In the last of Wales Arts Review’s spotlights on the theatre companies venturing from Wales up to the Edinburgh Fringe this year, we talk to writer Alan Harris and director Catherine Paskell of Dirty Protest who are aiming to set the fringe alight with Sugar Baby.
Tell us about your show
Marc is a small-time drug dealer living in Fairwater, Cardiff. He grows cannabis behind his mate’s house in Pentrebane, putting in tomatoes so no one’s any the wiser. His old man, Mark (who likes to think he’s a bit of a wheeler-dear – but he’s a shit one), owes local loan shark Oggy £6000 after a business deal went down the pan.
Lisa also owes Oggy £6000 – and he’s making her pay off the debt, little by little, by being his Sugar Baby. Everyone knows he couldn’t get a girl like Lisa without paying for her – but that’s what gangsters do.
Lisa and Marc are thrown together and spend the day together, trying to forget the daily pressures and the debt, and end up in Victoria Park. But their peace and the cool connection that’s being made between them is broken when Oggy turns up with an ice cream. Marc acts on impulse and sets him on a journey that leads to parts of Cardiff he’s been trying to avoid and people he doesn’t want to see. It also leads to him talking to a seal. Serious.
Tell us about Dirty Protest
Dirty Protest is Wales’ award-winning theatre company leading the development, promotion and production of new writing for performance.
Sugar Baby by Alan Harris launches Dirty Protest’s 10th birthday celebrations in August 2017, with a year full of other events to be announced.
Launched in 2007, Dirty Protest has since produced over 300 new plays by over 200 established and emerging writers, including Welsh writers Katherine Chandler, Gary Owen, Brad Birch, Alan Harris, Daf James, Ed Thomas, Kelly Jones, Tim Price, and Meredydd Barker and British playwrights including Duncan Macmillan, Rebecca Lenkiewicz, James Graham, Joel Horwood, Chloe Moss, Lucy Kirkwood, and Jack Thorne.
Dirty Protest stage new sell-out plays in theatres and alternative venues, from pubs and clubs, to music festivals, kebab shops, hairdressers and a forest. Alongside full length productions, Dirty Protest stage regular short play nights where established and wannabe writers are presented on the same platform, providing opportunities for writers, directors and actors. These nights present a shot of theatrical tequila without the paraphernalia, all for the price of a pint.
We have worked with partners including the Royal Court theatre, the Almeida theatre, Traverse Edinburgh, Soho Theatre, Chapter Cardiff, National Theatre Wales, Theatr Clwyd, Galeri Caernarfon, Camden Roundhouse, Wales Millennium Centre, Latitude Festival, Festival No.6, and many more.
Tell us about your team
Dirty Protest is Matthew Bulgo, Branwen Davies, Claire Hill, Catherine Paskell, and Tim Price.
Our Sugar Baby team is immense. We are so proud of everyone who’s worked on the show. It’s been a fantastic collaboration, and we have had a lot of fun pulling the production together. We have shared many spicy sausages from Tesco hot counter over the past few weeks.
The cast of Sugar Baby is Alex Griffin-Griffiths. He plays Marc, as well as all the other characters. Alex is an actor from Cardiff and a graduate of the The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. He is an associate artist of Not Too Tame Theatre Company and he recently played the role of a belly.
Our lighting designer is Ace Mccarran. Dan Lawrence is our sound designer. Glesni Price-Jones is our assistant producer. And our Stage Manager is Emily Butler.
Tell us about yourself
Alan: I’m a Cardiff-based writer who has worked with companies from the UK and abroad. My first play was commissioned by Simon Harris at Sgript Cymru and my last was directed by George Perrin at Paines Plough (in their wonderful Roundabout space at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe).
In between I’ve written lots of radio drama (plays for Radio 4 and Radio 3). I love writing for radio; it’s a wonderful form of drama. The last play was an hour-long apaptation of Kafka’s Metamorphosis that very much expanded on the original (they even take Gregor for a day out).
Also, I’ve written opera. There’s not a great deal of new opera out there. I mostly work with a company called liveartshow – one show was an hour long electro version of Rhinegold. It was very accessible, honest.
I love taking long walks in the countryside, chasing my greyhound along deserted beaches and collecting spoons from different parts of the world.
Catherine: I’m an independent stage director from Cardiff and artistic director of Dirty Protest. I was a founding Creative Associate of National Theatre Wales.
Last year, I was working in Brazil where I directed a new Portuguese production of Shakespeare’s ‘The Merchant of Venice’ by playwright Marcos Barbosa. We relocated the production to contemporary Brazil, at the exact same time that the establishment were re-interpreting Brazil’s laws to impeach then-President Dilma. I learned Portuguese and that there are 5 different types of bananas.
What does the Edinburgh Fringe mean to you?
Alan: It’s a chance to put my work on in Edinburgh. As a punter it’s a sort of annual theatre conference and the chance to see work that you might have to travel to lots of different countries to see (that does give me the chance to collect more spoons, though). It’s also nice to bump into people you haven’t seen in ages and have a pint with. I keep on meaning to go and see more comedy while in Edinburgh – and this year I still have that intention. Also, I like the random nature of the festival – experiences and shows. I’ve seen lots of things there that you think: only in Edinburgh.
Catherine: Camaraderie over competition. This is my 17th Edinburgh Fringe and some things remain the same every year: Mosque Kitchen (three curries for £6), climbing Arthur’s Seat, searching out friends’ posters and shows, meeting up with people I haven’t seen for ages, having at least one show that looked great in the blurb but then is nothing like what it says it’s like, huge tall high-ceilinged buildings, and lamenting the closing of another amazing food and drink place (last year it was Wannaburger, which did the best breakfast in Edinburgh and the old Waverley bar, where you would be given free packets of crisps with every pint).
Dirty Protest present
By Alan Harris
Directed by Catherine Paskell
Performed by Alex Griffin-Griffiths
as seen at the Edinburgh Fringe
Dates: 4-27 August (except Tues)
Time: 6.05pm (55mins)
Venue: Paines Plough’s ROUNDABOUT @ Summerhall
Tel. 0131 560 1580
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As Wales’ foremost fringe theatre company, Dirty Protest, begins its first ever touring production with the award-winning play Parallel Lines, Wales Arts Review caught up with the director, Catherine Paskell, and the writer Katherine Chandler, just as the tour was about to open in Cardiff’s Chapter Arts Centre.