Behind the Scenes with Baby Bottle Cosmo

Katie Brennan talks to the writer and cast of Baby Bottle CosmoTribe: So, to start things off, what's it like putting on a show in the Byre? And actors in particular, what's it like to work on a show where the playwright is working along with you?Tim Foley: I'll leave the cast to answer these first. But the Byre... I mean, that's the big one.Frazer Hadfield: I did a show in the Byre last year, and it's a great space. Means more people get the opportunity to watch than on, say, the Barron. Tim’s great - it means we can tweak things if they're not quite working, and the script can still be a fairly liquid thing.Ed Fry: It's a very communicative process. Like Frazer said, Tim has always been very insistent that the script isn't set in stone, and he's always open to suggestions. I guess it also means you're getting to work with someone who really knows the play inside out, and that's reflected in the quality of Tim's directing.Mandarr Brandi: Doing a show in the Byre is at the moment mildly intimidating.... First show in St. Andrews, and it's on the town main stage. Terribly exciting though. Working with a director who literally conceived your lines (and knows them better than you do) is also a humbling and somewhat nerve-inducing experience, somewhat mitigated by the fact that the guy exudes awesomeness.FH: Tim is (as much as I don't really like to rub his ego too much) a cracking writer. Meat, Titans, Imaginary Cutlery, Stick Figures have all been hugely successful - so working closely with him on something that could potentially be his last big production in St Andrews is fairly exciting. And it's his only Byre show so far. Quite a big deal.Jennifer Russell: Working with the playwright makes it a much more interactive experience - like the others mentioned - the script seems more alive and dynamic, somehow, because it is open to experimentation and variation. I think as an actor, you feel that you are able to get a more vivid sense of your character, because we can discuss them with the writer himself.The fact that it is in the Byre just makes it all that much more exciting - and daunting.Mimi von Schack: The Byre is so daunting! But on the one hand, it's thrilling, as in St Andrews, physically speaking, it doesn't get much bigger than that. But I think there's also a reputation and a standard set out when you put a show up on that stage. You have to bring out the big guns. ?I worked with Tim on his first show (and mine, here in St Andrews!) Scene of the Titans. I'd never had the experience of working with the writer and composer as a director, and I loved it (and him!) immediately....I felt like even in my relatively small part I was contributing to the show in a way I hadn't in previous experience. Tim does a wonderful job of allowing his cast and crew to be a key part of forming the final script. You become so spoiled - once you've had this kind of creative freedom, it's hard to have it any other way!Tribe: Tim, would you like to give some background to the play itself?Tim: I wrote this way back in January, when I was meant to be editing Meat. My time off from writing plays is clearly writing other plays, I'm aware of how nerdish that sounds. Just as Meat was effectively a 'dinner room drama' with a twist, Baby Bottle Cosmo became a 'living room drama' with a difference.?The difference isn't the fact that they're gay couples, by the way. I realise the moment you put gays on stage, there are expectations there. But the 'token homosexual' doesn't exist in Baby Bottle - they're all gay, it's a gay-centric world, and as a result, I hope we treat the gay relationships with a normality you don't often get to see. What I mean is, their issues are much more grounded. No-one is 'coming out' or dying from AIDs-related issues. There is definitely space for those in other dramas, but here we're looking at parenthood and those expectations within relationships.Tribe: So actors, I know some directors have their actors meet up and try to get into character outside of rehearsal. Did you guys do anything like that? And everyone, what do you hope the audience will take away from the show, after seeing it?Tim: Haha... I'll let the actors comment on the 'dates'...In terms of what I want people to take from it... I'm not sure really. I don't need everyone to 'get it'. There will be lots of questions (Where is Potty Piggy?) and there's so much sleight-of-hand some people will definitely miss some of the answers. And that's not a bad thing. They'll maybe talk about it to people afterwards ('wtf was that?!') or maybe they'll even see it again! Both are welcome.As long as they take something away. I don't know, even just a gut feeling. I think people may be surprised at how powerful it gets towards the end. I didn't write it that way. But I've been standing in rehearsals, and there are moments I begin to shiver - and that's nothing to do my writing, or the heating in the Barron. It's something the actors are finding. The final few, it's gonna get me on the night.Frazer: My character in particular, Frankie, is quite intense. I actually feel drained after performing some of the scenes. There are so many peaks and troughs with him, that you don’t really know whether you’re coming or going. I hope the audience will be able to walk away from the show feeling they have had a glimpse at this guys struggle with his many issues, and maybe have begun to understand what he is going through. The whole situation seems ridiculous out of context, but when you look beyond some of the brilliant one-liners, and begin to explore just what is going on in the story, you will find some very real problems and scenarios. I think thats part of the brilliance of the writing - you go from quick witted comedy and very dark humour, to something much more emotionally draining towards the end of the play. As Tim said, the last few minutes are intense. I just hope people will be talking about it. If it creates a bit of a stir then I'll be happy.Frazer: I’ve not given too much away have I?Tim: As long as you don't tell Katie about the nuclear explosion at the end, we're fine.Mimi: Tim sent us out on dates, and we all perhaps had a bit too much wine and bonded. The characters of Baby Bottle Cosmo are very complex. Yes, this is a dark comedy, but none of them are, in my opinion, farcical. Sometimes their actions are exaggerated, but their motives, intentions and emotions are all real and honest. Something I've always admired about Tim's plays is how he manages to write comedies with very serious subject matter and truths to them. The characters in Baby Bottle struggle with 'sensitive subjects,' things we don't like to talk about, or we're afraid to talk about because they bring us into uncomfortable, occasionally taboo, territory. That is exactly what the play itself does: makes the audience consider, maybe not so much 'parenting', even, but the issues it raises about sexuality, relationships, responsibility, and identity. As Frazer said, it will definitely leave people questioning the weight words can carry. Oh, and you'll have a bit of laugh, too!Tribe: Alright everyone, thank you so much!Baby Bottle Cosmo, written and directed by Tim Foley goes up in the Byre Theatre on the 30th and 31st of October at 8 PM. There will also be a special ‘Baby Bottle Cosmo’ available at the Byre Bar. Interviewed by Katie Brennan Image: Tim Foley