Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Rebecca Biscuit and Nick Field: Paid Fantasist

By | Published on Friday 23 November 2018

This Week at Camden People’s Theatre, you can pay to see ‘Paid Fantasist’, a new theatrical piece by Rebecca Biscuit (of Sh!t Theatre fame) and Nick Field (of Field and McGlynn renown). It sounds incredibly quirky and interesting, and is inspired by a forty year old Times article, which you may be aware of: the instalment of their regular ‘A Life In The Day’ feature focusing on the doings of actor Tom Baker.

I was definitely intrigued by it, and put some questions to its creators, ahead of the upcoming show.

CM: Can you start by explaining what style of performance to expect from ‘Paid Fantasist’? It sounds like it incorporates elements of lots of different genres.
RB: there’s some DIY time travel, a lot of mystery and our very best Kate Bush impression.

NF: The show is an eclectic mix of performance styles that reflects the energy of the article it’s inspired by. We have elements of theatre fused with live music, political satire and comedy, and we turn into the essential obscure 1970’s drag performance art band you never knew you needed.

CM: So, it’s about neoliberalism, but is inspired by a feature about Tom Baker… can you explain how the two are relevant to each other…?
RB: Tom Baker’s incredible article came out 40 years ago on the eve of when Margaret Thatcher was elected. Back then, neo-liberal policies were fringe, right wing theories. Now, they’re accepted establishment thinking. Forty years later, we are seeing other fringe, right-wing theories taking the political centre ground once more and so we started looking at the arc between then and now, and how neo-liberalism has shaped where we live and who we are.

NF: In the article there are clues to what life was like at the time, just on the cusp of a new era. The article is permeated with the anxieties and tensions within a country struggling to find its place in the world and, arguably, falling apart at the seams. There are fascinating parallels to life in the UK now, after 40 years of neo-liberalism, and that’s what we’ve explored in the show.

CM: What made you want to make a show from these ideas? What inspired this?
RB: We fucking loved this article. Have you read it?

NF: The article had a viral online resurgence a few years ago, which was when myself and Becca first encountered it. We loved it, it’s just brilliant, and we were both captivated by the opportunities it provided to explore key questions around the experiences of growing up under neo-liberalism. How that has shaped us, and how it’s affected and changed the places we live in and feel connected to. Soho being an important place for both of us. Soho is full of legends. We wanted to look at Soho as a legend and what that means specifically. Also what we can discover about our relationships to the places we love and feel a personal attachment too, when the neo-liberal agenda means they are often being changed beyond recognition before our very eyes. The show is full of questions and explorations of regeneration, both personal and political, inspired by Tom Baker and his stint as Doctor Who.

CM: How did you go about making the show? What was the creative process?
RB: we started by re-tracing his day step by step (pub by pub) around Soho and we then attempted to be the most disappointing barbershop trio you’ve ever seen. The creative process also involved eating a lot of Pret A Manger.

NF: We went into it with a lot of expectations of what we would find, many of which were confounded. So that gave us a lot of fun material to play with. We also dressed up as two spectre like drag characters to create video of us haunting the streets of Soho, and performing a dance routine in Soho alleys. Largely we’ve been working together to integrate all the ideas and themes and create performance that reflects the questions the show is raising. We both love finding comedy and absurdity in things, and then using that as a way to ask searching questions about human experience. There’s a lot of absurdity and comedy in the article, so that’s been a joy to work with as source material.

CM: How did you and Rebecca come to be working together on it?
RB: We met at clown school and have been talking about making something with this Tom article for years.

NF: When we met we had an instant rapport. We’ve been talking about working together ever since. When we first saw the article we were going to set up a reading group (of two) to discuss it and talk about how much we love it. But as we got talking we realised there was a show in it. And so the project grew from there and we formed Biscuit & Field, our new theatre company. It’s been so exciting building the show from this initial spark!

CM: Did you talk to Tom Baker about it?
NF: Not yet, I’d be interested to though!
RB: We talked about inviting him to a spa day. As far as we can tell from his extensive and very enthusiastic fan guestbook on his website, he frequents a Sussex Waitrose and he’d probably be quite up for talking to us if we hung around that particular supermarket for long enough.

CM: What hopes do you have for the show after the premiere at CPT?
RB: World tour.
NF: Well, it would be great to play the show in Soho. But this show has resonance beyond that, there’s a universality to it, so we’d like to take it on the road. I also think our performance art drag band might have legs!

CM: What’s coming up next for you after this?
RB: This December I’ve got the classic Sh!t Theatre sing-a-long-a-Muppet Christmas Carol mini-tour which includes the Bush Theatre for the first time from 10-12 December, then it’s back to R&D for a new show, Sh!t Theatre’s ‘Drink Rum With Expats’ which premieres in 2019. And I’m going to be missing Nick while he’s in Thailand!

‘Paid Fantasist’ is on at Camden People’s Theatre from 27 Nov-1 Dec, see the venue website here for info and to book.

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