Theatre group In The Works is gearing up for a trip to Edinburgh as it gets ready to make its Fringe Festival debut.
The Glasgow-based spoken word theatre company, run by young artists Bibi June, Ross McFarlane, Shannon O’Neill and Ellen Renton, four Scottish performance poets and theatre makers, aims to promote diverse, accessible and innovative spoken word theatre for audiences all around the UK.
Having previously collaborated on ‘A Matter of Time’, which played at the Banshee Labyrinth as part of the Edinburgh Free Fringe 2017, the four-piece’s debut production, The 900 Club , tells the story of friends Emily, Avery, Fi and Mac who reunite five years after the death of their friend to celebrate his memory.
After the suicide of their friend, each remaining member of the group disappeared down their own path of grief. Now they are ready to confront each other, themselves, and the past.
The four friends get together for a reprise of their annual camping trip as a way to rekindle the friendship, but meet many speed bumps on the way.
Set entirely on the bus, the audience eavesdrops on the sometimes heartwarming, often awkward reunion of the foursome.
Follow them on the 900 Megabus from Glasgow to Edinburgh where there is no escaping old memories – hilarious, heartbreaking or otherwise.
The 900 Club is a spoken word theatre show about mental health, grief and friendship, written and performed by Bibi, Ross, Shannon and Ellen.
Bibi June said: “As writers and performers, all four of us draw from our own experiences.
“For this show, we decided what we wanted to write about (mental health) and what kind of story we wanted to tell (a reunion between friends on a bus), and the narrative rolled out of that quite organically once we fleshed out our characters.
“We wanted to make sure we had something new and nuanced to add to the conversation around mental health that is going on within the arts and beyond.
“For us, that meant focusing on friendships, on responsibility towards ourselves and others, and on talking openly and honestly about suicide.
“The idea of writing a poetry show about four friends stuck on a bus started as a joke between us and Edinburgh poet Andrew Blair when we were recording for his podcast during last year’s Fringe, but stuck with us when we started developing the show.”
Bibi continued: “The constrictions of that setting really allowed us to build tension, and having the journey happen in real-time meant we had to resolve every conflict we set up right there in front of the audience.
“We felt it was a very recognisable scenario – who hasn’t been stuck in on journey with a sibling, a parent or a friend they were upset with? The 900 Club is exactly that, but with both the stakes and the tension dialled up to a 100.”
The 900 Club started to come together shorlty before last year’s Fringe show.
“We started working together quite spontaneously, a few months before last year’s Fringe,” Bibi said.
“Our Fringe show in 2017, ‘A Matter of Time’, was the first long-form poetry show any of us had written, and it was more successful than we could’ve ever hoped for.
“This year, we went into it with a bit more experience and a bit more of a plan. We wrote the entire script together, each of us penning our own characters as they argue, reminisce and joke around.
“Ellen Renton has been studying for her Masters in Creative Writing in England this year, so a large chunk of the writing and rehearsals have been done over videochat.
“Last year, we were in the same room at least once or twice a week over the course of the summer to rehearse, but this year we had to cram all of that into two weeks right before the Fringe.”
Bibi continued: “It’s been an intense, but very worthwhile process, and we’re very excited to be presenting the show in front of an audience in August!
“We’re equal parts nervous and excited! Any performance comes with a healthy dose of nerves- will I remember my lines? Will it work in front of an audience?
“Will people get it? With the Fringe there’s the added stress of finding a new audience when there are so many other fantastic shows going on at the same time.
“We try to remind ourselves that how well we do in August is not a reflection on our talent or hard work- but we would obviously still like to get a good audience in every night!
We hope the audience walks away from our show having thoroughly enjoyed it, while also having gained insight into our perspectives on mental health and grief.
“In terms of form, we are doing something quite new– writing a theatre piece entirely as Scottish performance poetry.
“It’s something that a large part of our audience will not have a frame of reference for. So we hope to sell them on poetry and spoken word theatre throughout the show.
“We want people to be inspired, and to seek out more contemporary performance poetry.
She added: “We hope they will leave with a new appreciate of poetry as the entertaining, accessible and innovative art form we believe it is!
Catch The 900 Club at the Scottish Poetry Library from August 3-12 at 9pm.
Visit www.intheworkstheatre.com for further information.