Tales of community, isolation, and pest control are landing at Prague Fringe 2023 all the way from a block of Glasgow tenement flats in The Seagull (Not That One). The piece has been produced by SKELF Theatre Co., who are aiming to bring a dark comedy exploring how well we know our neighbours, and perhaps more importantly, ourselves. We sat down with Actor-Writer-Co-Producer Phoebe Byrne to get under the wings of the piece. Join us for a pixelated pilsner as we take flight ahead of the show’s Prague Fringe run next week.
Catch The Seagull (Not That One) at the Museum of Alchemists between May 23rd and 27th (times vary by date). Tickets are available through the Prague Fringe Box Office.
Jake: Hi Phoebe! Your show, taking flight at Prague Fringe, is set in a Glasgow tenement – tell us how you’re feeling about bringing a slice of Glasgow neighbourly life to Prague.
Phoebe: Hi Jake! We feel very honoured to bring a piece of Glasgow to Prague at this year’s Fringe Festival. Glasgow is known for being a really friendly city and is full of super vibrant (albeit sometimes unpredictable) characters. Between the team we’ve had a real variety of neighbours, most of which we’ve not had very stereotypical neighbourly relations with, so translating those experiences into ‘The Seagull (Not That One)’ and putting them on stage has been really special.
Jake: The show offers an intriguing introduction – following someone hunting seagulls from the rooftop of that block of tenement flats. What can the audience expect going in?
Phoebe: I think audiences should absolutely expect the unexpected! The premise of a guy on a roof hunting seagulls is indeed a pretty odd start to a show, and I think that starting point really sets the tone of the whole piece. The play takes place over the course of one evening, and looks at two strangers who share a night together unexpectedly, and discover that in spite of their differences they might have more in common than they think. We wanted to explore the ‘coming-of-age’ genre, and were questioning “when does one truly come of age”? when writing the piece. We felt that a lot of the stories from that genre are targeted towards adolescents, but a lot of growth and discovery can come in your twenties – and beyond – too, and felt it was important to give those very universal experiences a platform.
Jake: The show covers community, isolation and ‘pest control’, tell us about the process of bringing those themes to the stage and how the piece has got to where it is now.
Phoebe: I think at its heart our company is all about community. We work on a really collaborative skill-sharing basis, and strive to put stories onstage that reflect the voices we hear around us, that are often not given the platform to say how they feel or experience the world. The process of creating this work really started with two friends passing a laptop back and forth, thinking “Wouldn’t it be fun if…?”, and grew into a story about friendship and discovery, that also explores some harsh realities. I think myself and the shows other writer, John, can say we’ve definitely learned a lot from each other whilst working on this project, and I think that’s clearly mirrored in the relationships that the characters form too.
The story of The Seagull (Not That One) is about two seemingly very different people, who are both going through a difficult time and are isolated from their community – they are able to connect with each other because of this. Fraser is looking for a quick-fix to his problems, whilst Francesca is seeking something with more longevity – I think this is a good summary of what they’re like as people, and I think the characters could definitely learn to take a leaf from each other’s books. We’ve really enjoyed taking larger than life ideas and placing them in a smaller setting. We’ve found there can be a lot of magic when you can make something that’s normally intimate, epic.
Much like the issues the characters are experiencing, things like urban seagulls are a result of much bigger societal problems that can’t be fixed quickly. How do we keep the “pests” at bay? And who are the real pests anyway?
Jake: Now that we’re gearing up for Prague Fringe, what are you most excited for?
Phoebe: We’re excited just to be in the city! We want to see as much work as possible as the programme this year looks amazing. We want to go for lots of walks, eat some great food, and meet as many people as possible. This is also SKELF’s first adventure overseas so we hope it’ll be one to remember.