, what’s the point in spending money on a theatre ticket if you’re going to chat, or watch the football on your phone?
Do you have a best ‘the show must go on’ tale?
A scene where I was an old man in a graveyard talking to a gravedigger. It was semi-immersive, so the audience was essentially stood next to me. However, someone must have leant a bit too heavily on the fog machine because I was enveloped and literally no one could see me. We kept the scene going for the full 10 minutes. This happened 4 nights in a row.
If you could bring change in terms of opportunities in theatre right now, what would it be?
Just getting into the industry is expensive, and that needs to change to encourage a new generation of actors. Want to go to drama school? It costs £50 an audition. Plus travel. Plus accommodation. How people from working class or lower income families are supposed to afford that is beyond me. I know I struggled. There are more schemes and organisations appearing that are there to help, but the change has to come from within the schools and industry itself.
So there you have it! Remember, Love and Tigers plays at the Hen and Chickens 15th-17th August 2019 and you can find tickets here.