Edinburgh Fringe 2022 
Interview

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Nell
Bailey
How to Build a Wax Figure
Venue 17: Assembly George Square Studios - Studio 4
Aug 4-9, 11-15, 17-22, 24-29, 12:55 /  Tickets
July 27, 2022

Girl meets anatomical wax sculptor. Anatomical wax sculptor meets girl. They fall in love. Or something like that. Bea's older neighbour was her first love, her first cigarette, her first prosthetic eye. When Bea is invited to the Wellcome Collection to speak about her expertise making glass eyes, she finds herself unable to untie Margot from all that she does. As she tries to unpack her mentor's effect on her work, Bea must dissect for herself what love really looks like.

 

Hi Nell, thank you for talking to The New Current, how have you been keeping, cool and calm I hope?

 

Just about cool, just about calm! Maybe a little clammy..

 

This is going to be November Theatre’s debut Fringe, will there be much nerves ahead of your run at Assembly Festival?

 

I think the nerves are unavoidable! But we’ve got a great team and a fab show, so hopefully that will help with the press night shakes. That and a big glass of wine, of course.

 

How to Build a Wax Figure had a sell out preview run at The Pleasance in London, what did it mean to you to get such a resounding response to this new play?

 

Honestly, it was amazing! And a massive shout out to our originating producer, Sarah Jordan Verghese, who did an incredible job at bringing an audience to the show.

 

For me, the most important part of that first run was the reaction. We had people debating the ethics of Bea and Margot’s relationship in the pub, really probing the issues that have fascinated Isabella and I from the off. That, and people were able to see themselves in the relationships onstage, finding resonance with their own queer experience.

 

What is it about Edinburgh Fringe that is so special?

 

Well, this is my first Fringe, but I’ve always wanted to take a show to the festival. The sheer volume of theatre that’s there and the length of the festival is unparalleled. It’s a real celebration of art, and I’m looking forward to seeing so much new work, ending up in strange places, and meeting new folk.

 

Have you got your Royal Mile sales patter sorted yet?

 

Queers! Gout! Birthday Cake!

We’re working on it.

BUT you will see us holding massive eyes on sticks dressed in clay covered dungarees. and if THAT’S not a conversation starter I don’t know what is.

 

Can you tell me a little bit about How to Build a Wax Figure, what was it about Isabella Waldron text that interested you so much?

 

Isabella has a rare gift of creating complex, whole characters and then chucking them into a very detailed, yet very real, world. Basically, she makes my job incredibly easy. Her knack for dialogue and her emotional intelligence makes for a play you can’t put down, and one I was desperate to bring to life.

 

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced bringing this production to the stage?

 

Oooof. Well… our first run got struck by flu, and sadly meant we lost our lead actor 4 days out of the first show. Luckily, another incredible performer was able to take on the role and the show went up, to a great response. But believe me, it was stressful, and I lost my voice for a month after the run!

 

In terms of Fringe… No one’s lying when they say it’s expensive. Fundraising enough to pay your creatives fairly, as well as covering your costs, is a huge amount of (unpaid) work. Like so many companies, it was touch and go for a while. Luckily, we’ve managed to raise enough to bring the show up, but it’s a huge barrier for a lot of emerging artists, and something that really needs addressing in the fringe theatre scene.

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How much does your background as an actor help inform your approach to directing theatre?

 

I’m a really hands (and feet and body) on director - probably because there’s some part of me that misses being on stage. I like to spend a lot of time playing with my cast, finding their characters through physical work, games, and, honestly, lots of silliness. I’ll often jump onstage with them as we figure out blocking, finding that the show makes sense to me when I can be in the space with it before becoming the outside eye.

 

Are you able to allow yourself and your cast much flexibility with the show once it’s running or do you prefer to stick to what you have planned?

 

I think a play should be different every time; it breathes with its changing audience. I’ll always encourage actors to follow their instincts, as something could reveal itself halfway through the run. That said, I’m hoping I won’t be trying to change the show massively once it’s up. If I’ve done a good job, the play is the actors’ once the run begins, and I have to trust I’ve laid the foundations for a consistent show.

 

What are you most looking forward to take away from your time at Edinburgh Fringe?

 

A beer belly.

 

How important is the creative collaboration between director, playwright and actors?

 

For me, it’s everything. A play is a collective effort which everybody has a stake in. I’m always looking to learn from the people I’m working with, and their ideas will inform the piece as much - if not more - than my own. So finding people who have a strong vision, who are excited by the project, is really important to me.

 

Have you always had a passion for theatre?

 

Yeah. I spent a lot of my childhood making mad devised theatre with the Bristol Old Vic Young Company, and that made me fall in love with live shows. That desire to be silly, and to share something in a room with other people, has never really left me.

 

It hasn’t been a consistent love affair, but since the pandemic the importance of sharing something in a room with other people has increased tenfold.

"I think my process will remain firmly rooted in text, but everything else is malleable."

Since co-founding November Theatre how much has your approach to your shows as a director evolved?

 

It’s changing all the time! We founded NT out of a love of new writing, and that has stayed central to my work - I still love developing a script hand in hand with a writer. As a director, I’m always learning. I think my process will remain firmly rooted in text, but everything else is malleable. It depends on the project, the team, and the vibe!

 

Do you have any advice, tips or suggestions you would offer a fellow director?

 

Haha, I feel like I’m always the one asking that question!

 

Hold your nerve. Have someone whose eye you trust to talk through your ideas with. Eat. Drink water. Have fun!

 

And finally, what do you want your fringe audiences to take away from How to Build a Wax Figure?

 

That gout really can be sexy.