We caught up with Manchester based poetry group ‘Dead Lads’ about their first dramatic piece ‘Nuclear Roomates’. We posed questions to Lenni, Jasmine and their Director for this piece, Jack. Here are their responses.
GW: Can you tell me about ‘Dead Lads’?
Jasmine: We started Dead Lads for this play. Me and Lenni have collaborated quite a bit before on poetry fests and performance poetry things like that, so we thought we wanted to create a full hour show. We weren’t really sure what form it would take at that point. So we created ‘Dead Lads’ and we’re going to keep doing stuff under that title – its just collaborative work between the two of us.
GW: When did you two start writing poetry?
Lenni: We’ve both been writing poetry for quite a few years, but we’ve been writing together since we met at uni in 2011/12.
Jasmine: Then we met Jack about a year ago. When we realised the project was going in the theatre direction, we brought him on board to help us hone the details.
GW: Can you tell me a bit about the show itself ?
Jack: Ye. So bluntly, ‘Nuclear Roomates’ centres on two women ‘Salter & Riggs’ who are holed up in a small tattered house in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, trying desperately to survive. We never really see them leave the house and there’s a malevolent presence outside that keeps tapping on the window. It’s them trying to hold together a semblance of normalacy and talk about what bothers them. It’s entirely focused on their character dynamic and their fear of getting ripped apart by this foreboding presence outside.
GW: Is the whole thing performed as poetry or as prose?
Jasmine: We started off by writing a lot of full poems, but as the narrative emerged from it, a lot of it became dialogue. There’s dialogue, there’s poetic dialogue and then there’s poetry. The play goes between all three. We use poetry at the more intense moments. Then we also have some more naturalistic dialogue in there. It’s quite fluid.
Jack: Coming from the perspective of not being in the show or being part of the writing process, it’s not distinguished by, this is dialogue, this is poem, it all just blends together into this very heightened very beautiful language, that carries you through.
GW: What was the inspiration for this piece?
Lenni: Someone offered us a guest slot to do poetry together and we thought lets write something brand new especially for it, maybe with a narrative. It was a 15 minute guest slot, so we thought we would write something that was 15 minutes long. Then we decided we wanted it to be about the apocalypse. It’s just fun to write about. Jasmine is well up on nuclear apocalypses. That was your dissertation wasn’t it?
Jasmine: Ye, I wrote my dissertation on nuclear apocalypses, so I know a lot of the grisly details of what could happen. Another part of it, was we wanted to write female characters that were really interesting and weird, not necessarily strong characters, but also not necessarily two-dimensional characters. We wanted to write good female characters for stage. I think thats quite difficult to do, historically they are under-represented.
GW: There is a line in your play about ‘womb-eating’ ???
They all laugh.
Jasmine: That’s true! Jack you tweeted that spoiler!
Jack: I did. It comes towards the end. This is what’s exciting about the dialogue. All of this wasn’t in there originally. The dialogue is maybe some of the most exciting stuff. At the end, there’s a big argument between the two of them. In directing it, I got the sense that they probably have this exact same argument every day. But one of the common threats they throw at each other is about eating each other, obviosuly because they are in the apocalypse. There’s lots of grisly details. So there’s “I would eat your eyes first”…
Lenni: I scream that. Jasmine puts her hands on my belly in a really creepy way and says “I would kill you without a moments thought and be boiling you up within the hour!” and I just scream “I WOULD EAT YOUR EYES FIRST!”
Jack: And then Jasmine threatens womb-eating.
Jasmine: With the womb, there is actually a reason for that. The focus is on women in the condition of the apocolypse. While we were writing it, we were thinking about a lot of women’s choices. Here, the choice to have children is lost. They can’t really. It’s certanly not any kind of condition that you would want to have children in. The point of the argument is they are trying to rile each other up and dig really deep – so the womb eating line – it’s particularly poignant. It’s quite grisly and horrible.
Jack: “Useless womb” you say don’t you.
Jasmine: Ye I call it her useless womb. That gets a good audience reaction.
GW: Hypothetically, confronted with a nuclear fallout and a descent into a post-apocolyptic world, of the three of you, who would survive the longest?
Jasmine: Oh boy!
Lenni: I’ve been thinking about this for a while becuase I have a friend who I’ve had arguments about this before. And she always says “Wouldn’t you even try and survive Lenni?” and I say “NO, I’d just give up.”
Jasmine: I would survive becuase these guys would just lay down and die.
GW: Well, having written a dissertation on this you should probably have the edge.
Jasmine: I feel like I would probably be pretty useless. I would try gallantly to fight people off with a spade. Ultimately I would just be eaten by someone or they’d steal my possessions.
Jack: I think me and Lenni would be eaten by you!
Jasmine: Ye, (she laughs) maybe.
GW: What’s your favourite thing about being at the Fringe?
Jack: Oh gosh! It would have to be sleeping on a floor.
They all laugh.
Jack: I don’t know. At the moment I have been seeing lots of weird things that cross over between comedy and theatre. I definitely wouldn’t be getting the chance to do that anywhere else. Stuff thats pushing at the genre, that’s what I’m interested in artistically at the moment. Just the breadth of stuff I’m able to see.
Jasmine: Seeing new exciting stuff is really good and converging with lots of other creative people, it’s really exciting.
GW: Of the things you have seen so far, what has stood out?
Lenni: Me and Jack saw two really great, quite absurd comedy acts, that drew on a lot of things and were amazing.
Jack: We saw ‘Cosmonaut’ by Ryan Good. He’s a storyteller and that was really great. It had such a nice vibe.
Lenni: Really really lovely. Really amazing audience interaction. He brings someone up onto the stage at the start and you think it might just be for a little while, but then over the course of the whole show, they build up this lovely bond.
Jack: The show becomes about their friendship which is lovely. We saw Zoe Coombs Marr’s show ‘Dave’. She’s a standup comic peforming for an hour as a horrible misogynistic man. Which is really funny, but it goes deeper than just a one note critique. It becomes this horrific dream sequence.
Jasmine: We saw Dominic Berry’s show. It’s called ‘Up Your Game: The Downfall of a Noob’. It’s a spoken word show, themed around his relationship with gaming and the things that come into play with that like masculinity and isolation. That was a really powerful spoken word hour.
Jack: He is really good poet.
GW: Cool. Ok final question, what does the future hold for ‘Dead Lads’?
Lenni: Well, for part of this show we have made some chose-your-own adventure books, set in the same world as the play.
Jasmine: It’s a little stapled pamphlet type thing. We wrote that with Jack actually. We brought him in on it. Otherwise, we are hoping to keep developing the play, because it’s really new. We want to take it around some festivals and look into how we can push it further.
GW: Well good luck with that and the rest of your performances and thank you for talking to the Ginger Wig and Strolling Man.
Jasmine: Great talking to you Ginger Wig.
If you want to see Dead Lads production Nuclear Roomates, they are on until the 30th of August at the Laughing Horse @ Moriarty (Venue 332) at 12:30pm. And its free !!!