Interview: Lesley Ann Albiston Talks New Play “Chop Me Up Or Let Me Go”

Following the success of the award-nominated, sell-out show “A Slice of Eel Pie”, Lesley Ann Albiston is back with a new show: “Chop Me Up Or Let Me Go”. This darkly comic two hander centres on an abduction and promises plenty of laughs as the worlds of artificial celebrity culture and awkward reality collide, handling some big issues with a good dose of irreverence. With “Chop Me Up Or Let Me Go” set to play The Hen & Chickens Theatre 19th-23 October 2021, I caught up with Lesley to find out a little more about this show, the success of the last and her influences as writer and director…

First of all, how are you and how are preparations going for bringing Chop Me up Or Let Me Go to audiences?

We are on schedule – I’ve been planning it for months, I secured an excellent cast and crew early in the process, and both in terms of creativity and publicity, we are ahead of the game.

So. A show following one abducted actor and his stalker-kidnapper. What inspired such a narrative?

It was partially inspired by Lockdown – imagine being locked away indefinitely against your will, but with someone whose motives for keeping you captive are unclear. And I also wanted to explore the dynamic of a celebrity faced with the very real consequences of living a highly-visible life on social media – who ARE your followers? And what do they really WANT from you?

Can you name any influences you felt at your elbow as you were making this piece?

Much like my recent play, A Slice Of Eel Pie, I definitely lean on the tradition of absurdism – Pinter and Beckett are never far away; you’re never sure exactly where you are or why. But also I have a long history of writing and performing and watching comedy, so it is definitely meant to be laugh-out-loud funny – physical humour, actual jokes. Tonally the dialogue is snappy in the style of Brooklyn 99 and Community, with a crazy Zoolander / Anchorman edge.

This show is described as a dark, sexy, one act comedy-thriller. How do those various threads of genre merge within this show?

Well – it’s sexually-charged because two attractive individuals are locked in a power-struggle in an enclosed space. Within that, thematically it deals with a lot of serious adult issues, and definitely turns sinister. There is a tension throughout – the comedy breaks it up, but ultimately the audience should be left guessing what’s going to happen right up until the twist…

And what prompted you to set the story in the future?

Interesting – I am a fan of science fiction anyway, so the near future dystopia is a world I’d always been keen to explore, the unknown next step for this planet. Also – I wanted to address the fact that life will never truly be the same again post-pandemic: what will be the consequences of what we’re going through right now? And how could that evolve over weeks, months, years…

Your characters seem to be ready to pass comment on our reliance on social media – as well as the warped sense of familiarity it creates. Would you say this piece carries a broader message about our relationship with the web?

I guess the message is to do with celebrity status and how it has changed, there’s a new finer balance between the Fan and the Star. Ten years ago, if you were an obsessive fan, it might be impossible to know where your idol was. Now – if an actor or a musician is freely open on their Instagram and Twitter, yes it rewards them with millions of followers and daily adulation and strokes… but the flipside is anybody – absolutely anybody – can easily know exactly where you are, all the time, and everything about you, and how to get to you – for better or for worse.

So you’ve made it from concept to creation – what are you most hoping audiences will take away from this show?

I want audiences to have a full theatrical experience – tension, fear, laughter, immersion, and a neat conclusion, so they come away having had a thrilling and fulfilling hour. Plus, I am really keen to showcase two very talented young actors, at the beginning of their careers, in strong three-dimensional roles. Ciara Murphy and Alastair Coughlan are future stars, and I know that audiences will love watching them fill the stage.

Your last show, A Slice of Eel Pie was an award-nominated sell-out. Does this show follow any of the same paths to success or is it a change in direction?

It’s a very different play, but I guess because I wrote it, there must be some continuity! A Slice Of Eel Pie – with a diverse cast of eight characters, split across different timelines – covers racism, feminism, art, parenthood, music, the consequences of a permissive society in the 1960s, drugs, murder… there is a lot packed in there! Chop Me Up Or Let Me Go deals with issues too – conservation, celebrity, human rights, obsession, possession, the pandemic – but as a two-hander it’s very much one relationship under a microscope. As far as success goes – I have no idea, people need to buy tickets…

And finally, in just once sentence, why should audiences’ book to see Chop Me up Or Let Me Go?

It’s only an hour long; it’s funny and sexy; we need to support excellent independent theatres like the Hen & Chickens; and – ultimately – if you spent the last year bingeing dark dramas on Netflix, this should make you feel right at home.

So there you have it! Remember, “Chop Me Up Or Let Me Go” plays The Hen & Chickens Theatre 19th-23 October 2021 and you can find tickets here.

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