Lee Clotworthy talks about NATIONAL KILLING DAY at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival
Name: Lee Clotworthy
Name of Edinburgh show: National Killing Day
Venue: TheSpace on the Mile
Performance time: 18:50
Show length: 45 minutes
Ticket price: £8.00 (£7.00 Concs)
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your performing background?
I made the leap into acting after I discovered Carpentry wasn’t to be the lime light of my life. The lime light was the lime light of my life! Upon finishing my training at Aberystwyth I was fortunate to land myself two professional theatrical roles in Liverpool and knew the natural progression was the glitz and glamour of London!……… Front of house was very endearing indeed and I even landed myself the role of supervisor at Matilda the Musical…..but I wasn’t to allow this to hinder my London goals. Myself and a few friends made our own theatre company and wrote our first show for the Camden Fringe for two nights. It got London Lite comedy highlight of the day! The show was Brian and Queen Tallulah’s Glamorous Intergalactic Magic which later toured London and the 2011 Edinburgh Fringe. I also continued writing but money was hard to come by in such a demanding, expensive environment so I started dabbling in commercials. I still feature in them Worldwide to this day. (I excelled in Foxy Bingo, LastMinute.com billboards and in Germany) I also got by on profit share theatre until my inevitable return up north. I just missed chips and gravy too much! I also got involved with more theatre including The Tempest, Treasure Island, writing and directing my adaptation of Momo, and after touring Dick Whittington which ended at the West End (Irony of moving away from London to get to perform in the West End) I finally gained the confidence to stage National Killing Day at the Manchester Fringe with an amazing cast.
Tell me about your show, what it is all about?
National Killing Day is a 45 minute high octane, dark comedy, theatre thriller. Written 5 years before any of ‘The Purge’ movies the action takes place on a day where the British Government have declared slaying legal. One person can ‘slay’ one other chosen person for the small fee of £500 in the next 24 hours and only public transport is permitted. The protagonist James has the sudden urge to pay his ex wife a visit, it’s just unfortunate that he has woken up late and has to travel across the breadth of Britain thus meeting some of the most unsavoury of characters who are all also trying to make sense of such a day. Contrasting between the bleak reality of the day and the propaganda media machine, they claim that National Killing Day IS needed to instil a sense of moral fibre and sense of personal responsibility back into the fruitless, lacklustre society which has all but lost it. Will tormented James complete his mission? Will this day be a success? When has democracy ever got it wrong?
How long have you been working on this show and what is it that makes it relevant to audiences in 2018?
I’ve been working on National Killing Day since 2008 when I originally wrote it for a Virgin Media shorts competition. I soon wrote a full script but didn’t know how to end it. In 2012, when I had just got out of a relationship, my emotions were still raw and high so thought this was the perfect time to give it the honest ending I had always wanted. In 2015 I wrote a puppet show for my partners Christmas Showcase which went down really well. This is what gave me the confidence to finally stage my show. I directed it for the 2016 Manchester Fringe and was very happy with the positive feedback. This gave me the further confidence to make its natural progression to the daddy of them all, The Edinburgh Fringe. It is more relevant today than ever as it features ‘fake news’, and media spin which quite clearly contrasts to the bleak reality to what is happening on the ‘stage reality’. This day was democratically voted as the majority of the public demanded change…..they just didn’t want it to be this messy, dramatic and scaremongering as it has all got. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? Remember, I wrote and completed this in 2012!
Do you have any top tips for surviving the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – both for performers and visitors to the event?
I have performed at both the 2003 and 2011 Edinburgh Fringe and have spectated 2 so would say the two most important things to take would be sunscreen and a rain poncho. The weather can be sporadic so carrying these in a pump bag with a bottle of water and flyers are essential. For a performer the Fringe is like an emotional roller coaster. Audiences are like the weather; one night there could be three people (including your mum), the next, a full house. Sporadic. Just don’t take it personally and always remember that you could still be enhancing those three audience members life. See as much theatre as you can, support independent artists, flyer as much as you can, engage with visitors and most importantly always have room for ‘timeout’ away from it all. Balance is essential for survival.
For visitors I would say ‘plan well’. Timing is of the essence, but just like any other festival, so is distance. Use the map at the back of the Fringe Brochure to plot. So as not to break the bank account, take advantage of the free Fringe. As Chris Cross used to say when we performed at the Voodoo Rooms in 2011 “Just because it’s free, doesn’t mean it’s shit”. The one most important thing to do is to book your tickets for National Killing Day. This cast are going to blow you away!
What has been the funniest or most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
I once chocked on a meat and potato pasty, making me momentarily slip out of character and forgetting my lines (Seeming like a lifetime when on stage). This was the second to last night of a three week run when we had the head of ITV Drama watching too. The audience were laughing at my near death experience, thinking it was a part of the show…….I think I may have gotten away with it.
Who are your biggest inspirations in the industry and why?
The League of Gentlemen. They are the ones who gave me that final nudge into the world of acting and writing. Inspirational. Their character driven and macarbe writing are nothing but inspirational. Eveything they do is full of life and bounces off the script in a seamingless and organic manner.
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
Coffee. Coffee and a little dance the cast and I partake in called ‘The Happy Dance’. Seeing is believing but it certainly gets us in the mood to rock that stage.
What other acts are you looking forward to seeing at Edinburgh Fringe?
I love supporting fellow local and independent artists who are in it for their passion. A few shows on my list include Six, Bark, The Meeting and comedian Eddie Fortune. Roselit Bone also sounds good, as does Treasure Island from the 13th (Which myself and another cast member are also acting in. Kerching!)
Why do you think people should come and see your show over the thousands of others on at the fringe?
Megan Hyland said, ‘National Killing Day is a thrilling and fast paced hour of entertainment…incredibly tense and exciting to watch’- UpStaged Manchester. She also gave us a lovely 5 star review, which was nice. This cast of nine have worked for months to ensure they will be packing a pinch on an international stage.
The message throughout is as adherent today as it ever was due to the sudden drastic shift in the political climate. Politicians throw around empty phrases such as “The will of the people”, a term that a huge majority of ‘the people’ are inclined to oppose. National Killing Day is here. National Killing Day is brutal. Will the day be success? Will the public see past all the scaremongering bullshit, unite and stand up against such a day? What do you think? Find out when you come and see it!