Edinburgh Fringe 2022
An Audience with Stuart
This comedic one-man show introduces Stuart Bagcliffe, who is about to perform his autobiographical play to an audience for the first time. Ill-prepared and lacking experience, Stuart is naturally a bundle of nerves. Join him as he attempts to make it through the play in one piece, contending with his overbearing mother watching from the wings and a sound technician who's half asleep, as well as his own demons and insecurities. What could possibly go wrong?
Vermin takes place at Gilded Balloon Teviot - Balcony 3-14, 16-29 at 13:00.
Hi Benny thank you for talking with The New Current, how have you been keeping?
A pleasure! Well, as we speak its approaching forty degrees outside, so I’m keeping hotter than 2005 Gisele Bündchen surfing on lava.
How does it feel to be bringing An Audience With Stuart Bagcliffe to ZOO Venues and Ver-min to Gilded Balloon this summer?
It’s my first fringe for a good long while, and it’s slightly terrifying. It comes with an overwhelming and unpaid workload, so there’s that to contend with. But overall quietly confident, I’d say.
There has been amazing response to your shows already, as a playwright what has it meant to you to know that your plays have really connected to audiences so well?
It’s a great feeling, as a company we know what it’s like to have a flop. In 2014 we devised a play called Scattered that didn’t have the impact we were hoping for, we were young and we had fun with it, but I suppose it makes you apprehensive about subsequent projects. I guess knowing that connection exists now has made me feel slightly less stressed about it all.
What has been the best comment you’ve gotten so far?
I overheard someone walking out of our previews saying it was the best play they’d ever seen. You can’t get much better than that!
What does Edinburgh Fringe mean to you?
Working with a hangover. Getting twelve flus in one month. Sharing a living room floor with a heap of stinky creatives. Spending a month being wildly entertained.
Can you tell me a little bit about how An Audience With Stuart Bagcliffe & Vermin came about, what was the inspiration behind these shows?
An Audience With Stuart Bagcliffe is something I spent longer than I care to admit piecing together. Michael, who performs it has described it as a matrix. It’s a complicated piece of work to act, but I suppose it was in response to exploitation in the age of documentary. It’s also just something I thought I would find entertaining, which thankfully I really do! Vermin was written in lockdown, I had an infestation of rats at the time so I got to pour a lot of my frustrations into the text. Writing, when it flows, is therapeutic. Writing them was therapy for me.
What was the biggest challenges you faced writing these shows and what has been the most valuable lesson you have taken away from the experience?
The biggest challenge has been and will always be writer's block. As far as I’m aware I’m not the kind of playwright who’d ever be able to be commissioned. It takes me a long time, and I often get stuck and have to spend days, weeks, months or even years mulling things over to find the correct direction. I wish I could say I’ve learned a lot from creating these, but I still suffer all the same stumbling blocks as I ever have.
How important is the creative collaboration between between you and your directors Sally Paffett and Michael Parker?
It’s absolutely crucial for so many reasons. The parts they play were written with them in mind, so the plays wouldn’t be the same or possibly even exist without them. They constantly take the text in directions I didn’t know were possible, we encourage each other to grow as practitioners and performers. Of course, we’ve had our issues, but overall its one of the healthiest working environments I’ve encountered.
"In all honesty though, I don’t think they really believed in me there and as a result I never got the parts I wanted, and was boxed into styles I don’t perform in at all anymore."
Where did your passion for theatre come from?
Like so many others, a good teacher. I was struggling academically and couldn’t really work out what I was supposed to do with my life. Jules Crossley taught me drama, and she believed in me, challenged and pushed me, and in the end completely changed my life.
You’re a graduate of East 15 Acting School, how much did you time here help guide you in the direction of the theatre you wanted to create?
I had a brilliant time at East 15. I made great friends, including Sally and Mike. There were many good take aways from my time there, and there’s no way I’d be acting and living the way I am now if I hadn’t have gone. In all honesty though, I don’t think they really believed in me there and as a result I never got the parts I wanted, and was boxed into styles I don’t perform in at all anymore. My development as an actor and writer mainly happened before and after East 15.
Has your approach to your writing changed much since you started our in theatre?
Not really. I’ve always wanted to create subversive work that challenges, excites, shocks and titillates. What’s the point in boring stuff? Nobody goes to the theatre to watch middle-of-the-road, pedestrian work. We want to be pushed to the limit of our emotions, whether that’s through laughter, fear, sadness or disgust. Some people might say that’s an oversimplification of the truth, but come to our plays and let us prove you wrong.
If you could describe the work Triptych Theatre does in three words what would they be?
Fucked up fairytales. I don’t know if I’m allowed to swear so just swap the U and the C for asterisks if necessary.
Do you have any advice, tips or suggestions you would offer a fellow playwright?
Drop your inhibitions. They are what will hold you back. Believe the feedback you get from others, especially if it’s bad. Be bold and be brave in your writing, and in your search for exposure. See lots of theatre and steal things you like. Just make sure you regurgitate it in a way that’s truthful to you and to your style. Read plays. Format can be the hardest thing. You can have the best story in the world, but what’s the best way to present it? Know the answer to that question before you write a single word.
And finally, what do you want your fringe audiences to take away from An Audience With Stuart Bagcliffe & Vermin?
I want them come away feeling like they’ve seen more than just theatre. Both plays have provoked responses I’ve genuinely never experienced in a theatre. Heckling, angry walk-outs, violent outbursts of laughter. I love that because it shows we are inciting conversation and bringing people to the limits of what it’s possible to experience through simply watching fiction.