Following a two-night run at the White Bear’s recent New Writing festival, My Mate Monster – a.k.a. Ryan Whittle and Chris McCurry – return to the theatre next week with an encore of their debut show, What Happens Next Will __ Your __. A darkly humorous two-hander inspired by the rising (and apparently, enduring) trend of shaming strangers on the internet, the play proved a hit last month with audiences – and Theatre Things quite liked it too.
Before the show’s welcome return to the White Bear, we chatted to Ryan and Chris to find out more about the show’s journey so far, their plans for the future, and exactly what a monster’s got to do with anything…
Can you tell us briefly what the show is about?
It’s about two strangers, Alex and Darren, who become trapped on the roof of an apartment building. Darren is an incessant chatterer and when he lets slip a few pretty crazy and offensive views, Alex begins to expose him by live tweeting his torturous experience. As the responses roll in and outrage grows, things escalate from there.
We told a guy once it’s basically “Planes, Trains and Automobiles meets Black Mirror”, and he went “Brilliant. I like both of those things.” So, yeah. In a nutshell it’s that. On a roof.
Where did the inspiration come from?
We were approaching our final assessments at Royal Welsh College and basically had to write a play. Chris picked up a Jon Ronson book called So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed at the airport on the way back to Cardiff. It was fascinating with tons and tons of stories about people who’d had their lives completely ruined by being shamed online. So we knew we wanted to do something about that!
Then Ryan found a news story about a guy who was tweeting horrible things about a woman he was on a flight with and it transpired that she followed him. That gave us a great structure right there (minus the airplane… would have been a bit tricky that), so we just went into a room and messed about until it was done!
What do you hope audiences will take away from seeing it?
Basically we want them to have a great time… and then feel really horrible and guilty and then just to be a bit shocked and go “Oh dear” and feel a bit sick.
Apart from that… just to see themselves in the characters. We both work in bars and regularly come into contact with people a lot like Darren, who don’t seem to realise you don’t have time for a chat and they just plough on. London can be an incredibly lonely place at times. It’s something we all have felt here and these two guys definitely are very similar in that way. It’s very easy just to see people as moving obstacles and massive pains in the arse rather than understand them.
If all that doesn’t register and they just go “That silly guy was funny” then that’s absolutely 100% fine too.
What’s been the show’s journey so far?
We wrote it in 2015 and performed it at RWCMD. We basically did the whole thing blank page to stage in 4/5 weeks and had the most amazing time doing it. It was honestly one of the best experiences we’ve both had on stage and it was received really well.
After college we both got parts in different things and never really had a chance to re-stage it. We were worried that social media shaming would become less of a cultural thing than it was but thankfully people just kept on annihilating each on the internet!
At the start of this year we both had a bit of time to revisit it and just set a target for getting it on by the end of the summer. Then the White Bear advertised their New Writing Festival, we fired the script off and got in! It’s been so nice revisiting it and that people enjoyed it so much they’ve invited us back.
How long have the two of you known each other, and how did My Mate Monster come about?
About 4 years. We were both training together and decided to work on a final assessment as a pair and that’s what led to the show. When we started getting serious about grabbing opportunities to get the show on elsewhere we decided to form our own company.
As for the name… there was a guy of about 20 who lived round the corner from Chris when he was 7-8 who was 6’10 with a shaved head and his mates (in the nicest way possible) called him ‘Monster.’ Somehow that huge man found his way into the play as an unseen acquaintance of Darren’s. It’s a favourite line of ours so, yeah, ‘My Mate Monster’. Legally, we probably owe him money or something now.
What are your plans for the show and the company in the future?
We’ve been in touch with different festivals and venues. Basically we just want to get the show out there and seen by as many people as possible.
We’ve got an idea for another show that we’ll start working on when we’ve had a wee break after this. It’d be great to do a double bill feature, What Happens Next… then an interval and then a second completely different hour long play featuring the two of us as totally different characters.
Surely the dream is just to sit and talk to your mate about silly experiences you’ve had or things you’re interested in or that are bothering you and then go and make them into something. How good is that?
Book now for What Happens Next Will __ Your __ at the White Bear Theatre, 9th-11th September.
Written and performed by Ryan Whittle and Chris McCurry