Interview: ChewBoy Productions, makers of TETHERED

TETHERED (or the Adventures of the Adequately Excited People) opens at the Lion & Unicorn on 20 July, running until 24 July. It is a brand-new play from ChewBoy Productions, who are one of the associate artist companies at the venue.

I caught up with Georgie Bailey (company co-founder and writer of TETHERED), Lucy Betts (resident director), and Hal Darling (company co-founder) to find out more about the company and the production.

For more on ChewBoy Productions visit their website.

Logo for Chew Boy Productions

Shall we start with how the company came about, and where the name ‘ChewBoy Productions’ came from? 

We have been working together for a few years. We have a shared interest and sense of humour. So, from having fun and mucking around with stuff, we thought there’s something quite interesting here, let’s work on it as a team. We’ve been together since 2018 and have developed nine projects. 

The name is a tricky one. We went through so many names for accounting, as you have to put a company name in. So, it was ‘what kind of work do we like to make?’ We like making things that audiences don’t think about until long after they’ve experienced it, chewing on it. So that’s where the name came from. 

TETHERED is your new show at the Lion & Unicorn, opening 20 July. It has an interesting structure, with two halves and the audience chooses which they see first. How did that come about? 

We’re obsessed with the audience perspective and perception, so we wanted to take that one step further. It’s something we are still discovering, and it terrifies us a little bit. As we continue working on the way it might be something which shifts slightly, but it started as a bit of fun. We’ll have to see what’s practical. 

I think, especially after, you know, the year or so, that we’ve all had, it’s forced us to make theatre and art in lots of diverse ways. And forced a lot of perspective, I think and people within the industry taking a good look at how we make, how we make theatre and art and what can be changed and what, what doesn’t sit right anymore. You know, now that we’ve all had a chance to think about what’s important.. So, it’s very much reflection of that as well.  

Do you think it’s quite difficult for young companies to start? And I’m just thinking that will change? Now we’ve had this pause. 

Young companies must be so adaptable, and good at worming their way into opportunities. They can grab an iPhone and make a piece of theatre – people who want to make theatre will always find a way. Everyone’s been out of work, so now everyone is available, and theatres need to open and make money. It’s quite difficult for breakout companies and young creatives to find those opportunities. We are so lucky as the Lion & Unicorn have been so supportive throughout this past year; doing Zoom meetings to say hi, how are things.  

Tell me what audiences can expect from TETHERED. 

It’s very meta, very black. This is Georgie and Hal playing heightened versions of themselves playing a show. It’s quite surreal – less of a mirror and more of a kaleidoscope up to the theatre. It’s quite reflective. 

In the first lockdown, the original version of the play, it was quite different. It’s now quite a personal piece without intending to be. The way we work is very collaborative, but we couldn’t do that when living responsibly and staying at home. Let’s just say it is a surreal comedy caper about the ties that bind us. 

Promotional poster for Tethered

How have you found working together on Zoom instead of a rehearsal room? 

Well, this is lovely, just having a conversation. Great for meetings, not travelling up to London, and if you’re out and about you can just hop on and talk to someone. But rehearsing is difficult because the overlapping dialogue and talking over each other. On a basic level, it discourages work-life balance. There’s no downtime where you’re travelling home from the venue, you switch off and you’re in your flat. When you’re in a rehearsal room, you’re buzzing with ideas. 

We’re very physical people, we like the playing around with the moment on stage. In the upcoming production, we’re supposed to be tethered together, so that’s impossible to do on Zoom. Kudos to anyone who can do it. 

What do you think about the digital work that’s been coming out? has that kind of inspired you at all? Have you been able to see much of it? 

It’s been amazing. It’s about accessibility, especially with streaming, where you can’t get into London or to other places. A lot of stuff some theatres in the north have been making is incredible. I don’t know how they can create for Zoom! I can barely log on for a meeting. People have started to get clever with it, with ‘choose your own adventure’ and that kind of thing.  

I think when it all started it was about short films, and then it was digital theatre – a whole new rule where you could do whatever you wanted. You had to find a new way to make work, which is always exciting. There’s a difference between filming a play, making a film, and doing a filmed piece of data. Then a new medium emerged during pandemic, and it was cool seeing that.  

What I found infuriating was the snobbery around it, the sort of “I’m not watching this, I’m just waiting for live theatre to come back’. But not everyone has the privilege to do that.  

[Lucy mentions her show Lone Flyer, which did live and streamed performances as part of Jermyn Street Theatre’s Footprints Festival]. I think digital work is such a positive thing; if you don’t feel safe going into central London because of everything that happens, you can still watch it. 

What’s planned after Tethered? 

We do have a show coming up in 2022, working title Bear with a Bear. And we’re doing something about hats. Then some video, there’s lots of stuff in the pipeline. We plan a lot. There’s also Chewing the Fat which is a multi-art magazine; we’ve just selected the submissions we are going to be using. 

My thanks to Georgie, Lucy and Hal for their time.

You can buy tickets to see TETHERED here.

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