Smart new comedy set to prove that there is laugh after death

Dead funny… Interview In The Afterlife, showing Farrington (Andy Love) and Stephen (Matt Pattison). Photographs: Off The Rock Productions
3 Aug 2015 @ 11.03 am
| News
An Interview In The Afterlife

The Fleeting Arms, Gillygate, York

Tues Aug 4-Thu Aug 6 @ 7.30pm

The Basement Bar, Coney Street, York

Fri Aug 28 @ 7.30pm

Parklands Galtres Festival, Duncombe Park

Sat Aug 29 @ 7.30pm

£8 adults, £6 concessions

More details

Dying for a good night out? A new comedy which takes death as its departure point could be just the thing.

Described as “a dark comedy about love, friendship, custard creams and suicide”, An Interview In The Afterlife imagines the next world as wrapped in red tape and run by oddballs.

It is the latest play by Off The Rock, a company founded in 2014 by writer-director Matthew Wignall, who also penned Interview.

We talked to him about the show, his own dark side, and why laughing is his all-time second favourite thing.

Where did the idea for the AIWTA come from?

Quite simply it comes from a morbid fascination with self-destruction.

I suppose, like many people, I’ve had the occasional, superficial, transitory flirtation with the idea of suicide – as Nietzsche said “The thought of suicide is a great consolation: by means of it one gets through many a dark night”.

For many it’s a comfort blanket. We can take great solace in the knowledge that we could just give up and end it all as it grants us the illusion of emancipation.

Stephen finds out what awaits us after the final curtain
Stephen (Matt Pattison) finds out what awaits us after the final curtain
What stops most of us committing suicide however is the fact that we simply have no idea what awaits us on the other side. What happens to us?

What does death look and feel like? Is it any better or worse than life? We simply don’t know. An Interview In The Afterlife is an exercise in spiritual speculation – or a comedy romp containing lots of knob jokes.

There’s something for everyone.

Tell us a bit about the story…

A 26-year-old man hailing from a rather pleasantly shaped archipelago known somewhat arrogantly as Great Britain finds himself in a strange office where he is confronted by a rum but efficient lady called Hope.

This office is in fact the Afterlife and Stephen is asked to relate the events that led to his suicide.

We see these events through a series of flashbacks, all of which begin with the arrival of a strange, enigmatic figure who goes by the name of Farrington…

Is there life after death? If so, what’s it like?

In the play the Afterlife is a labyrinthine bureaucracy within which its denizens are bludgeoned by documents, thrashed by forms and strangled by red tape.

As for my own thoughts on the subject… well, I know a few people who have gone there but as of yet none of them have sent me a postcard. So I presume it’s a bit like Margate.

Perhaps we do need our five-a-day after all
Contemplating the big issues… writer/ director Matthew Wignall

Is the play funny, dark, or both? Does that come from you as the writer?

It’s a comedy so hopefully it’s the former. Despite its central theme of suicide I would argue that the play is not particularly dark.

It has its moments but I like to think that jollity prevails and that its message – life is worth living – come across loud and clear.

Most of what I write leans towards the comedic. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s because laughing is my all-time second favourite thing.

The play also benefits from a magnificent cast (Matt Pattison, Elizabeth Lockwood, Andy Love, Teej Jackson, Charlie Voltaire, Gemma Curry and Anna Rose James) who have embraced this anomalous world and the strange characters that inhabit it.

There have been times when I’ve been simply astounded by the comic brilliance on display in rehearsals. It’s been a privilege. I’d marry them all but they’re all spoken for.

And none of them fancy me.

Who are your influences?

I try not to think about my influences when I’m writing. However, I’ve fallen in love many times over the years with a myriad of writers and artists and they’ve all, in some way, had a huge effect on my work.

These include Mervyn Peake, Dorothy Parker, Marlene Dietrich, JG Ballard, Evelyn Waugh, Peter Cook, Kurt Vonnegut Jr, Elizabeth Fraser, Leonora Carrington, Billie Holliday, PG Wodehouse, Douglas Adams, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Peter Sellers, Collette, Robert Anton Wilson, Robert Shea, Bessie Smith, Alan Moore, Kate Bush, Max Ernst, Bette Davis, Fritz Lang, Voltaire, William Blake, Nina Simone, MR James, Mikhail Lermontov and Lois Chiles (who played Dr Holly Goodhead in the 1979 motion picture Moonraker).

‘The play’s message – life is worth living – come across loud and clear’
‘The play’s message – life is worth living – come across loud and clear’: Mandy (Gemma Curry) and Stephen

What next for Off The Rock?

We currently have four theatre productions in development, the first of which will be The Damask Room which will be taking place later in the year.

This will be a macabre evening of short plays exploring the darker side of nursery rhymes.

We currently have an open submissions window for writers and directors so if people are interested in getting involved or want to know more this is where you need to be.

We’re also planning to take at least one production on tour around the country in 2016, stopping off to perform at a festival or three.