“I’ve always loved backstage drama” Find out what inspired playwright Ollie George Clark to create new comedy Cuttings and his own experience of the PR industry in this exclusive interview. Then book your tickets!
Cuttings, which was shortlisted for the Liverpool Hope Comedy Playwriting Prize 2018/19, runs from 4 to 22 June 2019 at The Hope Theatre.
YouTuber turned actor Arthur Moses wins an Olivier Award, and moments later goes on to drunkenly deliver the most offensive, outrageous and profanity laden speech in the ceremony’s history. His publicists Gracelyn, Ruchi and Danica have quite a morning ahead of them.
They’ll need to apologise on his behalf all whilst fielding calls, defusing social media, stamping out print, handling the talent, licking SOLT’s wounds and if Arthur could stop posting on Instagram for a second that would be great.
Cuttings takes a satirical look at public perceptions, fandom and fame, and what it means to be sorry in the 21st Century.
The trio of publicists in Cuttings are played by Natasha Patel, Joan Potter and Maisie Preston. They are directed by Rob Ellis, Artistic Director of Relish Theatre.
Playwright Clark trained at the Almeida Theatre’s Writing Group. His other work includes Coconuts (Lyric Hammersmith), Warm and Chewy (Old Red Lion Theatre), The Strictly Curse (Southwark Playhouse) and Hold For Three Seconds (Edinburgh Fringe).
Clark’s comedy about staying PC while in PR plays at The Hope Theatre this spring alongside a pair of other plays concerned, in one way or another, with the entertainment industry. Sexy Lamp (26-27 May) is a one-woman comedy shedding some light on the ridiculousness of the industry, while The Censor (25 June-13 July), staged by RoundPeg Theatre, is Anthony Neilson‘s controversial play in which a female pornographer comes face to face with a censor.
Ollie George Clark interview
What inspired you to write Cuttings?
I’ve always loved backstage drama, seeing how teams get together to impact and influence a situation, shows like The Thick of It, for example (in fact, that show is a particular tonal touch point for us). I wanted to write my own version of that.
But then I also saw more and more public apologies from celebrities, actors, YouTubers – many of which adopted these similar styles and approaches – and thought the marriage of those two worlds could work well.
What if you had the backstage drama attempting to save someone’s career with an apology?!
How much research did you have to do into the world of theatre PRs?
I actually started my professional career by working in an entertainment press office, so I was familiar with the dialogue and basic admin side of things. I think most of my research went into reading and watching public apologies. It was a matter of trying to get a handle on the lexicon because from there I could pick them apart and rewrite them in the voices of the publicists.
How important is it that that PRs are women trying to cope with a problem created by a man?
I think the most important thing that I wanted to do in the play was to accurately represent the PR world that I knew, one which is a female-led industry. For me, it was then about creating three, real and believable characters within the situation. As much as possible, I wanted for these characters and their capability to be at the forefront. It’s their play.
You previously had a rehearsed reading at Theatre 503. How has the piece grown since then?
Theatre503 was a wonderful experience and without which the play would not be where it is today. The play was grown and shaped by what the audience told us about the show – and crucially, whether or not they laughed.
Looking back, I’d say the show has become much smoother. We ironed out some plot points, ensured that jokes and call backs were clear and shortened a lengthy passage about BBC Editorial Guidelines – I mean, the jokes write themselves.
Rehearsed reading gallery
How are you feeling about staging Cuttings at The Hope Theatre?
I’m feeling all the feelings and depending on the time of day I’ll tell you something different, but at this moment I’m in blind excitement. As I type, it’s first day of rehearsals and hearing the play aloud and our incredible actors give voice to the characters is something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time.
How did you get into writing?
I started writing whilst at university with my student drama club, QMTC. I wrote a short play about three people trapped in a lift who ultimately confuse the lift operator with God.
But, I think it was the writing course I did over a summer with the Almeida Theatre that things really started to click. I learnt the practical techniques and tools that one needs to create the story arc and shape real, three dimensional characters. It was an amazing few months and I ended up having my own short play performed on the stage.
What do you have planned after Cuttings?
I’m currently in the process of doing some readings for a new play of mine, and hopefully seeing where that takes me. And as for Cuttings, who knows, but I’m loving every second at the Hope!
What can audiences expect from a trip to see Cuttings?
I’d say, audiences can expect an evening of laughter, PR statements and theatre references. Lots of theatre references.