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Edinburgh Fringe 2022 
Interview

Ollie Norton-Smith
& Hamish Lloyd Barnes
 
Speed Dial
Pleasance Dome (Queen Dome)

Aug 3-9, 11-16, 18-29, 14:00 /  Tickets
June 29, 2022

Speed Dial is an explosively physical comedy-thriller about connection, forgiveness and cryptic crosswords. Set to the sounds of 70s vinyl, this new production explores isolation and the institution of British universities.

Hi Ollie (ONS) & Hamish (HLB), thank you for talking to The New Current, how have you been keeping during these strange times?

 

ONS & HLB: Hello and thank you for having us! It’s been a very strange time to be sure, and I’m very glad that we seem to be emerging from the other side. From writing plays, to trying to keep making theatre, and one of us having started a short-lived pie business, it’s been very busy!

 

How does it feel to head to Edinburgh Fringe after everything that has happened?

 

ONS: It feels a little bit surreal. I’m incredibly excited to be heading back up to Edinburgh for the fringe this summer as we have never headed to the Fringe with so much confidence in a show. Last year was the first fringe I hadn’t attended in some capacity for almost a decade, so to be heading back there for the first time in 3 years is a real treat, but who knows how different it will feel to the last time we were there (in 2019, with our show Murder on the Dancefloor)? I know that’s the question on a lot of people’s lips, but I think at the very least this summer’s fringe will be filled with artists and companies who recognise how hard it has been and how patient everyone has had to be to bring shows back to the festival.

 

Will there be any nerves ahead of your first show at The Pleasance?

 

HLB: I’m sure there’ll be a healthy dose of first show nerves before we go up for the first time in Edinburgh. That being said, having worked on this show since 2019 and having staged it twice (at VAULT Festival 2020 and Pleasance London in 2022), we’re feeling confident about the show and excited to get it going at the festival!

 

Have you got your The Royal Mile sales patter down for August or are you still tweaking it?

 

ONS: We’ve been working on Speed Dial for such a long time that it’s changed and evolved a lot over the years! I think right now, we’re somewhere along the lines of:

 

‘This is a joyous comedy-thriller about a university professor who goes for a run one morning, when every single phone rings. When he answers, a scary voice at the other end tells him his daughter has been kidnapped and sets him a series of puzzles’.

Hamish, what do you think of that? Probably a bit long?

 

HLB: I would say : a joyous comedy thriller about a Professor at a 1970s university who must solve a series of mysterious clues set by an ominous caller to save his missing daughter.

 

Can you tell me a little bit about your show, what can we expect?

 

HLB: This show is a highly theatrical fast-paced adventure that’s the perfect mid-afternoon ticket for lovers of mystery, thrillers, and explosive physical theatre. We’ve been inspired by classic thrillers by directors like Hitchcock as well as more modern films like Hot Fuzz. You can expect laughs, suspense, and 5 very sweaty actors!

 

When you preview a show how much does it change before a major festival and do you still allow yourself some flexibility once a run has started?

 

ONS: The short answers to these questions are: quite a lot, and yes! This will be the 3rd iteration of Speed Dial. It won’t have changed that much narratively this time - unlike the last time we presented the show, when the villains and storyline had changed hugely - but it’s a tighter, shorter and more exciting show narratively. We will be devising some new movement and playing around with some reworked physical sequences in rehearsal, but most of this process will be about refining and simplifying. Once the run has started, I’m always keen to encourage the actors to keep playing with the show - play is a big part of how we create, and perform our shows - and it’s important to keep things fresh. I always find it interesting to see how the movement in our physical sequences evolves over the course of a month. It becomes tighter the more it is performed, but I also think it often becomes more characterful, and the actors are so in sync with one another that a specific language of movement starts to emerge that is different from what we make in rehearsal.

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"I think it’s just as important to see things you don’t like, so I’m sometimes a little bit indiscriminate about what I see as most of the time it will be brilliant, but if it isn’t then that’s potentially just as interesting or informative about what I do actually like."

Have you always had a passion for theatre?

 

HLB: I am actually somewhat of a (self-proclaimed) child-prodigy, having trodden the boards of the West End at the tender age of 10 in the critically-panned Take That jukebox musical, Never Forget. Some say I peaked too early, but hey - maybe Speed Dial will transfer to the West End after a sell-out, 5* fringe run…

 

What has been the most interesting thing you have discovered about yourself and the theatre you want to create after making this show?

 

ONS: That’s a really tough question! This project came from quite a personal place for me personally, so it has been an enjoyable experience of discovering how to use my personal experiences in such a stylised, deliberately unreal show. Personally, I think making this show has solidified my desire to create theatre that is fundamentally exciting - beyond all else. A lot of what we’ve been interested in exploring with Speed Dial is to do with genre and how we can blend different genres together to create something unique. I think we’ve learned a lot about how to utilise and subvert the hallmarks of specific genres, and I think Hamish, Joe and I as writers have skilled up massively in our approach to structure and the way we tell stories, as much as the stories we actually tell.

 

What one word best describes your show?

 

HLB: FUN!

 

In-between your show, how do you hope to get a chance to see other shows at the fringe?

 

ONS: Two words for you: venue pass! An absolute golden ticket for going to see brilliant theatre, comedy and dance for free - easily the best perk of being involved in a show at the fringe. I try to see at least 3 shows a day over the course of the month. I’ve actually already got my nerdy spreadsheet of all the shows I want to see and it’s close to 100. There will be more that I hear about whilst I’m up there, and I hope I’ll probably get into triple figures for shows I see. I think it’s just as important to see things you don’t like, so I’m sometimes a little bit indiscriminate about what I see as most of the time it will be brilliant, but if it isn’t then that’s potentially just as interesting or informative about what I do actually like.

 

What has been the best piece of advice you have been given?

 

HLB: I can’t say this is the best piece of advice I’ve been given, or even that I’ve been given it… Come to think of it it’s not even really a piece of advice, more a way of thinking - but we’re in too deep now so we’re sticking with it. When we were rewriting Speed Dial recently, I remember Ollie talking about how he did a playwriting workshop where the leader said that the reason someone who writes plays is called a Playwright and not a Playwrite is because a play is wrought - it’s beaten out and shaped over time. I found that really useful when thinking about plotting and structuring writing and even movement, and particularly comforting when it feels like hard work!

 

Oh and also - always pack a spare pair of pants.

 

Do you have a favourite theatre quote?

 

ONS: I have absolutely no idea. Annoyingly all I can think of is Shakespeare - probably half-remembered from lines learned for essays and exams - which is a bit too cliche for my liking. I’ve loved watching Operation Mincemeat again recently, so right now, maybe I’ll go for: ‘If it’s down, it’s down together. If it’s up, it’s up as one’

 

And finally, what do you hope your audiences will take away from your show?

 

HLB: Our show is all about the value of human connections and urges audiences to reconnect with people, so we’d love it if audiences came away from our show and picked up the phone (or sent a Whatsapp - whatever the kids are into these days) to someone they’d lost touch with. Beyond that though, we hope audiences take away a sense of joy and warmth after enjoying 75 minutes of rollicking adventure and groovy 70s tunes.