Saturday, 8 July 2017

Circled in The Dramaturgy Times: John Osbourne @ Edfringe 2017

August 5th – 27th. 1.30 pm. Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh.
After debuting his first theatre show John Peel’s Shed at Edinburgh in 2011, John Osborne returns with Circled in the Radio Times. A beautiful story about how finding a collection of old copies of the Radio Times leads to him piecing together the life of the previous owner, this show looks at the changing nature of the way all of us watch television.

What was the inspiration for this performance?
For a long time I’ve had this pile of old copies of the Radio Times that goes back to the early eighties. 

I’ve always thought there’s something interesting about them, the way certain shows have been circled by the previous owner, doodles in the margins, half filled in crosswords. Then recently I’d noticed I was starting to feel a lot of pressure about how many things there are to watch on tv. 

There’s too much and I felt I was missing out on too many good shows. I guess my new show is about the changing role television has in our lives, and how it used to be about relaxation but it’s somehow turned into yet another competitive sport.

How did you become interested in making performance?
When I was at university there was a poetry collective called Aisle16. It was the most exciting thing I’d ever seen on stage. I’ve always been a big stand-up comedy fan but this seemed to be relevant and exciting and I went to see any event that involved Aisle16. 

I gradually became friends with the people involved with Aisle16, particularly Luke Wright. I’d never planned to perform and never had any interest in being on stage, but my first gig was in a café because a couple of my friends who had also never performed thought it would be fun. That was in 2006 and I’ve been performing ever since.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?
I have a really boring, unperformery relationship with creating shows. I write a story out by hand, then keep adding to it and editing it. I make a list of anything thematically it’s important to include, but mainly it’s just trying to make a good coherent story that will stick in my head and be interesting to perform. I'm not a particularly good performer but I like getting stuck into new projects. 

Hopefully with this show I've done something worthy with an interesting collection of dog-eared copies of the Radio Times.
Does the show fit with your usual productions?
I feel like this show is almost a sequel to my first theatre show John Peel’s Shed. That was a show about our relationship with radio and records. This is trying to capture something similar, but exploring the way 

we watch television, and how that has evolved from sitting on an armchair watching something in black and white on a massive coat-hanger-aerial TV set to wandering around your flat half watching something on your laptop.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping the audience experience?
When I was putting the show together I thought it would be interesting to read some letters that had been published in the Radio Times letters pages in the collection. It was pretty quickly obvious that I could do a whole show just reading these letters. 

I guess the only concession I made to the audience was that I didn’t fall down a nostalgia trapdoor and kept it as one coherent narrative. I don’t want to do a comedy show or a theatre show. I want to make a story people will like.

John writes for TV, theatre and Radio 4. His Sky 1 sitcom After Hours was directed by Craig Cash (The Royle Family) and stars Jaime Winstone and Ardal O’Hanlon.

Circled in the Radio Times. Voodoo Rooms. PBH Free Fringe. 13.30. 5-27 August (not 16th)

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