Q&A : Horseplay
Created by Kathy Maniura and Derek Mitchell, Bareback is an absurd character comedy set in a sexless afterlife. Absolutely anything is yours for the taking as long as you don’t try to have sex. Or undertake any kind of performance - you can’t do that either.
Bareback is the creation of writer/performers Kathy Maniura (Sketch Off winner 2020, SYTYF finalist 2021) and Derek Mitchell (2NorthDown New Comedian semi-finalist 2021) and was written during lockdown when the questions of sex (who’s allowed to have it), performance (literally restricted) and death, felt all the more relevant. The show provides escapist comic relief while addressing these ideas in a way that resonates with those who identify with - and are keen to laugh at - the contradictions of modern life.
Their vision is a chilling reminder that heaven might not turn out to be as welcoming as expected, so we were quick to ask for more details, just in case they are right.
Would you say heaven is somewhat overrated?
Definitely - especially given the fact that we don't actually know if it exists. The whole thing has been blown quite out of proportion really. Why wait for potential bliss, with no guarantee, when there's so many good things to do while you're still alive? What if you don't even like heaven that much when you get there? What if there's a neurotic Swedish woman telling you that sex isn't allowed? That's what happens in our show. It would be mad if it turns out we were right about that specific bit, but hey, you never know.
If people knew that the afterlife will be sexless, do you think they would pay more attention to their living sex life?
I hope so! It's all you've got...I think we could all be a bit better at taking sex for what it is in the moment. It's so easy to get caught up in the anxieties and uncertainties of how future sex will unfold or get stuck in the reminiscing or regrets of the past (I know we're both guilty of it). But what if we all just focused on the here and now?
How much did the lockdown influence the writing of the play?
Hugely - we were trapped 300 miles apart in different countries and rewrote the whole show over Zoom. While the lockdown was unequivocally terrible for the arts, and we would much rather have been writing and rehearsing together in the same room, what the lockdown did give us was time. We pulled apart the show and rewrote it intensively, digging (arguably obsessively - there wasn't much else to do...) into the characters, the narrative arc, the jokes. This has resulted in a script that is much tighter than it would otherwise have been - a process that in normal life could have taken years. But it also meant it developed in a sort of bubble, and it's been such a joy bringing it to life on stage this past year and seeing how audiences respond. We can't wait to share the finished product with as many people as possible in Edinburgh.
Performance is also banned in the show’s afterlife. Do you think performance is at least as desirable as sex, perhaps even more?
What a question! To us, definitely, but we are actors...What we've enjoyed thinking about in developing the show is how different characters relate to both sex and performance, and how many different kinds of both exist. While everyone might not want to get up on stage and do a dance, there are lots of little ways we perform every day: white lies, trying to put our best selves forward, bragging, telling anecdotes. The human capacity to perform, adapt and entertain is one of the things that makes life fun. And isn't sex sometimes a performance? Discuss...
Do you think that we collectively need to design a better heaven?
We definitely need one better than the one in our show! That's another thing it's been interesting to think about: can there be a heaven that makes everyone happy? The diversity of human desires and experience is wonderful, but possibly makes a single idea of heaven impossible. And lots of the available versions seem either kind of boring or much too fire-and-brimstoney. If you've got a better blueprint, let us know.
In the show, an artisanal dildo maker made it to heaven. Were they also banned from discussing their past, for fear of destroying the fine balance of heaven?
You betcha. Our version of the afterlife is a giant simulation, powered by electricity generated by all the excess emotions from the land of the living. Whenever anyone performs, it overloads the system - power surges, light bulbs burst, the system short circuits. So, when Sally starts talking about how she whittled dildos based on her global travels, you'd best believe things go wrong...
Horseplay: Bareback, Underbelly Cowgate (Belly Dancer), 10.30pm, 4-28 August (not 16)