25 March 2018
Ava Davies (who has never been to NSDF but is writing for Noff this year), George Brooker (also an NSDF virgin who is performing at the festival this year) and Eve Allin (who has been to NSDF many a time and is the writer of Seeking Intimacy, one of the shows at the festival this year), are very good friends. They had a chat about NSDF before a gig at Roundhouse
part 1 (aka Trash)
Ava’s university room. Hysterical laughter. Eve says something with her mouth full of fried chicken. Indecipherable.
George: Hello and welcome to the Royal Court’s Playwright’s Podcast.
Ava: There is a George Brooker here, who is in Seeking Intimacy but is also our friend. And there is an Eve Allin here who is also a friend.
Ava: And the writer of Seeking Intimacy.
Eve: Cool thanks.
Ava: So you have a very quick turnaround before the festival.
Ava: Are you worried or exhilarated?
Eve: If anyone can do it, Helen (the director) can do it. Her niche is–
Ava: She works well under pressure.
George: Like a diamond.
Eve: (to George) I dunno how you felt the first time–
George: It was the most welcome I’d ever felt because...initially the ensemble wasn’t auditioned at all, it was show up and you’ll be in there. And that brought such a diverse range of people, people who you wouldn’t normally expect to see. And it brought a huge range of characters, which is what you need for the ensemble.
Eve: I also felt like...there weren’t any “actors”, like no one was there because they wanted a main part, everyone was there because they liked the ideas and the discussion. And we had people who didn’t end up being in it but they were still there to talk.
Ava: I remember talking to Helen like three weeks before it was performed and she was like, “Oh Eve’s just given me a third draft” and I was like…”nice”...but it worked really well.
Eve: There was a monologue in it that I forgot I wrote. And then I saw it and I was like, “Oh, I forgot I wrote this”, and Helen was like, “Yeah it’s probably because you wrote it a week before the show!” And I was like, “OK, sassy, but very fair.”
part 2 (aka the creation of an NSDF veteran)
Ava: I I dunno why but I just get this impression that you’ve been to NSDF like seven times.
Eve: Probably because I don’t talk about anything else. But I’ve only been twice.
Ava: So George and I are the NSDF virgins. And the times you’ve been before were with the Management Team?
Eve: No, first time I went I was 17 and when I got there my teacher was like, “You should write for this magazine, it’s called Noises Off, it’s really fun.” And then I did, and that’s how I started to meet people.
Ava: Is that how you started reviewing?
Ava: This is gonna be like a homecoming for you.
Eve: So I was really a festgoer the first time. But it was really formative. I remember my mum was like, “You came home and you were a different person. Like your confidence had gone up and you loved theatre so much more and–”
Ava: You’re a poster girl for NSDF.
Eve: I mean.
Ava: Lowkey yes.
Eve: Lowkey no.
part 3 (aka the pals express their anxieties)
Ava: So I pitched an article to Kate [Wyver] about cliquiness at NSDF because that is something I’ve heard a lot about. What would you say about that? Because it does give off that vibe.
Eve: It does give off that vibe. You’re completely right. And this is Noff so I can say whatever I like. So yeah, it is cliquey, because theatre people are like...I don’t wanna generalise but–
George: (from the bathroom) THEATRE IS CLIQUEY.
Eve: Well yeah, naturally people form groups. And shows are rated. So through Noff and other things, shows are qualified, and your show is either good or it’s not so good and that kinda decides where you go, but having said that, I did come to NSDF as a 17-year-old who had literally never seen any fringe theatre, I hadn’t done any of that, hadn’t written a review before, wasn’t sure if theatre was my thing...and then I was very welcomed. And I think it’s because I had Jake Orr and Tim Bano and Catherine Love to, like, guide me, and they were very welcoming. They told me I was always welcome in the office – I spent all my time in the Noffice.
Ava: I always assumed you were on Noff but you’ve never actually been–
Eve: Never been on Noff. But I always feel I can write for it. And then in 2017...I did feel...because I knew more people it felt less cliquey, but it’s hard to get away from because universities and shows clump together.
part 4 (aka Helen Morley and Eve Allin are a Dream Team)
Ava: So this is the first time that your work will be written about pretty widely.
Ava: No no no, it’s fine, it’s fine.
Eve: I mean, I’m excited because it’s like – tell me what I’m doing wrong. But if people tell me that it’s messy – like – I kinda know that. And Noff really does sway what people think about shows. So if a show has four good reviews in Noff, it’s a good show. But honestly, when Helen talks about Seeking Intimacy, it makes me love the show.
Ava: Well it kinda...it is hers as much as it is yours.
Eve: Oh completely. More hers than mine.
Ava: No, it’s equal.
Eve: It was really collaborative and the things she said about it informed what I wrote and–
Ava: I mean it in the best way; it’s like you build on each other, it’s not like one of you Completes it, it’s not like it was half-finished when she got her hands on it. You worked on it together and built it up.
part 5 (aka how Seeking Intimacy came to be)
George: Also, with the script, it was like a puzzle to be solved, you know? It’s like, the first time you read it, it’s like Alice Birch, you just think, “How am I going to stage it?”
Ava: That’s the thing about Helen, she just stays so calm and takes it slow.
Eve: Basically she was like have you written anything and I was like...it was originally gonna be a live art thing. The first scene was gonna just be me in my bedroom. And then I watched loads of Black Mirror and The Lobster and I was like, “Fuck that. OK, this is what I want to write.” So I wrote this monologue and fleshed it out with loads of dialogue and I gave it to Helen. She read it and the next day she messaged me and she said: “I want to stage this in promenade in Oculus.” It went from being really private to being really public.
part 6 (aka tips for NSDF first-timers)
Eve: I think you have to go with no sense of expectation. I really didn’t want to go the first time. I called my mum up the day before, crying. And then obviously it was amazing. But then in 2017 I went in being like, “This is gonna be the best week ever”, and it was really hard. I was really anxious, I was doing a lot. So it was hard but it was also lovely, and I would never say that it was a bad week.
Ava: That’s how I feel about Edinburgh. Like, I will always say it’s really hard, but I–
George: I wouldn’t have changed it at all.
Ava: Yeah. And I’ll always go back, you know? Do you have any tips, Eve? For this year?
Eve: You don’t have to see every show. You don’t have to have an opinion on every show. And number three: do NOT talk about the show until You Know You Are Alone.
Ava and George cackle.
Ava: What happened there?
George: How have you been burned?
Eve: You just don’t know who’s around you. Don’t be afraid of stating your opinions even if people disagree. Also like, talk to the professional people. They’re there to talk to you, they’re not there for any other reason. And – it sounds ridiculous – but make friends with people outside your group.
Audio cuts off at this point because the trio decide to go to the off-license before the gig.