Well, look at that! A whole family have booked out the Binge Fringe Digital Pub today. Let’s see… The Moffatts from Yorkshire. That’s funny, I was reading about a play about a family called the Moffatts that’s showing at the Websters Theatre in Glasgow on the 21st April. I wonder if there’s a link?
Sarcasm aside, welcome the cast and creative team behind This Is Where We Get Off. HI! Productions have platformed Ingram Noble and Heather Spiden’s tragicomic play about the struggles of a working-class family.
In the show, Yvonne Moffatt (played by Laura Begley) is seven months pregnant, her husband Phillip (Robert McCahill) is constantly disappearing and leaving dodgy phone bills behind. Their eighteen your old son Lip (Josh Knowles) is debating joining the army and trying to navigate his love life, and their dog-breeding, sex toy-selling neighbour Rhonda (Leah Moorhouse) is doing her weekly shop in their kitchen.
The audience is asked, now how will the family cope with the unexpected arrival of an estranged family member?
Boy, that’s a lot to get through! This one might have to be a lock-in. Luckily we’re in good company, as joining me for a binary beverage and pixelated pint are the show’s aforementioned writer-directors and almost the entire cast!
Jake: So, Heather and Ingram, what lit the spark under you both to put together this specific story?
Ingram: For me, it was all about portraying a working class family. It’s all about representation – since the likes of Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps or Shameless have come off the air you don’t see a lot of working class representation on screens anymore.
Heather: You see the chaotic family dynamic in the show a lot and I relate to it quite a bit. At the end of the day, it’s real. Real relationships, real people and family isn’t simple.
My family is chaotic all the time so I thought let’s go with that. Let’s put that on the stage, let’s bring it to life.
Jake: There’s a lot of big characters in the digital pub today, and your audience will see that in the show I’m sure! Will we get to see plenty from each of the Moffatts and Co in This is Where We Get Off?
Leah: Most of the characters are presented in-depth. You really see a bit of comedy but also a great deal of personal insight, the things that they’re dealing with…
I think the only exception to that rule is my character, Rhonda, or ‘Whirlwind Rhonda’ as I’m gonna call her. She throws herself into a scene and then often just buggers off – she’s unaware of herself and the problems everyone is facing.
Ingram: Stay tuned for the one-woman Whirlwind Rhonda show me and Heather are going to write about her.
The pub-goers let out a hearty laugh.
Ingram: The premise revolves around a character that the rest of the family haven’t seen for 18 years returning. It was a lot of fun during the writing process to figure out how they would react within one and each other. We had to establish a world and then enter someone in it.
Jake: So how did you find that worldbuilding process? I can see you’ve all put a bit of yourselves into it…
Ingram: Yeah, I always say we all know a Rhonda, we all know a Sylvia.
Rhonda is a dog breeder in the show – my next-door neighbours breed bulldogs, so I went round one day with a paper and pen to ask how long it takes for a dog to give birth. The story is so grounded in reality that it had to be built on our own lives.
Jake: You’ve been advertising the show as shifting between comedy and tragedy, how do you find that tonal shift as actors and writer/directors?
Robert: I think that’s life, isn’t it? You know, life swings from one extreme to the other often quite quickly. Without the tragedy, you wouldn’t have the comedy. Then without the comedy, you wouldn’t have the tragedy.
It’s a balancing act and I think Ingram and Heather have got it spot on in this story. You know, in my life a lot of the people use comedy to deal with tragedy. That makes this show more realistic for me.
Leah: You know, I often think some of the funniest parts of this play aren’t the scenes deliberately written that way, but just those moments when people relate the show back to moments in their own lives.
Heather: With the kinds of issues we’re handling, it’s always going to be a rollercoaster. I think this play highlights the ups, the funny moments, then the sad scenes, the downs. Hopefully the audience are going to be up and down with us.
This is my favourite word coming up, isn’t it Ingram? I just really want them to be on the journey with us.
Ingram groans audibly.
Ingram: If anyone says anything to me about ‘being on the journey’ again this week, they’re fired.
Jake: You all have a great relationship as a cast, do you have any memorable moments from rehearsals when you thought… sorry Ingram… that the audience would be ready to jump on board that journey with you?
Heather: Laura joined us last Saturday in our hour of need. We gave her a script and said “This is one of the most emotional scenes between Mum and Daughter, could you just show us what you can do?”
At one point me and Ingram had tears in our eyes – Laura understood right away what this specific monologue was supposed to do for the audience. We’ve seen that a thousand times, it makes me excited for how the audience are going to feel about it.
Laura: Well, thank you very much! You know, family life is just crazy. Every family’s got its own idiosyncrasies. Sometimes you’ll be speaking about your family and say… “We used to do this…” and people will look at you and say “That’s not normal, not everybody does that.”
The cast nod in agreement with a little giggle.
I think that dark humour is needed. Like Robert said, sometimes you need to use humour to get through things, even if it’s unkind jokes about Sylvia’s mum as in Phillip’s (Robert’s character) case.
Josh: At the end of the day, if we’re not being truthful with what we’re putting across then the audience aren’t going to come with us. The jokes aren’t just set up, set up, punchline, it’s all things people can relate to.
Jake: You’re right Josh about authenticity – I think a lot of representations of working-class people are wrapped up in stereotypes these days, how have you found handling that, both personally and in the show’s creation?
Leah: One thing we’re lucky to have with Scotland as a creative base is that it’s a very small country. We all have friends from completely different backgrounds – growing up I had friends who had different wings in their houses and some who didn’t have floorboards or plumbing.
A lot of our work is observation.
Robert: I grew up in a very working-class housing scheme in Greenock, my Dad worked in the shipyard. We had times that were hard and times where we had a wee bit of prosperity. I’ve got a lot of lived experience of being a working-class man and that comes together with observations of the people in my life.
Josh: On Skye, where Heather and I grew up, you get the severe ends of both working-class people and the really, upper class rich chucked into this tiny community. Growing up in that setting gives you the experience of dealing with the whole spectrum of people.
You have to take it from there and not play on stereotypes. I know the truth of this family’s situation because I’ve seen it myself.
Ingram: It helps that the entire cast, the entire crew, Heather and I, are all working-class. We’re not creating caricatures of anyone, there’s no need to create stereotypes, because as a fact, we are the ones being stereotyped.
Leah: If you make sure you’re using real people to create your story then it goes back against that second-hand media influence where you find those stereotypes, if that makes sense?
Ingram: Leah, I love that you make a really clear and excellent point and then ask us if you’re making sense.
Leah shrugs, the cast laugh in good-hearted camaraderie.
Jake: Maybe a bit of a cliché question but what do you want the audience to walk out thinking here gang?
Ingram: I think because we’re self-funding this show, because it’s come from nothing, a lot of people who are not normal theatre-goers are coming to the show. I hope, especially after the past few years, will understand that it’s not a privileged, high class thing to do.
It’s not a depressing show where people will walk out crying, it’s a comedy! I hope people will walk out of this and think “Let’s book something at the Fringe, let’s go see some more theatre.”
For the likes of companies like ours, bums on seats are so imperative for our survival.
Heather: Even though the characters are a bit chaotic and often very questionable, they get each other through. Given how much we’ve had to rely on those people during the last few years, I hope they get a sense of that from the show as well.
Robert: I think the situations that the Moffatt family go through are where a lot of the comedy comes from, but the depth of the characters is what the audience will engage with.
Jake: Ah we’ve finally alluded to the dreaded ‘C’ word that’s dominated our lives in recent years. How do you all feel having produced an original independent show in the face of the circumstances the world, and our industry, has struggled with?
Ingram: This show is completely self-funded by Heather and I. The funding situation really reflects a lot from what we see in the show, we have no creative institutions backing us. For a lot of these characters, they’re in the same situation trying to fulfil a dream.
We’ve also teamed up with a charity in Glasgow called ‘Battle Against Dementia’ because of the central storyline – from every brochure sale the audience will be donating money. We don’t just want this to be a night at the theatre, we want it to actively encourage and help change the lives of people where we can.
Heather: COVID hit everyone financially and now we’re seeing the Cost of Living Crisis. It is worrying, a lot of people are worrying. Like Ingram says, the struggles in the play do relate to the struggles we’re all facing just to live, let alone put on a show at the same time.
Ingram: Even though we don’t directly reference those crises, there will be so many times where people will think “Yeah, I’ve been there” and even “I’m there now”.
This Is Where We Get Off will be performed at the Websters Theatre in Glasgow on the 21st April at 7pm (2hr 15min). Tickets are available through the Websters Box Office.