Interview: Georgie Bailey & Hal Darling Talk ChewBoy Productions’ “Tethered”

ChewBoy Productions are back with a new show! “Tethered”, a ‘madcap caper’, is set to play The Lion and Unicorn from 20th – 24th July 2021… live and in person! I caught up with co-founders of the company Georgie Bailey and Hal Darling (also playing both roles in this two-hander) ahead of ChewBoy’s return to the stage… Here, they talk about recent projects, what drives their creativity and of course, this latest quirky adventure.

It’s been a good long while since I caught your show EUAN at the Camden Fringe and it seems the company has been going from strength to strength – tell me a little about what the company has been up to in the interim between EUAN and the new show, TETHERED.

We’ve been up to quite a fair bit! We developed EUAN since its first outing in 2018 with our brilliant (now) Resident Director Lucy Betts and took the show on tour to Fringe festivals around the UK in 2019. EUAN won an award at Brighton Fringe and received critical acclaim which just got us fired up to work on more exciting projects.

Due to the pandemic and our own personal interests, we’ve moved away from theatre a little in our most recent work. In 2019, we produced our second short film: THE PROCESS TRILOGY which invited audience members to answer a series of questions prior to the screening, with their answers dictating the edit of the film (quite stressful from our end). Sticking with film, we were commissioned to create a new short 15-minute experimental digital piece called THE ZIZZ earlier this year. We had a lot of fun with both of these projects, and they received a 2021 online run at Living Records Festival where we were also Digital Residents.

Over the course of 2020, we had to keep ourselves busy. As a result, we curated, organised and produced 4 e-galleries called ‘Quarantine Collective’ which celebrated the works of over 95 artists across the globe, and their creations during lockdowns. All of these online gallery ‘waves’ are still available online to view on our website!

Aside from all the big stuff, we’ve been busy creating a lot of smaller scale work too, in the form of our Instagram TV comedy cooking series ‘Cookin’ with Chew’, our debut poetry collection ‘Poems While You Poo’ and our brand new Arts Magazine: Chewin’ the Fat, dropping later this year.

Basically, we’ve been busy! Very busy. But we’re excited to be returning to theatreland for our next adventure, TETHERED, created as part of the Associate Company attachment we have with the Lion and Unicorn Theatre. We’ve also got two more theatre projects in the works, one for late 2021 and one for mid-2022, but more on those when the time comes…

Very, very busy then! So let’s talk about this new show. Described as a ‘darkly comic and surreal, experimental, madcap caper following 2 characters tethered together’, this feels like ChewBoy territory, for sure. When and how did the idea for this show pop up?

We were so intrigued by all the interpretations we received in response to EUAN that we really wanted to create something new which allowed audiences to read into things in an entirely different way. Also, we were very bored in the pandemic and found ourselves trying to come up with the most ridiculous ways you could physically embody social distancing onstage: and so, TETHERED was born! (Reader, don’t worry. It’s not a COVID play. C’mon. We wouldn’t do that to you!)

For a few years now, we’ve been fascinated by the idea of liveness, and what it means for an audience to be in a room with actors, and how that is quite a…surreal experience in itself. Just recently, we did a week of R&D for the show, and had similar conversations which have taken the show into a new, slightly more meta-phase of development which we’re buzzing to see how an audience reacts to…

The pitch tells us that Sans and Moins are about to be ‘saved, after a lifetime of being tethered together’ and they know this because… ‘The prophetic printer has told them so…’ As far as pitches go, that’s pretty intriguing. What can you tell me about how these characters came to be so…co-dependent?

That’s a tough one to answer! The reason as to why they became so co-dependent is a big plot point of the play. But to slightly avoid the question in that diplomatic, political way, we’re all co-dependent on someone or something in a way, and we found it fascinating how those relationships can turn toxic quickly. TETHERED is more about hope than it is about being saved. It’s about whether hope is a person or a thing. Whether it can be shared, or whether it’ll eat you alive. (That sounds pretty dramatic, don’t it? We promise it’s funny too!)

And with that quirky ‘prophetic printer’ in the mix, can we assume that the ‘madcap’ element of TETHERED involves the same kind of genre playfulness as EUAN?

Eliza, you can bet your bottom dollar on it. We’ve had a lot of time since the first outing of EUAN to really hone the kind of genre playfulness, styles and tones we want to muck about with in our work. So expect some batshit stuff, but also expect some poignant stuff (we hope) about the way we live right now as individuals in society. We like to think we’ve done a bit of growing up since 2018!

While the play is billed as darkly comic and surreal, it’s also pitched to explore more serious ground, looking at simple human understanding, hope, loss and the reliance we have on others. Is there some subtle or even not-so-subtle messaging in this piece you’re hoping audiences will take away with them?

Definitely. We want people to reflect on what the piece means to them, and hopefully to find something they can take away which will make them consider insignificant things in their lives in a way. Our “thing” is always to do with audience perception and perspective; trying to exploit how that shared experience is individual to every audience member and how different people interpret art.

Don’t get us wrong though, we don’t take ourselves too seriously. Ultimately, our work is meant to be enjoyed, for the audience to have fun with. We’re not out here trying to make ourselves the next prophetic production company because no one can really deliver that. If an audience member leaves considering their place in the world then that’s great. If they leave thinking “I don’t know what the f**k I’ve just watched but hey I had a good time watching it” then that’s in equal measure great. If they buy a ticket – that’s really great and thank you that means we can eat. ☺

And just to make things a little more spontaneous and edge-of-the-seat, TETHERED gives the audience the opportunity to decide which half of the play they see first. Again, what prompted ChewBoy to take this less-travelled road?

As a company we are just fascinated and fixated on audience interpretation. We can’t get enough of the stuff. So the idea that the audience could actually play a part in the way the story gets told felt like a clear choice. It allows the audience to interpret the play differently depending, not only on how it’s written but, how they choose it is performed. It’s terrifying for us as actors, but also an exciting challenge – it keeps it fresh for us. Things might change during rehearsals and R&D time, but we’re hoping that no matter what, TETHERED will be a next step for us as a company, as we’re always trying to outdo what’s come before with an audience’s experience in the space.

In giving the audience the ability to manipulate the narrative shape ever so slightly, you’re expecting shifts in audience perceptions of the story and characters. Without spoilers, obviously, exactly how seismic are the potential differences in perception for audiences who see the two parts in a different order?

They have the potential to be quite seismic! I think people might go in expecting one thing and come out having witnessed something else entirely. Like anything, the order in which you see events can drastically change the way you view them; you may see someone get pushed and then watch them fall – there is one narrative, but seeing someone fall and then later realising they were pushed is a whole different narrative entirely.

I think TETHERED is a play that seems like its all accounted for in the description, but there is a lot more to it that what first meets the eye. And if that’s not enticing, we don’t know what is!

You’re all set to play the Lion and Unicorn Theatre in July 2021 – it’s an obvious question, but I’m going to ask it – what are you most looking forward to as you prepare to head back in the direction of live performance for live and in-the-flesh audiences?

I think you might find our answer in the first sentence of the question: we are all set to play the Lion and Unicorn Theatre in July 2021! Just being in the space and getting to play and perform with friends after nearly 18 months away – its like no other feeling in the world, and it’ll be real good to be back doing what we’ve missed for a whole year. The pandemic has made us realise just how important theatre is to so many people, and we can’t wait to give people a laugh and enjoy being back in the wonderful confines of a venue.

And finally, in just one sentence, tell us why we’d be fools to miss TETHERED

Because where else in London would you get to see two actors tied together, pranging out because they have no idea which order they’re doing anything? And…nobody wants to be a fool, do they? 😉

So there you have it! Remember, “Tethered” The Lion and Unicorn from 20th – 24th July 2021 and you can get your tickets here.

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