Name: Alexander Knott and Zöe Grain
Name of Edinburgh show: LOOP
Venue: Underbelly, Cowgate
Performance time: 5:20pm
Show length: 65 minutes
Ticket price: from £7.30 (previews)
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your performing background?
Alex: We both trained at Italia Conti, the acting branch in Clapham, and it was there, through the Contextual Studies and Dissertation modules, that I became interested in writing, much more so than the acting. Being able to fully realise a production, through the script and direction, rapidly became much more fascinating to me than just saying someone else’s words. I still act now and then, but my focus is now firmly on writing and theatre making.
Zöe: I originally trained as a dancer for like 18 years and that’s when I got the feel for movement. I took this onto my training at Italia Conti and became fascinated with how the human body moves and how you can create different characters from shifting your weight slightly or standing differently. I love acting and movement is always my way in to the character.
I remember crying my eyes out in ‘roadhouse’ in Covent Garden after our showcase and Alex handing me another sugary cocktail and saying ‘let’s go make theatre. Don’t worry about anyone else giving you a job, we will make jobs for ourselves’ and we have. We set BoxLess up shortly after that.
Tell me about your show, what it is all about?
Alex: It’s the story of one family, across fifty years of history, of their loves and struggles and hopes and dreams, with a backdrop of music. It begins in 1965 with a Woman determined to make her own way in the world, and continues into the 80s, with her daughter falling in love to the soundtrack of the New Romantics, and eventually comes full circle to now, and her grandson’s relationship with music. It’s the story of people evolving with the music they listen to.
Zöe: Alex summed it up pretty well, I’d say in short; it’s a roller coaster of tunes, family and growing up.
How long have you been working on this show and what is it that makes it relevant to audiences in 2018?
Alex: By the time we go up to Edinburgh, it will have been more or less three years. The initial idea of doing a play about music was Zoe’s, and the story was extrapolated from the image of a Walkman, and the word ‘loop’. After a scratch night at the original Theatre N16, the rest of the script was written, and then followed a four-star run at the same theatre, before a transfer to Theatre Royal Stratford East and 53two, Manchester, this year.
When I was writing it, we were losing so many great musical icons. David Bowie, Prince, George Michael – Fabric, the great London nightclub was closing. It was the perfect time to talk about our relationship with music. And we live in an era where everyone has their own personalised soundtrack playing through their headphones, constantly. We all have an inextricable link with music, and that’s one part of what LOOP explores.
Zöe: Yeah, almost three years! I just had this random idea pop into my head one day and turned to Alex and said I want us to write this play.. and we did!
I’d say, the 21st century pressure to succeed and make something of ourselves and quickly. That need to achieve more than the generation before you. How we all use music as a form of escapism, to escape from our lives in one way or another.
Do you have any top tips for surviving the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – both for performers and visitors to the event?
Alex: The drink is there, and it’s always going to be there. Most creatives walk offstage or out of the stage door, and go straight for a drink. A cold lager, a G and T, a cocktail. It is, for most, an essential part of the job. A way to unwind. But in Edinburgh – not every day. It’ll knacker you, and it’ll probably knacker the show. We speak from experience. From a few years back. Anyway…..
Zöe : Performers – If you wanna sleep, you sleep! It’s so easy to get swept up in the whole hustle and bustle of it all, but realistically sustaining that for a month is hard! Pace yourself and if that means not going out for drinks for the X night in a row with everyone else, don’t feel guilty! Look after yourselves and your other creatives! Visitors – plan your shows ahead of time!!
What has been the funniest or most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
Alex: During ‘A Christmas Tale’ (another Jack Maple Productions show), I was playing a surly Northern landlord, and in one of the last scenes I’m locking up my pub for the night. I stacked three chairs on top of a pub table; it had never been a problem before. One by one, in perfect rhythm, they fell down. This continued – me putting them up, them falling down in perfect rhythm – for about 6 minutes. The audience were in hysterics, I was just trying to finish the scene!
Zöe: Alex and I were both in The Libertine at Conti and I was playing a prostitute…classy, and he was playing King Charles and we had to have a bit of… erm hanky panky..in front of the whole audience… and my parents.
Who are your biggest inspirations in the industry and why?
Alex: Ivo van Hove’s stark and clear minimalism is something I really admire and borrow elements of. By stripping back the set and props, he creates a netherworld, a surreal version of any play he directs, and where the characters and words take centre stage and your focus has nowhere to drift off to. That’s a style and method of theatre that I think most directors can take something from. It creates clean, brutal, striking productions.
Zöe: Acting wise; Imelda Staunton is an absolute powerhouse, I saw her in Gyspy with my mum and literally sat crossed legged in the theatre seat, leaning forward with my mouth wide open, in awe! Movement wise; Polly Bennett and the other unsung, movementy heroes, Headlong and Frantic assembly are just making waves in what to expect from theatre and pushing the boundaries. And actually, anyone taking a show up to the fringe, it’s a hard graft and such an effort to get your company to a level to be recognized!
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
Alex: Not really a ritual, but sweating. Sweating. Just sweating.
Zöe: I listen to music and not to freak out! (the nerves never get any easier!) Our cast however, run around and touch all the seats and set to make sure they are aware that the audience will be there and form a little trust circle and exercises to get in sync, as it’s a show where they need to feel like everyone has each others back.
What other acts are you looking forward to seeing at Edinburgh Fringe?
Alex: I saw an extract of Some Riot Theatre’s Weird at the Arcola and those ten minutes were more impressive than loads of full-length theatre I’ve seen. I can’t wait to see the full version.
Zöe: lots of one woman shows… it’s our next production as a company and I’m on the look out for inspiration. I need to create a big old list, spreadsheets, the works!
Why do you think people should come and see your show over the thousands of others on at the fringe?
Alex: One critic from our original run said “It’s funny and heart-warming, with a little bit of everything”. I like to think that no matter what you fancy watching, LOOP has something in it that you’ll connect with and grab on to. Humour, drama, music, movement. It’s a universal story, we hope, one that we’ve all been through, and remember.
Zöe: Whether you’re young or old, there’s something for everyone and anyone! It’ll hit you like a big nostalgic blow to the stomach.
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