Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Gary Kitching: Me & Mr C

By | Published on Tuesday 17 November 2015


It might be a lie to say that I was wildly attracted to ‘Me & Mr C’ from the start, but I have to confess to finding ventriloquists’ dummies a bit spooky… once I had heard more about it, however, I became much more enthusiastic, and I think this improvised play sounds as though it will be a rare treat.
The man behind the show is Gary Kitching, who created it, and appears in it. I put some questions to him, find out more about what it’s all about, and what inspired it.

CM: Tell us about ‘Me & Mr C’ – what happens in it? Is there a linear story to it?
GK: It’s about a man who lives alone with his ventriloquist dummy. What happens? Well that really depends on the audience, and the help they give me at the start of the night. I know that it will take place in his home and one other place, but what happens with regard to content will be decided on the night. There is stand up comedy and moments of sadness and hilarity. There is a linear story, but again it’s different every night. Genuinely anything could happen within the story.

CM: Your publicity describes it as an improvised show but clearly has a distinct subject to it – in what way is it improvised?
GK: The show has a structure in the sense that I know there are a certain number of scenes and that I have certain things I need to do within those scenes. The content and storyline develop as the show goes on. Everything I say and do is improvised each night. As for the subject, I know what I want to achieve as a performer, but how I get there is decided by the audience and what they tell me. The lights are also improvised every night, and a member of the audience chooses the music for the show too.

CM: What’s the aim of the piece? What themes or issues are you exploring with it?
GK: The aim of the piece is to create a unique and live show that could only happen with the people who are there that night. I’m not a big fan of theatre that is passive and asks the audience to sit quietly and observe something, yet ironically I’m also not a fan of audience participation – I genuinely hate it if it is done badly. I ask my audience to help me, but I never put them in a position where they feel anxious or embarrassed, I want my audience to feel comfortable and enjoy their night out – they are paying, after all – and I would hate someone to come to my show and feel they had wasted their money.

The themes and issues that are explored are loneliness, depression, relationships (professional and personal) Comedy and tragedy. I must point out that this show is very funny even though looking over the list I’ve just written it probably doesn’t seem so!

CM: What inspired it? What attracted you to the whole ventriloquist’s dummy thing?
GK: I always wanted to do a solo show and expected someone to write me one, but they didn’t, so when I was asked to do a scratch night, I immediately agreed. I had a very basic idea of what I wanted to do and instead of writing it I decided to improvise it live. The ventriloquist dummy thing came about for a couple of reasons, the first thing was that I wanted a device in which one person on stage would be able to have dialogue with something, the second was that I wanted that thing to be grotesque and dark. When I was a child ventriloquists’ dummies were a popular toy; I remember a friend of mine had one and I found it terrifying. I still do, although I have grown to love Mr C, in a strange way.

CM: Is this kind of show typical of your output…? What genre would you say your work falls into?
GK: I think the comedy and darkness is probably typical of the type of work I am attracted to and it was certainly present in my other play Dead To Me. As for genre, I suppose you could say it is a black comedy. I like to make work that is funny but also has a dark heart. I also want my work to be funny and entertaining, but not light entertainment.

CM: What made you become a performer? Did you always want to be one?
GK: I wanted to be a comedian when I was very young – I genuinely love making people laugh; it is one of my favourite things in the world. I also want to make people question and think about the world. I became a performer because I like showing off and wearing hats. I’m also pretty bad at other things… I wish I’d worked harder at school, but I didn’t.

CM: Where do you see yourself heading? What do you hope to be doing in ten years time?
GK: I’d like to continue to make/write my own work, and I’d also like to work with people I admire and whose work I love. I’d love to be in a position where I was writing more and performing in things that are exciting and challenging. In ten years time? I find it hard to answer that – will there be subsidised theatre and art in the UK in 2025? I’m not sure. I really hope there is, but if we continue on the path of imposed austerity I think many aspects of life in the UK will be under threat; my partner is a nurse who works in the NHS – will she still be working for a National Health Service in 10 years time? I hope so but I’m not holding out much hope.

CM: What’s next for this show?
GK: We are looking at another tour next year, I’d like to think because of the nature of the show and the fact it is ever-changing that I will come back to it at various times throughout my career. Or maybe not, maybe I’ll get sick of it, and Mr C will retire to a lovely home by the seaside with other ventriloquist dummies, run by Punch and Judy.

CM: What’s next for you?
GK: After this show I will be writing something else, I’m not sure what yet; I have a few ideas but nothing set in stone. I’d like to write an out and out comedy, and work with my best friend Chris Price on something. He is very funny and makes me laugh, and I would enjoy hitting him with a frying pan on a nightly basis.

I’d also like to work with the team I’ve worked with on this show. Alex Swift, my director, is amazing and I’d happily work with him on anything, and Selma Dimitrijevic, producer and dramaturg, is one of the most intelligent and insightful artists I have ever met. I feel very fortunate to have such an amazing team.

‘Me & Mr C’ is on at Ovalhouse from 18-21 Nov, see the venue website here for more info.

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