Opening tonight at Vault Festival is the debut play from Harry McDonald, Don’t Smoke in Bed.
A cutting psychological drama directed by Joseph Winer, this show is a queer thriller that may prove to be one of the breakout plays of this festival.
Harry joined us for a chat to tease out more about ‘Mr Pandemonium’.
Where: Pit at The Vaults
When: 31 Jan – 5 Feb
Ticket link: https://vaultfestival.com/events/dont-smoke-in-bed/
What’s the best thing about being part of a festival at Vault?
I think it’s the combination of how wonderfully overwhelming it can be with the sheer amount and variety in the programme, with the impulsiveness that you can afford to have when you’re there.
You can go and see one carefully chosen and planned show, and then decide what’s next over a pint. And the bar itself! I’ve missed the white wine at Vault.
Harry, you’ve been both critic and playwright. Do you find the former influences the latter in any way?
I’m sure it has. I didn’t do drama at university, I don’t have any training, everything I have learned about theatre has been through seeing it, reading plays, talking to people and seemingly endless redrafting.
I think when you write criticism, at least if you’re any good, you really try to be rigorous with whatever you’re seeing, which means when you’re creating your own work you want it to withstand and support that kind of scrutiny.
Your show is described as a psychological drama – what makes it stand out within the festival?
It’s an intense show! The spaces at Vault, particularly the Pit where we’re playing, are small and so I wanted to write something that lent itself to that kind of close proximity with the audience.
I find when you’re that close to an actor, it is as though you’re inside the characters head with the actor, and that’s the style of Don’t Smoke in Bed.
But it is funny too! I promise! And Jacob [Seelochan] and Diya [Vencatasawmy], our two actors, are just brilliant. They slip into these people and their relationship with such ease.
How did the working relationship between the two of you inform the development of this work? And did your venue, the Pit, have any bearing on the show?
Me and Joseph were at the same uni, and he became somebody that I started showing my writing to. I sent him the very first gossamer-thin draft of Don’t Smoke in Bed in November 2020, and we chatted about it over Zoom.
I hadn’t done serious work on it since, but it was Joseph’s idea to submit it Vault last summer, and he’s been instrumental in getting it into a workable shape for the festival. I’ve done really quick turnarounds on drafts and he’s pushed me further each time.
And yes, the Pit is a great space. It feels really close, the audience are caught really tightly between the walls of the tunnel and the performers.
It was actually the first venue at Vault I ever went to, so it’s nice to be returning there with my own work.
What’s next for the show after Vault?
Oh God. Vault’s stressful enough without thinking about what’s next. Having said that, if anyone does want to programme it, you can DM me.