Interview with ‘Self-ish’ at NNT

Daisy Forster

Daisy ‘sits down’ with co-writers and co-directors behind ‘Self-ish’, the latest show by the Nottingham New Theatre. The show premieres tonight via the NNT youtube channel; make sure you tune in!


Hello! Thank you for interviewing with Impact. Can you tell us a bit about what ‘Self-ish’ is about?

Cae: ‘Self-ish’ is a show where our main character, ‘Mac’, played by Megan Peace, just underwent an unexpected break up. In the aftermath she can’t really figure out what to do, so she’s brought into the Zoom call, where every emotion gives their two pence as to how Mac should deal with this, and they scold Mac for ignoring them for so long! Can’t say much more without spoiling stuff! 

Cecil: I’m trying not to reveal too much after Cae’s answer now! This play is a fun exploration of all those coloured voices in your head battling with each other and bartering with you for prominence, all representing different parts of Mac, hence the title ‘Self-ish’. It’s got elements of light-hearted comedy mixed with some deeper personal realisations, and, at the best moments, both!

So, if this show is inspired by ‘Inside Out’, is this what happens once the characters get a bit older and have to deal with more complex issues?

Cae: Potentially yeah, the comparison to ‘Inside Out’ is more surface level; it’s more to do with the fact that there’s a main character whose sentient emotions guide them through a stressful/difficult time. There’s definitely links to be seen, but from an actual story perspective the two are very different. But, if it helps wrap your head around the concept, it’s the easiest way to look at it!

Cecil: When Cae first brought the idea to me, he phrased it as a ‘student/adult ‘Inside Out’’ but it’s definitely evolved to so much more than that! As Cae said, it’s a simplified way to look at it, but it’s like a sequel if the girl in ‘Inside Out’ grew up, went to uni, got broken up with, and suddenly Joy decides that instead of just taking control within the mind, but decides to sit Riley down and directly chat to them. And that isn’t a weird thing to do. And we also changed some emotions so we weren’t completely ripping them off!

What makes this show different from the other online content that the NNT have produced? What’s it been like working with a slightly larger cast, but still online?

 Cae: It’s actually been brilliant. While sometimes the size of the cast can make some logistical arrangements a bit difficult, the cast and crew have been incredible; they are so engaged and helpful! There’s a clear desire for this show to be the best it can be from everyone involved. There’s a sense of normality restored. I had personally moved away from digital theatre and if I was to put on a show in this format, I wanted it to be the right project. The difference in scale and ambition is evident in the show, we are trying to do a lot, all in very specific ways. Luckily, due to the actual scale of the cast and crew, along with the incredible ability of our editing and backstage teams, the show has come out exactly how it was intended.

Cecil: As Cae and I have both had experience with several online shows, I think what makes ‘Self-ish’ different from other shows is how it is designed for the Zoom format. It is an idea born from seeing how other shows have had to mould themselves to the format as they could work equally well on stage, but here it’s the other way around. I was worried about scheduling with such a large cast but with a few late nights we’ve pulled it off and managed to piece it all together! It’s been a lot of fun and a constant learning experience and I’m just so grateful for such an amazing and dedicated cast and crew!

Breakups often bring very confusing a mixture of feelings – how did you tackle breaking up all of those complex and intense emotions into characters?

Cae: It was a bit of a balancing act to ensure every emotion had something to do in each scene, but also have a continuous, flowing story that logically progressed. We tackled this by having every scene be focused on one emotion. Every emotion is still present and will make comments, ask questions or even argue with the lead emotion at that time, but by the end of that scene Mac will have discovered something new within themselves based on their discussion. There is definitely a fast turn around in the discussions with the characters but that’s due to the format of the show and our drive to maintain a light-hearted and fun atmosphere in the script. Despite the somewhat heavy themes the characters do describe, there shouldn’t be a moment where you dwell too heavily in any dark place.

Cecil: We know that a break up is a very common scenario, it’s very relatable, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to deal with at the time. We’ve all experienced all those conflicting emotions and often it can be quite overwhelming to process all at once and if you’re anything like me, you’ll start overthinking. By writing and exploring each emotion as a character that was a part of Mac, it allowed us as writers a way to break down a mass of feeling into logical conversations for Mac to navigate. Framing it as an intervention of thoughts (sorts haha get it), I kind of likened it to the five stages of grief, and then personified them and asked myself, “What is their purpose? Why should Mac feel [emotion]” which was quite useful!

Deep question but, if your emotions were people, who would you want to speak to first? What would you say?

Cae: That is a deep one, maybe motivation and fatigue! I’d ask them to make up so that we can all work together and I’m not always half asleep and unmotivated!!! But really I’m unsure, it’s a difficult thing to imagine and I feel Mac does definitely deal with this concept quite well. Either way I’d like to think Anger would be a very funny interaction, maybe not for too long though.

Cecil: I wasn’t expecting that question! To speak to first, it would probably have to be Happiness, so it starts well and I’m not sitting there, like Mac, who just gets bombarded by so many heavier emotions so doesn’t have the energy for Happiness!

What’s been your favourite thing about bringing this show to life? Have there been any surprises along the way?

Cae: For me, it’s been the progressive completion of the show; by this, I mean how we’ve been able to see the pieces all fall in place. I’ve loved to see more and more editing being completed and finally seeing this vision I had in my head on a screen. It is an incredible gratifying process and I hope everyone involved is proud. We had a few! Some very well timed adlibs from our brilliant cast, but also some brilliant suggestions from our crew! The biggest one for me is probably an artist I was a big fan of giving us permission to use one of their songs for the outro of our show! 

Cecil: I’m definitely going to echo what Cae said, for sure! It’s just been such a lovely time working with so many incredible and amazing actors, seeing words I’ve written brought to life so much better than I’d imagined or in such different ways! The crew have been unparalleled in their dedication, talent, and communication and they’ve all been such a joy to work with! I’m very grateful that, in these times, we’ve still been able to have that creative and collaborative sense that theatre can bring and to know we’ve got such an amazing final product has me feeling very proud and excited!

Finally… The Nottingham New Theatre have produced a host of fabulous content over the last year, but I bet you’re all itching to get back on stage. What are you most excited about for when lockdown lifts? (Other than Ocean, of course!)

Cae: Can I just say the pub? No I’m joking, partially… I think I’m most excited about getting shows back on stage (cliche), I am currently looking at multiple projects that have to take place on stage, and I cannot wait to realise these shows! I also miss the strong sense of in person community a show team creates, not to say this isn’t possible on zoom! As our team has done it brilliantly! I refer more to having time to meet people face to face, debrief at the pub and crucially, the after party! There are some theatrical aspects that thrive in the face to face. But again pub absolutely.

Cecil: HUGS! I love meeting my friends for walks, but there’s only so much a hot chocolate around Wollaton or coffee on campus can do when really I just want to give them a big hug and sit down, inside, and not have to actually walk anywhere. Also to actually meet some of the amazing people in person who I’ve worked with online! You feel like you know them so well then realise you’ve never actually met and that’s weird, at least it is to me! Obviously, as well, I’m very much looking forward to watching and making in-person theatre again, but you never really know when it’s going to happen so I’m trying not to hold my breath.

Daisy Forster

Featured image and article images courtesy of @self_ishnnt via instagram.

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