Edinburgh Fringe 2022 
Interview

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Michael
Kinnan
Never Let Go: An Unauthorized Retelling of James Camerons Titanic
Venue 17: Assembly George Square Studios - Studio 5
Aug 3-14, 16-21, 23-29, 13:20 /  Tickets
July 27, 2022

Never Let Go is a thrilling, hilarious one-man show the New York Times calls 'a feat of ingenuity'. Watch Michael Kinnan pack the three-and-a-half-hour epic into just one hour, with a surprisingly subversive punch given the source is a 90s blockbuster rom-dram. Kinnan plays all the roles – yes, all of them. As told by Rose, the play takes you on an intimate journey into the fateful romance that is shadowed by one of the most devastating man-made disasters in history – the sinking of the Titanic.

 

Hi Michael, thank you for taking the time to talk with The New Current, how does it feel to be heading to Edinburgh Fringe and Assembly Festival this year?

 

It feels, with no exaggeration, absolutely surreal. This will be my first theatre festival since just out of college, which at this point is over a decade ago. There had been whispers urging me to bring the show overseas for a few years, but on an artist’s budget and then the doom of the pandemic…this was not really on my radar. I won’t say the cliché but it’s something of a hallucination turned reality.

 

This is going to be your Fringe debut, are there any nerves ahead of your run?

 

As a performer, I really have no nerves (which is odd to say, I know). I don’t know how individual audiences will respond, but I have done the show in front of enough people to not be too concerned about how people will respond. Jumping across the Atlantic to do the show near the birthplace of the real Titanic has a certain gravity to it. Being amongst so many remarkable artists carries an unprecedented electricity that you could call nerves for sure.

 

And with this being your Fringe Debut have you gotten any tips for how to handle The Royal Mile? 

 

I must say I don’t feel prepared at all for how the festival will actually feel. I’ve spoken to quite a few people who all say variations of “it’s crazy.” The Royal Mile sounds like a glorious runway so I’m sure I’ll attempt to dominate and love it.

 

What made you want to bring Never Let Go to the Fringe?

 

A new friend Tom DeTrinis (who has three shows coming this season to Fringe!) introduced me to Jodi of the Assembly and they both made the process so effortless. Now, of course, as it comes down to logistics, I am realizing nothing whatsoever about this process is effortless. I have been wanting to bring this show to a wider audience for years and this festival seems like one of the best ways to put it in front of the most passionate people.

 

Elisabeth Vincentilli of The New York Times wrote of Never Let Go “While he adeptly reproduces DiCaprio’s youthful cockiness, Kinnan raises his game to another level with Winslet’s role.” Did you expect or imagine that this show would get such a rave response?

 

That review was the stuff of pure fantasy. In fact, I don’t even think I fantasised about the Times coming. What really stunned me about her words was her sensitivity to the subtlety that guided me through Rose’s journey. I never imagined anyone would really grasp the heartbeat. For many, Never Let Go is a comedic romp. For Elisabeth, and myself, it’s a true love letter which is also able to hold a mirror up to the unfortunate similarities of our time with Rose’s. The misogyny, the male hubris, the unnecessary tragedy. It’s heavy.

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After working on Never Let Go for nearly a year and a half what was it like to have a Sold Out run at The Brick?

 

Gosh, it charged me in a way I’ve never felt. And to be frank, I wouldn’t have even considered bringing the show abroad had it not happened, so literally life altering.

 

Can you tell me how Never Let Go came about, what was it about James Cameron’s Titanic that inspired you to create this show?

 

In college, I was assigned a 10 minute solo performance that could most clearly express “who I am.” The day of that performance is when this show clicked in. It’s very hard to explain how this film continues to ripple through my life so to speak. I can associate it with almost every major milestone. And James Cameron is a genius. A flawed one, yes, but he’s done something no one else has done. He continues to surpass himself and that continues to warrant my respect and a further delving into this masterpiece.

 

It’s an annoying question but how did you go about whittling down a 3 hour epic into a 1 hour solo show?

 

Not annoying at all! A lot of mental editing. I’ve had the film memorised for quite some time. I decided early on that any scene not directly involving the central character Rose would be eliminated, regardless of how iconic, so that was a strict rule that allowed me to eliminate a lot of material and have a solid line of connection throughout.

 

How much has the show evolved/changed since you first debuted it?

 

To me the show has changed a lot. For audiences, they likely don’t notice the nuanced shifts. But my goal has always been to add a new piece to the puzzle for returning audiences while keeping it fresh for both of us. So a lot and not at all. There are two extra hours of material, so I am always looking for ways to add as much as I can while maintaining the system that works so well. I consider the success of my initial execution of this show great luck. I try not to mess with it too much. Have I contradicted myself? Ha.

 

Once it’s running do you give yourself much flexibility or do you like to stick to your text?

 

The magic of the show, the element that taps into each audience’s nostalgia, is the word-for-word transcription that is then reinterpreted and voiced through a tall bald gay man. So, with the exception of some unforeseen audience reactions, I stick to the script.

 

Have you always had a passion for theatre and performance?

 

My mother will tell you yes, always. I remember waking up at the crack of dawn to come to New York on my 13th birthday to see Phantom of the Opera. There is nothing like live performance. And there is nothing like a live audience. They cannot be replaced.

 

What has been the most valuable lesson you have taken from this whole experience?

 

Hm. I’d love to say I’ve learned the significance of not procrastinating, but I’m not sure I’ll ever really learn how not to procrastinate. I’ve learned the value in sharing your journey with others. So many people have offered guidance as a result of my opening up to them. This idea that we are to embark on our adventures alone - to suffer through artistic endeavour alone - is such a myth. As of late, I am remembering the most important thing as an artist: trust yourself.

"Trust yourself and do your own stuff. It shapes your voice and keeps you committed all while likely not getting paid a dime."

Do you have any advice for fellow playwrights/performers?

 

I don’t know if I’m fit to give advice but what I was told again and again and the only way I've had success is by doing my own work. Trust yourself and do your own stuff. It shapes your voice and keeps you committed all while likely not getting paid a dime.

 

Since we’re here I have to ask, do you have a favourite line or quote from James Cameron’s Titanic?

 

Very hard question. I was just thinking about the moment when Rose and Jack are running away from the henchman and she flips him the bird in the elevator. It seemed so rebellious and bold the first time I watched it! She’s just a kid after all. But my favourite line has to be Jack to Rose when she jumps back on the ship from her lifeboat. “You’re so stupid Rose! Why did you do that? Why?” I can’t really explain but when you see the show, you’ll probably understand why.

 

And finally, what do you want your fringe audiences to take away from Never Let Go?

 

I always hope for a rekindling of love and appreciation for the film. I think what Kate and Leo had to endure as stars at such a young age was a major sacrifice that changed celebrity culture. In light of the political current both here at home in the states and internationally, the moment when Rose’s mother Ruth turns to her saying “Of course it’s unfair, we’re women,” that moment resonates with great tremors. The other major event in this film is the moment Rose attempts suicide. When people are asking for help, it’s often indirect. I hope people are awakened to the potential for the significant impact that they have on others. Jack never knew how his intervention would alter the course of Rose’s life. And the fight of womxn is one we are all a part of.