I’m sitting in a function room turned rehearsal space above The Townhouse on Whiteladies road. Sat in a semi circle in front of me are Janet Adams, the director of Tawdry Lace Theatre’s ‘The Night Before Christmas’, and three of the four cast members, Arthur Godden, Calum Anderson and Joshua Phillips.
Clogs: Tell us about your company, Tawdry Lace.
Janet: Myself, our co-producer Paul and Faye, who is in the cast but can’t be here tonight, all met on a production of The Winter’s Tale, and decided we wanted to carry on working together.
Arthur: So they started a supergroup.
Janet: We had a lot of fun playing shepherds, and we wanted to carry on with that fun. We did our first show as Tawdry Lace in October last year; Travels With My Aunt, based on the Graham Greene novel. We were doing lots of multi-roling, sharing out 51 parts. It got five stars, but then we had the 2nd album worries as to how we could follow it up.
Clogs : Then you went with The Night Before Christmas. What made you choose it?
Janet: It’s an Anthony Neilson play set in the mid-90’s.
Arthur: Around the time Paul Weller had his solo career.
Janet: I’ve had to explain a few 90’s references the younger members of the cast don’t understand. Telling them, trust me, the audience will find it funny. It’s about…
Janet struggles for words.
…an elf in a workshop…
Josh: …Who gets captured…
Josh peters out.
Cal: And hilarity ensues.
Janet: There’s lots of swearing, which is why it’s sixteen plus. Faye, who plays the prostitute, said it’s the most swearing she’s ever had to do on stage.
Clogs: So the play is quite dark?
Janet: It’s definitely a dark comedy.
Arthur: Neilson was a contemporary of Sarah Kane, though he’s not so in your face.
Cal: But it’s fun, there’s no Christmas hating.
Janet: It’s a bit of an anti-pantomime.
Clogs: What are your favourite moments in the play?
Arthur: When you first see the elf. It’s bizarre. I’m looking forward to see how the audience react. The initial bit is funny, but then there’s even more on top of that. It’s hard to choose one.
Cal: It changes a lot. We do have one loud GASP, it’s very pantomime. We find it hilarious.
Josh: I get a lot of good rants. It’s cathartic. That’s not even my favourite bit, but I can’t ruin the rest of the play.
Janet laughs knowingly.
Janet: He’ll be the favourite of the skeptical ones.
Cal: The dads.
Janet: My favourite moment changes all the time. I can’t decide.
Clogs: For the director, who has watched it over and over, a better question might be ‘Which bits still make you giggle?’
Janet: Too many. I can’t say.
Janet looks guiltily at each cast member.
Arthur: It’s favouritism. Like choosing between your children. Janet can’t do it.
Clogs: Do you have comedic backgrounds or are you more serious performers?
Arthur: I usually go for comic roles and I’ve done a bit of stand up. I’ve never done a fully straight character. This is probably as close as I’ve got. I usually make jokes out of jokes, how bad I am as a performer, lots of fourth wall stuff, especially when I do stand up. But in this play, the humour is from the seriousness.
Cal: I’ve always been naturally funny. I get a lot of comedic roles, I think it’s because I look funny. But seriously, it’s a great ensemble peace.
Arthur: It’s the situations, not the characters that make it brilliant. The less you play it up, the funnier it is.
Josh: My comedic background is similar to Cal’s and Arthur’s; I naturally lean towards comedic roles. I pull them off better. I have an improv background, I’ve been up to the Edinburgh Fringe for the last few years. I lean to comedy, certainly.
Janet: I’ve done lots of comedy, lots of seriousness too. Lots of farce.
Clogs: But as a theatre company, you focus on comedies?
Janet: They sell better! I shouldn’t say that.
Clogs: Not at all. Gotta make a living.
Arthur: It’s a serious piece, but it’s a great comedy. Cal’s actually doing another similar project off the back of this.
Cal: It’s a play about Anne Frank called ‘And Then They Came For Me’, playing at the Alma Tavern in January. I’ll be performing in my post Christmas, lethargic, overfed state.
Clogs: What’s after this for Tawdry Lace?
Cal: Tinsel Town!
Janet: We havn’t decided yet. We’ve had a few ideas.
Clogs: But it’ll be something, and it’ll be something funny?
Janet: It’ll be something, and it should be funny!
Clogs: Sounds good. Thanks for chatting to us!
‘The Night Before Christmas’ will run from the 27th November – 3rd December in The Alma Tavern Theatre. You can buy your tickets here.