‘Unjustly forgotten’ in the same way that it would be unjust if the sinking of the Titanic were forgotten.
Sally Swallows and the Rise of Londinian was outstandingly bad and the reviews reflected that.
Coincidentally, I chatted with writer-director Chris Lincé and it turned out he had been involved in the production – but only designing the sets.
“You never actually saw the stage show itself?” I asked.
“I don’t think so,” he replied.
“Trust me,” I said, “if you had seen it, you would have remembered it.”
“I definitely read the script,” said Chris. “Maybe I saw it and have repressed it. I really don’t know.”
“It was truly awful,” I said. “It was like when young male comics get on stage and talk about wanking… Sometimes you get girls who think they’ll be terribly avant-garde and progressive if they talk about sex and say the word ‘cunt’. It was all that. The central character worked for CUN TV, which was the best pun in it. Did the script read OK?”
“No,” said Chris. “It was that for an hour.”
“It’s not my memory misleading me?” I asked.
“No. To a certain extend, I think it’s someone watching things like the League of Gentlemen and not really understanding why it works. Looking at ‘dark’ things and learning the wrong lessons. Thinking: Ooh! If I’m as dark as possible, if I swear as much as possible, that will do and that will be funny! and I believe from people who saw the Sally Swallows show that… eh… that was not the case… Presumably you saw it with an audience?”
“Yes,” I said. “There were about 8 or 10 of us and, beforehand, there was a sense of enormous anticipation. We had all come see it because we had read the terrible reviews. But – and this is true – I do remember that the sets were really, really good. I seem to remember realising enormous work had been put into the sets and the sound and I think the costumes too.”
“A lot of effort went into the production,” agreed Chris, “and she hired a really good cartoonist to design the poster. I did a painted backdrop of London and there was an ice cream van that I spent ages making in my living room. It was huge and heavy.”
“This was for the sperm ice cream scene?” I asked.
“I guess so,” said Chris. “I remember there was a hairy clam on a plate and a small, deformed puppet body that I think one of the characters wore around their neck.”
“The hairy clam on the plate,” I said, “must surely have been a vagina?”
“I think that was the innuendo,” said Chris.
“Any contact since,” I asked, “with the lady who created the show?”
“Well,” said Chris, “shortly after doing that show, she sent me lots of naked photographs of herself… to be projected onto the Houses of Parliament. I think it was after FHM had projected Gail Porter onto the Houses of Parliament and so she wanted to project herself onto them to promote the raising of import tax on fur.
“She was going to have a photograph of herself, completely naked – I think with a little aeroplane over her lady parts. I got as far as re-touching the photos and adding text to it – and the aeroplane – but then she found out how much it would cost to hire a projector that big and the whole project fell apart. That was the last I heard from her.”
“I don’t know what you are,” I told Chris. “You are difficult to categorise. When I first met you, it was as a writer. But then other people see you as a director. And now I find out you were a set designer.”
“I’ve tried,” laughed Chris, “to work on the best and worst shows that have been out there!”
“Most recently…?” I prompted.
“I script edited a small, independent British movie,” said Chris. “Superbob. Been in cinemas, now available on DVD and video-on-demand and all those other exciting things. Written by Brett Goldstein, directed by Jon Drever.
“It was based on a short film that Brett and Jon had made and they developed it into a feature script, got lots of producers involved. But, like any low-budget film, it took five years to get anybody to see it.
“The shoot was about three weeks, two and a half years ago. Within the last six months or so, they got distribution for it and it’s been out there, people have been liking it and the reviews are good. All the things you hope for but don’t expect. All the reviews seem to say it’s very, very sweet film; heartwarming.”
“What,” I asked, “is the elevator pitch for it?”
“It’s about a postman who is hit by a meteorite and it endows him with superpowers. He gets hired by the Ministry of Defence to be the world’s only superhero. But this film is set on his day off.”
(There is a trailer for Superbob on YouTube)
“You directed,” I said, “Brett Goldstein’s last three Edinburgh Fringe stage shows and you directed two other shows at the Fringe this year… but you didn’t actually go up to Scotland… Don’t you have to up if you’re directing something?”
“I can’t be doing with that any more,” explained Chris. “If it’s not directed by the time it starts, it’ll never be ready… It’s only hand-holding after that. Each of Brett’s shows I work on for about a year and a half. The hard work is early on.”
“You do a lot of script editing,” I said. “Isn’t that frustrating, because you’re making someone else’s writing better but getting no credit for it?”
“You don’t get the immediate praise a stand-up gets when he’s performing,” admitted Chris. “but, as a non-performer, I don’t particularly crave that. You do want to be recognised for it so you can get more work off the back of it.”
“How does anybody actually direct stand-up?” I asked.
“The word directing is almost meaningless,” replied Chris. “It can mean almost being a co-writer or turning up at the last minute and suggesting performance or presentation things. I’ve got involved in shows at all types of different stages of development. “
“What are you doing next?” I asked.
“I’m directing a short play at the New Diorama Theatre – The Story Project’s Chapter 2 – starting on Tuesday – about a teenage girl who’s being trolled and abused online.”
“Have you,” I asked, “decided to concentrate on being a director now?”
“I do whatever people ask me to do. Bits of script editing; bits of directing; a little bit of writing recently, to stop myself getting rusty.”
“Can you be rusty in writing?”
“I think so, yeah.”
“Have you got ambitions?”
“Only to do more of the same but get paid better – or paid – for it. I’m always busy but not always productive.”
Chris Lincé’s showreel is on Vimeo.