Interview by Holly Ferguson
Everyone loves a good game show, whether it’s; Deal or No Deal or I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here; there is a game show for everyone. Come on down is a devised theatre piece exploring the idea of game shows, their participants and the audience. I sat down with one of the shows’ producers, Danny, and two of the cast Zach and Elise, to find out all things Come on down.
Where did you get inspiration for the show?
Danny: The original idea for the show came from Scopolamine, a drug which has been reported to seduce the drinker into doing ridiculous things. There’s been cases where people will feed it to you and then will get you to sign over the papers to your house in their name or take everything out of your bank account. So, Charlotte (co-producer) and I said let’s make a show out of this… Then we got onto the idea of audience participation and audience deciding factors for the characters on stage. And we thought what’s a good medium for audience participation and interaction? Ah! Game shows! So we focussed on that and made a whole world out of it.
So you completely scrapped the plant idea?
Danny: Not intentionally but it’s nowhere to be seen in this version.
So how did you go about getting your actors?
Danny: Well the whole cast are our classmates from the Bachelor of Performing Arts at WAAPA. Phoebe and I graduated in 2016, Charlotte is in third year this year and Zachary, Elise, Chris and Marshall are all in second year this year… We sort of had an idea of everyone’s taste and style, and we sent out our expressions of interest and everyone responded.
This is a devised piece, so you haven’t had a script or anything?
Danny: We scripted it from scratch but only after our improvisation based devising.
So what was your devising process and the techniques that you used?
Danny: It was a lot of character finding. It was a lot of ‘lets make these characters and see how they respond in this situation’. We did that for about two weeks and we just came up with new characters and totally weird scenarios. At one stage we were all children. Except you, Zach – you were an adult.
Zach: Yeah it was really weird. Charlotte was an adult, too.
Danny: Yes, Charlotte was a camp leader…
Zach: I was an obnoxious author who travelled the land…
Elise: I was a young girl…
Zach: You were a young girl who shouldn’t have been there. You were a nice guy (referring to Danny) and Phoebe was… a strange person.
Danny: We kept saying ‘what if these characters did this’ and would put them in different scenarios. Or (we’d say) I want to try that old character from last week; lets put them in this situation. Eventually we said ‘wait we need to stop playing, and put these characters in a game show situations’. I feel that’s how it went.
So you had the game show idea and based the characters around that?
Danny: Yeah, we just had the loose idea that they would be in some form of game show but we didn’t know what the game show was going to be. We played a lot of shark tank. We always had the game show idea so we’d put these characters in different types of game shows. We spent one or two sessions creating a theoretical game show, seeing how it would work. And from that we found a structure and thought, ‘alright, now we need to improvise to that structure.’
So what do you think is the greatest obstacle you’ve had to over come with this piece?
Danny: I would say something that’s quite hard with Fringe is not being in the venue. I’m finding that a bit of a struggle. I want to be in the space. We’ve got all these technological ideas & stuff we want to play with but we have no idea if they’ll work until we get into the space.
What space are you using?
Danny: Hokkien House at the Noodle Palace, so basically a TAFE classroom.
Zach: Which is perfect!
Danny: Great for the site-specific work, which is now set in a TAFE class room. Doing a community TV game show.
Danny: So yeah I’m going to say the obstacle is not having access to the space and knowing if the technology is going to work.
Elise: Also scheduling five people who all have jobs and other commitments. Trying to find a time where we can meet up where everyone is here.
Danny: Especially over Christmas.
What do you want the audience to feel and walk away with?
Danny: I think the show in a weird way is about determination and success. For my character in particular I think it’s about striving for that and what it’s going to cost you. What are you going to sacrifice to try and reach success?
Zach: For me what’s interesting about this show is all the characters are such outcasts. The other interesting thing about devising the show versus having the script handed to you, is that the characters you end up with are actually more apart of yourself, so they’re not too far from us.
Elise: All our characters put together makes an interesting dynamic. But I think in terms of what the audience leaves feeling I suppose…
Zach: We want them to have a good time.
Elise: They’ll definitely go on a journey and hopefully that journey will be entertaining.
Zach: All the characters live in their own spheres to such an exaggerated extent. I think there’s something in that.
What is the game show?
Danny: Come on Down airs 3AM on Access 44, a community TV channel. It’s filmed in a TAFE and this guy, Simon, puts his life into the show. He spends all week finding guests, preparing games. He makes new games every week just for this game show. Basically it’s a series of games like individual rounds and then versus rounds and then the contestants with the most points will win. Well, that’s how it should go.
How long is the show?
Danny: It should run for 45 minutes to 55 minutes. Because it does involve a little bit of audience participation, it can slow things down. A lot of it is improvisation based so if we think we’re being hilarious the show might go longer.
Zach: We have a structure and we know the points we have to hit when engaging with one another so the show keeps going, but there’s room to move within that. By the way, I don’t think we’ve said it yet but this is a really weird show.
Danny: If you want to see a nice play don’t come.
Zach: We’re sitting here answering all these questions and it sounds so normal but then I’m also thinking, ‘no, it’s really weird’.
Danny: It’s really fringy. And it’s just to try an idea and do it and have fun while we do it.
Zach: I’ve learned a lot.
Danny: I’ve learned a lot, too.
Would you have done anything differently in this process if you could do it again?
Elise: The thing is if we did something differently we might not have ended up where we are now. Even with any issues that we had we’ve ended up here at a place where we like.
Danny: I don’t think we’ve had any major disasters. Probably just more personal things relating to how I would have ran the rehearsals better.
Zach: This group are so good at dealing with things. It sounds lovey dovey but It’s amazing there’s no stress. When there’s a problem we’re like how can we solve it. Instead of…
Danny: The world is ending!
Do you think there could be potential for it to run again?
Zach: We’ll see how it goes first but I can definitely imagine Simon planning his come back. Maybe it’s not a game show next time; maybe he’s a clairvoyant.
Come on Down runs from Tuesday the 7th of February to Saturday the 11th of February.
Tickets are available at https://www.fringeworld.com.au/whats_on/event/come_on_down/6567e471-0e41-45f0-bbf6-854751ed7525/