Luke Prowse Baldwin interviews Hannah Bradley and Johnny Cameron of Twelve Twelve Theatre who have just finished a run of their production Arrivals at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in which Hannah played the role of Mel and Johnny the role of Tony.
Well it’s great to get this time with you both so thank you for taking the time to speak to us. So, for those who don’t know, what’s Arrivals about?
Hannah: Arrivals is a dark Scottish comedy. It’s new writing, and it’s about two people who are stuck in an airport. It talks about life, death, what it means to be a good person and what the value of life is, but in a funny way.
Johnny: Even though it’s a Scottish comedy, I would say the actual comedy itself travels. That’s a joke. That’s how funny we are.
So as performers, how’s the dynamic between you both developed throughout the rehearsal process?
Hannah: Well, me and Johnny have known each other for five years now. We met at university, and we’ve worked together pretty much ever since. It’s been really good. We’ve had a really good director. She’s really spent time unpicking both of our characters and the pace of the piece. I think we work really well together. We know each other on stage and off stage enough now to know how to respond to each other really well.
Johnny: I think the whole rehearsal process is a real joy working with a really close friend. The only issue is that there’s been a couple of times where when you laugh or corpse – especially in rehearsals. It hasn’t happened, thankfully, in the performances. You find it very hard to get on track, but I think that’s because you’re friends and in that kind of process, you’re going to laugh. Then you’re going to find it even funnier, and then it’s going to become a thing.
Hannah: Which is why it’s always important to have a director in the room!
“Unless you’re being held against you’re will, you’re never really stuck anywhere”
As you were saying, I’m assuming you’ve been spending a lot of time together away from the studio as well. Has that helped the relationship build?
Johnny: No – we hate each other. [Laughs]
Hannah: It does. Like I said, we’ve been friends for five years now. It’s actually been really nice because we run a company together. As with all adult friendships, you don’t get to see each other as much, especially us who half freelance – we’re all over the place. It’s actually nice to have a regular thing. It’s been nice to come into this space [The Space on The Mile] a couple of hours before the show and sit for an hour and chat before we go out and flyer.
So Johnny, Tony doesn’t seem like the friendliest of folk. How did you go about developing that characterisation?
Johnny: It’s one of them things that you can’t go into a character thinking they’re unlikable. You can’t play a character evil unless you’re in panto. He’s got his own ticks. He finds things funny, but the situation he’s in is quite relatable with quite a lot of people. It’s the fact he’s found himself hungover and somebody’s talking. At the beginning of the play, he’s very irritable; I wouldn’t say he’s unlikable. Then he warms up. I think with any actor the words are there. You just look at them and develop the character from that. It’s been great fun working with Hannah to kind of bring the frustration in but then draw out that moment of sincerity and clarity within the character.
So you haven’t ended up hungover in Budapest airport with no recollection of how you got there?
Johnny: I haven’t. I wish I did. I definitely haven’t. But I have been hungover before.
Hannah, you’re also the show’s producer. How has it been managing that along side your performing role?
Hannah: It’s been good. Because were a new start company we’re used to the whole ‘everyone does a wee bit of everything’. This is by no means the first show for the company that I or any other member have been in or directed but also had to do all the admin side of it, so it’s been good. Actually, this time it’s been really quite simple. We usually have twelve people to look out for, to figure out their schedules and book space for rehearsals. Most of the stuff that I’ve been trying to do is coordinate things with the venue.
Johnny: You’ve done a spectacular job juggling everything. Like she was saying, it’s one of those collective things that if something needs to be done, you just do it.
Slightly controversial this one – how fair is it to say that this concept of two people sitting around and killing time seems Waiting for Godot-esque?
Hannah: We didn’t even think of that! Waiting for Godot was never something that was thrown about. Then, we got a review that was like ‘Scottish comedy’s answer to Waiting for Godot’. It was a really complimentary review. I’m a big fan of situational comedy; people stuck somewhere in confined space or something like that.
Johnny: I think the really lovely thing about those pieces of theatre is: why don’t they leave? If you took Waiting for Godot and Jammed in Brugge, I think [Arrivals is] that.
Hannah: The idea of two people being stuck somewhere is interesting because unless you’re being held against you’re will, you’re never really stuck anywhere. You always have options. You have to find the reason in the text why you stay, and that’s the only way it’ll be compelling.
Very true. And in terms of the play’s conception, where did the ideas come from for Budapest and an airport?
Hannah: Dougal [Thomson, the playwright] was in an airport in Belgium. He had this hangover.
Johnny: He got in the wrong queue – to go to Budapest. [Laughs]
Hannah: Yeah! And he just started writing it and apparently got the whole basis of it.
Awesome! Well, it’s been fab to chat with you both. Thanks for taking the time to speak to us.