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July 31, 2018 | by  | in Arts Theatre | [ssba]

Interview – Almost Sober

Almost Sober Interview

With Keegan Bragg and Ben Wilson

By Emma Maguire


I sat down with Keegan Bragg and Ben Wilson, the director and the writer of Almost Sober, a new thirteen-person theatre show currently being performed at Club 121 in the CBD. We talked about their show, why theatre shouldn’t just be for theatre people and how Almost Sober is a love letter to Wellington’s nightlife.

E: In your own words, give me a description of your show.

Ben: It’s a big scale show with about thirteen people, and it’s about a night in town — in Wellington’s club scene. A guy’s lost his jacket, a girl who’s going to town for the first time on her eighteenth birthday gets lost, a bunch of yo-pros just complain about their flatmates, and a drug dealer just wants to have a fight.

Keegan: You can have a good night when you go out — have a beer, have some pool, have some dancing, anywhere — in any sort of roughly-sized city in the world. What I really like about Wellington is that you get some really weird nights here. There’s so many different stories, so many different characters — the idea was to cram in as much as we could in a really short amount of time, in about ninety minutes or so.

E: Why do you think students — in particular those who don’t go to theatre very often — should come and see your show?

K: A real focus for us in this play was to be theatrical in a way that would serve the story, and would serve the characters. It’s not really a play that’s trying to be “oh, this is why you’ll love all theatre, all the time” — it’s not like when you go the movies and see a bad movie, you’ll never go to the movies again — but with theatre you do do that, so I think it’s really important that this play is really about the story and really about the characters.

B: The aspect of it is that it’s at a club, not an actual theatre and so I think there’s already a part of that “going to the theatre” stigma that’s been cut down by the fact that we’re putting it in a club — especially a club like 121, which is so student-orientated and so young-person orientated, it’s the brand. My friend Cam [one of the club owners] saw my first play and he was so surprised by it — “there was swearing in that! I didn’t know you could swear in theatre! And you took drugs on stage — I didn’t know you could do that in theatre.” It was just so interesting to me that he had this Shakespearean idea of what theatre had to be.

E: So, you were commissioned to write this play?

B: Sort of. I talked to Cam when I was, y’know, under the influence at his club and I pitched it to him — the idea of putting a show on. It was about a month, just me writing everyday, and it ended up at 95 pages. When you have thirteen characters, 95 pages is a good amount.

E: With thirteen characters I presume you have quite a diverse cast. Do you think that any theatre-goer can come in and see at least part of themselves in one of your characters?

B: I hope so. That was a huge thing when I started and when I was talking with Keegan about it — everyone needs to feel like there’s something there. There’s a character that’s eighteen, and it’s her first time in town, and then there’s people who are like 26-27, who’ve been in the city for a very long time. I think it’s very Wellington-specific, especially the characters. They’re characters that are very much of this city’s ilk — they’re so formed by what this city is like. The city can feel huge and can feel small — it can feel isolating, like a small fish in a big pond sometimes. All of that is in there.

K: I remember when I moved here, when I moved into halls of residences for the first time here — I remember thinking that my whole life was now in this little room — but then you get older and you get more friends and you get more of a life here — I think this city begins to feel smaller, there are less mysteries in this city. It’s quite a small city, at the end of the day. It’s not as big as Auckland, and Auckland’s not as big as cities overseas. Your life gets more complex and you start to think that maybe the city’s starting to die a little bit, or maybe that you were here ten years too late because you’ve heard about all the good old times from people who were older than you. I think there’s something in that that is really present as a through-line in the play.

B: There’s a whole thing in the play about being connected — everyone knows everybody. That’s such a big part about living in Wellington, everyday you’ll see someone that you know, or someone that you know through somebody else —

K: For better or for worse, yeah.

B: And for starters, when you move to Wellington, that’s exciting — but then it just gets old, more and more everyday. You’re sick of seeing people that you know — especially when you’re at your worst, you’re having a really sad day, you don’t want to see anyone you know. There’s a scene with an ex in the play — and that’s such a Wellington thing — to bump into your ex in town after two years.

Wellington’s one of the only places where that’s definitely going to happen, you know?

Almost Sober is being performed at Club 121 until the 4th of August, 2018. Tickets available from tickettailor.


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