Interview: Stars of Off The Rails, Kris Macjames and Dean Greer
November 10, 2015
After their first performance at the University of Huddersfield earlier this year, Kris Macjames and Dean Greer will be making a return to the Milton Building with the story of a chance meeting between two complete strangers who share one thing in common: they both want to end their lives.
Before the show goes up this Thursday, we got a few words from the pair on how the show came to life, the processes involved and an unintentional mis-hap involving chips.
TSOTA: Where did the idea for the story first originate from?
KM: I was always very keen on working closely with Dean as we both shared not just a love for comedy and double acts, but we were in complete agreement on the direction in which we wanted to lead our audience. We love to debate humour as a subject, particularly the boundaries of the “off limits” topics in comedy.
DG: Kris and I have always been fascinated by comedy double acts, the way they’re structured and how they function and I’ve always been interested in creating a piece of theatre which followed that frame within a tragic setting.
TSOTA: What was the process like of getting the story from page to stage?
DG: About 90% of what you see onstage was at some point improvised by us but then the real challenge was working that into the story.
KM: All we knew at the beginning was the effect we wanted to have on the spectator but we had no idea how we were going to do it. We began by both having an idea of our own individual shows, which were vastly different: Dean had a show written called ‘the stain’ which was a very abstract, ambiguous piece. I had an idea for a much more symbolic show set on a platform representing neither life nor death. This became our base so we agreed to collaborate on a completely new piece taking off from these ideas. Eventually we had a finished script, but we were nowhere near a finished show. Altogether the script was re-written about thirty times before it was ready for the stage, but it was continuously being altered up until the live show.
TSOTA: Is it difficult trying to balance humour with the dark themes that the play explores?
KM: The real difficulty comes from finding the way in which you approach the joke as humour and tragedy are so closely linked. It’s not possible to find a joke where there isn’t a victim even if they’re a hypothetical one, it’s all just a case of interpretation. With tragedy the premise already exists but what was incredibly interesting was the certain points in the play when people didn’t feel like they could laugh but reluctantly did. This is much of the reason why the play was built around the subject that it was.
TSOTA: How different is the one hour version of the play in comparison to the first time you performed it when it was forty minutes?
DG: It’s not different at all, because we’re not restricted by time we have allowed ourselves to delve deeper into the characters and tell the story in a much more detailed way.
KM: We have delved into the back story of each character further and, of course, added more funny moments. I was desperate for more time to explore more of the reason suicide was the only option for both characters.
TSOTA: You’re both starring in the play and have co-written, produced and directed. Did it become overwhelming at any point?
KM: It has been a pressure I’ve not really known before but I’ve learned that I work for myself much better under that pressure and deadlines. There was one stage when I felt it was getting a bit too much but that is to be expected when you have such passion for what you do as well as the positive effect you feel your product will bring.
DG: We have put everything we have to offer into this show, spending long days in the studios trying out new bits or rehearsing what we already have. Even when we’re not in there we’re sat in front of a computer writing up what we’ve created or getting equipment that we need ready. I have gone many sleepless nights working on this show and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
TSOTA: What’s the funniest mishap that’s happened during a rehearsal or even a performance?
DG: There’s a part in the play where my character throws chips up in the air three times in an attempt to catch them in his mouth (the intention being that I miss every time) but on the final night of the run when I threw my third chip, I caught it in my mouth. The audience loved it.
TSOTA: And lastly, what’s your favourite one-liner from the play?
KM: The Santa line always gets a laugh and has become a favourite moment in the play for me.
DG: “If I die now I’ll never be remembered and I can’t live with that.”
PROJEX Theatre Company presented: Off The Rails at the Milton Building, University of Huddersfield on Thursday November 5th and Friday November 6th.