Carla Van Der Sluijs talks to playwright and director RG Mackenzie about his newest play, ‘Bear Hug’, which goes up in the Barron Theatre 31st October and 1st November. 


What initially made you want to approach this play?

St Andrews has, from the time I arrived, a very impressive tradition of gay plays. I don’t know why that should be, but in previous years we had Tim Foley’s dark comedies and the wonderful Angels in America, and next year we will see more of this with The Normal Heart and The Laramie Project. It seems to be a real thing. Since this is to be my last play at St Andrews, I wanted to contribute in some small way to the tradition. However this tradition also presented a problem. How to make Bear Hug different? Eventually I hit upon the idea that sounded so stupid, so strange that I couldn’t resist. It would be a gay play with no gay characters in it. At least that hadn’t been done before.


As an active Mermaid, how does ‘Bear Hug’ compare to previous plays you have been involved with?

I think in terms of the writing it’s the best script I’ve done (at least I hope so). It’s certainly the funniest. While my previous plays tended to jump, erratically or smoothly, from dark to light, Bear Hug is a straight up comedy. With romance. A straight up romantic comedy (which, after Without a Punchline and And She Cried Mercy, was a bit of a change of tone).


What challenges have you found in rehearsal and bringing the play to the stage?

I have been lucky enough to find a brilliant cast who are responsive, energetic and full of ideas. I owe them a great deal. I’m not the world’s most natural director so I really rely on a cast who can just get it. Fortunately I found them.


What issues does the play deal with which are relevant to students today?

I have a firmly held conviction that comedy is a legitimate way of talking about even the most serious of things. And these serious things, like sexuality and discourse and what not to say and when not to say it, are omnipresent in our daily lives. Sometimes, though by no means always, these issues are dealt with in an intimidating way in theatre. Hopefully Bear Hug has a certain lightness of touch.


What is the main message of the play?

Even if I knew the answer to that I don’t think I would give it.


Why should people go and see ‘Bear Hug?’

It’s a great kick off to your Halloween evening and hopefully you will leave the theatre feeling lighter than when you came in.


Finally: sum up the play in three words!!

Off-beat romantic comedy (is off-beat one word?).

Questions by Carla Van Der Sluijs


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Find out more about ‘Bear Hug’ on their Facebook page!