Following on from last week’s event with theatre-maker Andi Denny, SWC’s Literary Content Officer Saskia McCracken discusses Denny’s new theatre company The Other Guys. Read on for a taste of what’s new on the Glasgow theatre scene.
Scottish Writers’ Centre recently welcomed Andi Denny, founder and creative director of The Other Guys Theatre Scotland. During the course of the evening, Andi treats us to insights into the current ‘amateur dramatics’ scene in Scotland, and the importance of realistic dialogue in contemporary scriptwriting. But first, that dirty word ‘amateur’.
‘I’ve grown up with a real respect for every element that goes into theatre’, he says, but ‘we rarely get to learn about the process at the fledgling stage’. Andi focuses on working with amateurs who haven’t had the opportunity to branch out and develop, who are untrained for various reasons and who, above all, are passionate about theatre. It took some time for him to embrace the word amateur. ‘I thought it was a dirty word’, he admits.
Think am-dram and think offensive, unprofessional productions. He reels off a list of problematic Scottish am-dram productions that he’s seen: Hairspray, Rent, and Avenue Q, among a few. These productions tend to erase racial politics and important themes such as AIDS which were at the core of the original productions. No wonder am-dram has a bad reputation. While recognising these issues, Andi also wants to tackle the assumption that the word amateur means ‘not good enough’. Amateurs, he says, are ‘people who are not getting paid but who love the art form so much that they do it anyway’. He wants to offer these enthusiasts professional sensibilities (why spend your whole budget on putting on one performance at the Kings Theatre when you could do several in smaller venues?), and give them more creative opportunities.
Let’s get one thing straight. Andi adores Shakespeare. But the problem is that ‘in England, you’re only really taught Shakespeare’ and therefore, ‘Shakespeare is theatre in this country. If that’s your only experience of theatre and you don’t like it, you’re stuck’. So what’s the solution? What kind of theatre do you bring people who say they don’t like drama? Andi has some suggestions. ‘People want theatre a little bit more like them’ – they want to see something relatable. He’s all about ‘embracing’ Glasgow dialogue, with its unique blend of pop culture, regional words and American references. Andi is keenly aware that these kinds of references date a play but in his opinion, if it’s going to resonate with audiences then that’s a good thing. And hell, if Alan Sorkin can make a career out of dialogue that is very much of its time, why not give it a go? Andi claims that hardly anyone writes to bring new people into theatre, focusing instead on the ‘theatre audiences’ that already exist. Bringing in new audiences is exactly what he plans to do, and realistic dialogue is key to his process. That, and using the talent of local amateurs, giving them opportunities to flourish creatively.
Andi’s new play FIFTEEN:ELEVEN is a comedy about a young gay dancer who’s good but not the best. About to turn 30, this millennial realises he’s not a snowflake, and that his cohort are becoming escorts in order to fund their studies. The play will be appearing in Glasgow soon. For more information see: https://theotherguyscouk.wordpress.com/.
What’s your take on amateur theatre? Let us know by commenting below. Interested in learning more about the SWC? Follow us on Twitter @ScottishWriters and on Instagram @scottishwriterscentre.
Words by Saskia McCracken
Photo by Lucy Houghton
Image credit: The Other Guys Theatre Scotland