Matthew Zajac brings climate change and punk rock to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in ‘Let’s Inherit The Earth’

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your performing background?
I’m from inverness. I studied Drama at Bristol University and I’ve been an actor for 36 years, so I’ve been in a lot of stuff. I run Dogstar Theatre Company and I do some writing and directing too.

Tell me about your show, what it is all about?
LET’S INHERIT THE EARTH is a musical comedy about climate change by Morna Pearson. It’s a co-production with Sweden’s Profilteatern with a cast of five. Morna has a very dry and surreal sense of humour and sense of drama and I think we’ve developed a pretty extraordinary show with her. It’s a world out of kilter, a kind of alarm call, taking potential calamities to absurd extremes, though with the current news of extensive forest fires in Sweden and the plastic disaster, the play has become even more prescient than we anticipated.

Ben Harrison has done a great directing job with a technicaly challenging play which takes place in multiple locations. There are excellent punky songs by Jonny Hardie and ingenious design from Ulla Karlsson. Jacob Petersson has made wonderful turtle and cockroach outfits.

How long have you been working on this show and what is it that makes it relevant to audiences in 2018?
Dogstar & Profilteatern started developing the show with Ben & Morna in January 2016 with a week of research and character and story improvisations in Umeå. Morna wrote the first draft and we did a couple of days’ work on that at the end of 2016 in Inverness. She then wrote new drafts and we raised the full production money in Scotland and Sweden.

As our publicity says, climate change is perhaps our greatest existential threat outside the White House, so I think that makes the show quite relevant.

Do you have any top tips for surviving the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – both for performers and visitors to the event?
As a performer, or production team member, it’s probably best to keep your expectations low and to allow yourself simply to enjoy the wonderful creative madness of it all. See good things that happen to you and your show as a bonus. There are many deserving shows which can fall under the radar at Edinburgh. Try to use the experience you gain, however hard it might be. And you never know, you may hit the Fringe jackpot with great word of mouth, queues at the door, and an award or two. That’s very rarely monetary by the way.

It’s not a problem for visitors to survive the Fringe, providing they have enough money ! My advice to visitors is try not to cram too many shows into each day – you lose track of what you’ve done and, most importantly, show the performers, all performers, respect. Don’t overbook and find yourself leaving a performance before it’s finished.

What has been the funniest or most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
When I was very young I thought it would be interesting to experiment with performing while out of my head. It was a disaster, very embarrassing. Never again.

Who are your biggest inspirations in the industry and why?
That would be a very long list, but I think I’ll just mention one person, who for me has been quite disgracefully forgotten, and yet he is arguably the greatest figure in 20th century Scottish theatre – Robert David MacDonald, the great translator and member of the famous Citizens Theatre triumvirate from the 1970s-2001.

Do you have any pre-show rituals?
Go to the toilet 15 minutes before curtain up. A short burst of pogoing and a little shadow boxing immediately before going on.

What other acts are you looking forward to seeing at Edinburgh Fringe?
I find the Fringe programme overwhelming, so I tend to avoid looking at it and tend to take things as they come with shows friends are in or I happen to be in the right place for, so I’m a bit crap at planning. I would definitely like to see Druid’s Waiting For Godot at the EIF. I’d also like to see Cora Bissett’s new show which I think is quite a personal one and Martin McCormick’s play South Bend.

Why do you think people should come and see your show over the thousands of others on at the Fringe?
I truly believe there won’t be another one like it – a Scottish-Swedish comedy? About climate change? With punk rock songs? It’s a surreal riot of a show. It also seems to be very funny.


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