Such Filthy F*cks fuses Smoke and Oakum's trademark quick-fire delivery with a taboo topic and a heartbreaking storyline, to examine one of the 21st centuries biggest social contagions.
Hi Oliver, great to talk to you again, how are you doing?
I’m currently sat in the Pleasance Courtyard with a hangover and a questionable sandwich regretting all my life choices. Flyering starts at 2, so I have a couple of hours to get my life back on track. You?
What does it mean to you to be bringing Such Filthy F*cks to the Fringe?
Ah, it’s great. We haven’t been to the Fringe for 2 years, which has really helped our work grow and change, but there’s something about the buzz of so many shows and so many people that you just don’t find anywhere else.
With this being your World Premiere does this add any extra pressure on you?
It would obviously be nice to come with something established and that everyone recognizes, but we’re a new writing company so it kind of goes with the territory. I’m not sure bringing new work adds pressure, if anything it just adds excitement to be staging something no one has ever seen before.
What was your first fringe experience like?
Christ, we had a massive set, a huge amount of props, food on stage and a house so small I ended up sleeping in the bath for a week. It was great, but I’d never do any of it again.
Can you tell me a little bit about Such Filthy F*cks, what can we expect?
Smoke & Oakum has been running for long enough now that we’ve developed a recognizable style of work. Our shows are fast, funny and centre around subjects most people don’t spend a huge amount of time thinking about. We’ve done it with boxing, rave culture, homelessness and now porn addiction. Such Filthy F*cks is the story of two people trying to hold down a relationship despite being physically disgusted by each other, and hopelessly addicted to porn. Heard of anything like that before?
What was the inspiration behind this new show?
I genuinely had the idea while driving back from my Nan’s care home. No lie. Clearly, something in the décor just screamed “porn addiction”.
"I always enjoyed showing off and acting up, but the idea of a career in theatre didn’t come until much later."
When a show is running are you able to let it live or do you continue to make tweaks?
I was rewriting up until the final rehearsal, which probably wasn’t very fun for the actors. Now it’s just about handing it over to them and resisting the urge to tinker. No one likes a writer who can’t let it go.
What have been some of the challenges you’ve faced bringing this show to the fringe?
The hardest part has been taking a subject as uncomfortable as porn and presenting it in a way that isn’t going to alienate people. You don’t want to make a play that’s so blunt it’s excruciating, but at the same time, we’ve got to be truthful to the people who gave us their stories and the realities of their lives. The fact that we’re getting laughs while discussing the ethics of gang-bangs is hopefully proof we’ve done that right.
How did Smoke & Oakum come about?
A truly brilliant writer called Ed Harris gave me his script ‘The Cow Play’ to produce back in 2013, which we took the show to Brighton Fringe, Theatre503 and then Edinburgh. By the end of it I was broke and knackered, but incredibly keen to try it again. Ed made writing look so easy that I decided to give it a go for our next project, despite never having written anything in my life. Now it’s my full-time job, funny how things turn out.
Have you always had a passion for theatre?
I always enjoyed showing off and acting up, but the idea of a career in theatre didn’t come until much later. I took political science at university and was all ready to go into consultancy when I started making amateur shows with DugOut Theatre. It was so much fun that I decided to try my luck as an actor, and through that, I found writing and producing. Just imagine, if I’d stuck with politics I might’ve ended up being partly responsible for sorting out Brexit, that makes Fringe look like a walk in the park.
Has your style and approach to your work changed much since your debut?
Hugely. When I started I was trying to make work that was loud and suited to a festival, it was all about trying to be as noisy as possible. The trouble is that, as my ideas grew, I found that style had its limits and made a lot of light, but not that much heat. Now I’m more focused on making pretentious, inaccessible work that makes me feel superior.
That last bit was a joke.
What has been the best piece of advice you got when you started out?
‘Never wait for anyone’.
Do you have any advice or tips for any emerging theatre maker?
John Hegarty said something I always found really useful which was when looking at creative work, remember to “respect, not revere”. I try to pass that on. Find what you respect in work and use it, don’t just fall in love and copy it.
What 3 words best describe this show?
Romance meets porn.
And finally, what do you want your audiences to take away from Such Filthy F*cks?
We’ve been shocked by how many people want to tell us about their porn habits after seeing the show, so hopefully, it’ll encourage people to be a bit less closed off on the subject and talk to their mates about it (rather than us). Other than that I want them to take away a flyer, give it to another person and tell them to come and see the show.