Edinburgh Fringe 2022
All Images Michael Hani @themichaelhani
Cameron Cook pushes character work to incredible new heights in his debut solo show, previously performed to sold-out audiences at Soho Theatre. Join him on an intense, dreamlike ride through vivid characters who stream forth in moments of absurdity, satire, and tenderness, accompanied by striking live music and sounds from Claire Parry.
Hi Cameron, thank you for talking with The New Current, how have you been keeping?
I’m doing good, thanks, glad to be talking to you guys!
How does it feel to be bringing It All back to Assembly Festival this summer?
I feel extremely grateful to Assembly for having me back and for all their ongoing support – I really can’t overstate how lucky I am to be part of their programme. I’m looking forward to seeing team members I met last year as well as getting to know some new people I’ve been speaking with!
You had an amazing run with It All at Soho Theatre and the reviews were incredible, what has it meant to you to get this type of response to your show?
It was so generous of Soho Theatre to offer me a slot earlier this year – I had performed there in 2019, pre-covid, and it was a real boost to be able to perform there again following a long hiatus from the stage.
I love performing live and, of course, the show means a lot to me – but the audience experience is the most important thing. When it feels like a performance has gone well and resonated with an audience, that’s wonderful. There’s the personal fulfilment of self-expression, but more so there’s a satisfying relief in feeling as though I’ve done my job and respected the audience’s time and attention. When reviews reflect that good feeling in the theatre on the night, that’s the cherry on top.
Will there be any nerves ahead of your run?
Absolutely! I need them.
What makes the Fringe so special?
I think it’s about opportunity and energy. Everyone’s taking a chance – be that with what they’re presenting or what they’re seeing – and everyone wants it to go well, and it could! There’s a sense of collective optimism and goodwill which is quite rare.
I have to say that this special feature of the Fringe does risk being lost – access to that opportunity is increasingly restricted. There’s a good deal of attention being drawn to this thankfully, but collaborative action is what is needed.
Can you tell me a little bit about how It All came about, where did the inspiration for this show come from?
It was 2016, the year of Brexit and Trump, I was just leaving education and entering the adult world, trying to figure out everything that comes along with that. And I knew I wanted to make my own work, so I began writing and trying things out at scratch nights.
Things felt very fractured around me and within, but I also desperately wanted to find some kind of unity. And the writing grew out of that – the tension between hoping for and believing in connectivity, while simultaneously feeling very alone.
I want to mention some major influences on the show – and me as a person! The Ego Tunnel by Thomas Metzinger; The Waves by Virginia Woolf; Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu, specifically the Stephen Mitchell translation, and; Man’s Search For Meaning by Victor Frankl. I remember listening through Thundercat’s Drunk almost every day, and Tame Impala’s InnerSpeaker – these swirly, psychedelic, immersive albums. I was watching a lot of Reggie Watts online, a lot of Robin Williams, George Carlin, and I was listening to The Blindboy Podcast and watching Rubberbandits music videos.
"I think the biggest challenge has been everything that’s required with getting a new project or new career off the ground."
Did you have any apprehensions about creating a show that draws from you own experiences?
Not initially, but a little bit once the show was more developed. It reflects something of my internal world from a particular time in life. On occasion, I feel a bit self-conscious about that, but mostly it’s something I’m happy to share with people in the hope of sparking connection.
When a show is running do you allow yourself much flexibility with it or do you like to keep to what you’ve planned?
I’ve got a prepared performance I’m planning to deliver, for sure. But live performance thrives with that hint of flexibility – the fact that it isn’t pre-packaged is what makes it so special and so thrilling, and I’m always eager to lean into that.
How important is the creative collaboration between yourself and musician Claire Parry?
Claire is a brilliant writer, performer, musician, and director with a highly entertaining show of her own up at the Fringe with Assembly this year, Boorish Trumpson – I strongly recommend people go and check it out. Claire has brought another dimension to the piece. Offstage, she’s energetic, intelligent, funny, and fun to be around – working with her has been a pleasure. Onstage, she plays a crucial role in bringing the world of the piece to life. In every aspect, her involvement makes the show better.
Having live music during a Fringe show is rare, how much has this element impacted your performance as well as the audience’s connection to the piece?
Claire’s music and sounds immerse the audience in the performance in the way only music can achieve – it’s primal. And it does the same to me – it’s totally energising.
What have been some of the biggest challenges you faced with this show and what have been the most valuable lesson you’ve taken away from It All?
I think the biggest challenge has been everything that’s required with getting a new project or new career off the ground. But that’s where the most valuable lessons come from – be patient, do your work, enjoy it!
Where did your passion for theatre and performing come from?
I got into it through secondary school really, starting off with wanting to make people laugh.
Now it’s a wonderful vehicle for me to explore all the things about being human I’m so dumbfounded and fascinated by – communication, be that verbal or physical, stories we tell and are told, emotions, philosophies, contradictions – it all.
What type of theatre are you looking forward to exploring in the future?
I’m not totally sure. This piece can be quite confrontational and high energy. So part of me wonders about making something soft and calm – exploring how to soothe and comfort in an actively engaging way.
How much has your approach to your work changed since you got into theatre?
I try to think more long-term, have more patience, have more fun, and think about the audience more!
Do you have any advice, tips or suggestions you would offer anyone wanting to get into theatre?
The general advice I would have is – think about what it is you’d like to do and try to do that as often as possible. Get started, keep going, and keep going. Trust yourself and respect your audience.
More specific advice for people making their own work would be to look for scratch nights or open mic nights to get involved in – this is how I met Claire! – and you’ll meet fantastic people and see wonderful and wacky stuff.
And finally, what do you want your fringe audiences to take away from It All?
Passion for living.