A tumultuous year this has been, but you don’t need me to tell you that - you have lived through it. Unbelievably, the all-important arts sector has been under tremendous threat due to the British government’s failure to effectively support organisations, venues, and freelance workers. None of us should sit back and let this happen, and that’s certainly the view expressed by bombastic performance company Doppelgangster, in their new audio show Bad Reputation; created especially for Off the Shelf festival 2020, in collaboration with BA Acting & Performance students (one of whom is me!) from Sheffield Hallam University, and BA Creative Arts students from La Trobe University, all the way from Melbourne, Australia!
Bad Reputation is an upcoming audio drama that will be available on the festival site from 23rd - 31st October 2020. It’s a ‘mesmerising, psychedelic tale of three lighthouse keepers on an isolated island’, inspired by George Toudouze’s short story Three Skeleton Key (1937). Having had a great time performing in Doppelgangster’s Choke Me at last year’s festival, and being intrigued by the horror aspect of the stimuli, from which you may draw parallels to the Coronavirus pandemic and life under lockdown, volunteering for this was an absolute no brainer.
George Beresford and myself performing in Choke Me (2019) by Doppelgangster.
The physical demand, epic loudness, and theatrical pizzaz of Choke Me was a liberating experience, and I was disappointed not to be able to replicate it this year due to the cancellation of the Prague Fringe Festival. The opportunity to take part in Bad Reputation was a great relief, and while we’ve not been working in a theatre for this latest production, it has been equally rewarding in new and interesting ways. For starters, by having to work remotely to develop the show, we, in the UK, have had the good fortune of working with fellow aspiring artists in Australia. A range of ideas and unique perspectives have been brought to the table from across the globe (and across very different time zones!); this is nothing short of a wonderful thing.
Richard Delroy (Gal) at home, recording his lines for Bad Reputation.
It has been a collaborative project; a real team effort. As well as performing, Doppelganster - aka Dr. Tom Payne and Tobias Manderson Galvin - were keen for us all to be extensively involved in the writing process, which was a huge pull for me. For the last few weeks, we have been issued daily writing tasks of great variety. These ranged from writing new scenes for the Three Skeleton Key story to listing our least favourite desert island discs. Once or twice, there has been an air of mystery around why we do a task, which I’m sure will become clearer as we reach the final stages of the creative process. It is Doppelganster’s unique way of working which keeps everyone interested and on their toes, and previous experience of working with Tom and Tobias has shown I can trust them to lead us to a successful result.
The tasks have increased my confidence in my writing, a skill that I am interested in developing alongside gaining more experience as a performer. Having written my first play text over the summer, and produced various stand-alone monologues, I am very keen to make a habit of practicing my writing craft. Being a student can sometimes be extremely busy (I often say it is like running a three-year marathon), so I am grateful to have been given the push to make time to write while working with Doppelgangster again. I am hoping this sets a precedent and I plan to continue typing away in my free time alongside my final year of study.
Maraya Ashworth (Haze) at home, recording her lines for Bad Reputation.
Performing for audio is a challenge, and I’m enjoying having another opportunity to rely purely on my voice to portray a character. This work complements the broadcast acting modules on the degree very well and is a valuable experience that I can put on my CV. It is remarkably gratifying to be exercising these creative muscles, all in the comfort of my bedroom while I am sipping caramel flavoured coffee and dreaming of an end to lockdown.
Bad Reputation is going to be exactly the same combination of bonkers, intellectual, experimental, and politically significant work that audiences have come to expect from Doppelganster, all freshly packaged in a whirlwind of a podcast.
I would encourage students who wish to get the most out of their university experience to take on extracurricular projects where possible. Take the chance; you may just participate in something you’re incredibly proud of.
Bad Reputation will be available online from 7.30 pm Friday 23rd October (for FREE) on the Off the Shelf festival website.
Promotional image by Wilson Liew. Documentation photographs for Choke Me and Bad Reputation by Becky Payne.