James Huxtable talks about BEAKER’S PLACE – a pitch-black comedy at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Name: James Huxtable
Name of Edinburgh show: Beaker’s Place
Venue: theSpace on North Bridge (Argyll Theatre), Venue 36
Performance time: 12:25pm
Show length: 45 minutes
Ticket price: £8.50/£7.50

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your performing background?
Having spent the majority of my life secluded from the ‘real world’ in rural Norfolk, you get used to going out in search of things to pass the time. Unless you particularly enjoy farmer’s markets or country landscapes then you are pretty much out of luck. That’s where my passion for theatre first stemmed from, I think – boredom. It’s funny really because, looking back, it almost makes it worth it in some bleak way. It’s weird how things play out sometimes.

Since then however, it is difficult to think of a time where I haven’t been involved in theatre and the arts in some way, shape, or form. I always believed myself to be more of an actor but I have developed a love of writing in recent years. I had some poetry published in Newcastle last year and have been doing this and that around Sheffield for a while, but this is the first play I have actually had performed on stage. The Edinburgh Fringe festival feels like an ambitious starting-point, but I have confidence the show will speak for itself.

Tell me about your show, what it is all about?
Beaker’s Place is a pitch-black comedy exploring the very meticulous titular character Beaker, the sole proprietor of a ‘body disposal service’ for the criminal underworld, as he struggles to overcome the loss of his recently-deceased cat, Paul. Lacking in support, self-worth, or perhaps most importantly, human contact, we join Beaker making the final preparations for his suicide. However, he is promptly interrupted by one last, urgent ‘delivery’. Desperate to complete his own departure, Beaker is then shocked as the bag begins to move.

I have always found conflicted and complex characters interesting to work with as a writer. There is a level of intrigue to them which I find unparalleled. On the one hand you may disagree with their beliefs: their ideals, their morals; and yet, if you are still able to connect with them on an emotional or comic level you can find that despicable characters become somehow redeemable. This was the most challenging aspect of this production, making it possible for characters like Beaker to be so separate from reality, to have opinions so separate from what is deemed acceptable in modern society, and, against all odds, still be able to trigger an empathetic and sentimental response from audiences. I look forward to seeing how people respond to it. I certainly don’t expect them to like everything he has to say.

How long have you been working on this show and what is it that makes it relevant to audiences in 2018?
Work on this show began late last year. The show’s director Michael and I had just come back from an evening of frivolous antics when we found ourselves on the topic of dialogue from plays and films we had recently seen. One thing led to another, we both had ideas for plays and other works we’d been mulling over for a while, and we seemed on a similar page. The next day, we met up with fresh minds and created the foundation on which Beaker’s Place would eventually be built.

I think plays like this are important in 2018. There is a lot going on, isn’t there? Lots of ‘stuff’ happening. I think it’s nice to put all that to one side and lock yourself away in the dismal, suspended-in-time, reinforced concrete cellar in which Beaker spends his life for a bit. You can have a few laughs and forget quite how awful the world is, even if just for an hour.

Do you have any top tips for surviving the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – both for performers and visitors to the event?
Be nice to people – take flyers (especially ours!) You never know what hidden gems you might find.

What has been the funniest or most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
I once had a car tyre thrown at me. Luckily this was part of the play and not launched by a particularly disgruntled audience member, but the throw was slightly off. I caught it, but only milliseconds before swept me off my feet and sent me hurtling backwards into the curtain.

What other acts are you looking forward to seeing at Edinburgh Fringe?
Buried: A New Musical by Colla Voce is fantastic and will flourish at Underbelly this year. I must also recommend My Mate Dave Died by SUTCo for people at the Fringe between the 20th-25th of August! I’m a huge stand-up comedy fan so you’ll probably find me at Reginald D. Hunter or David O’Doherty sometime during the festival too.

Why do you think people should come and see your show over the thousands of others on at the fringe?
It’s straight-out-of-the-oven new, hot, and ready – all wrapped around an original and interesting concept about a man who melts bodies and his dead, incinerated cat. There are thousands of great shows you can see at the fringe this year, but I can safely say this wont be one you forget in a hurry…


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