Superbolt earnt themselves a much vied-for "Sell-Out Fringe" laurel with their last show The Jurassic Parks in 2015, a clever comedy which is both a love letter to Spielberg's 1993 classic and also the story of a single-parent family trying to pull together in Lyme Regis AKA Britain's Jurassic Coast! The play is so popular they're still performing it at festivals two years later, while developing their new show Mars Actually.
For the last two weeks Green Rooms has played host to the three wonderful mavericks who make up the side of Superbolt Theatre that you see on stage: actors Frode Gjerløw, Maria Askew and Simon Maeder as they've been upstairs using our art-deco rehearsal space building Mars Actually before it lands at Vault Festival next month.
We stole ten minutes over lunch to quiz the stars over their new show...
What Is Mars Actually actually about?
Simon: We're two weeks in, so anything we say now is subject to change! To that end there's not much point in saying (chuckles) We know that it's about people! All of our shows are about ordinary people doing extraordinary things... So we've spent two weeks in this amazing space thinking up situations that our characters could be in.
Maria: We're looking at the idea of "new society" using Mars as a framework for a dystopian world.
Frode: We're looking at how societies are controlled, so people are being sold the idea that Mars is a beautiful place to live, despite there still being lots on earth to explore. The idea that people in power use our dreams to build propaganda and steer people in different directions!
The Jurassic Parks was and is SUCH a huge success, three years later you're still performing it. Will this play eventually be made extinct?
Maria: Maybe it will be made into a movie...
Has a script been made of The Jurassic Parks? One that other companies could pick up in the future, or are Superbolt's plays strictly for Superbolt Theatre?
Simon: We've had requests for groups to do The Jurassic Parks. We're always open to that idea, although nothing's come through as yet. Companies have performed our first show Centralia, and our second show Piatto Finale. So we're not against other people picking up our plays.
Britney Spears features in an unexpected scene in The Jurassic Parks.. will pop music get any air time in Mars Actually?
Maria: We can't say who - put people who are into pop will probably be satisfied!
Wasn't Blur the first band to be played on Mars or something? Anyway. You guys are a tight trio, would Superbolt ever expand or are you a Holy Trinity?
Maria: Well we work with other people, the ones you don't see who do lots of work. Our producer Hannah, Ina our production manager. On stage we'd like to expand on different projects.
So it's not a Mean Girls clique...
Simon: Well on Tuesdays we wear pink.
Grode: We're not a clique but we're definitely a close-knit group who know each other really well. We've worked together for five years now, and the way we work together works quite well for us.
Is it normal for small theatre groups to get envy of other small theatre groups? Do other people see you and think - "Oh there's those cool Superbolt people" People must see your shows and think 'Why didn't we think of that?'
Simon: (laughing) Well that's why we do this! No, I'm kidding - it's not jealousy. The groups that I might be in any way jealous of are doing stuff so different to us that there's no point being jealous, because it would require going back in time for years and working on something completely different to the style that we've been working on. I think the reason we've worked together so long and still enjoy it is that we have a good dynamic on stage and we're a fun group to watch as a three, but that's not to say we're not open to working with more people.
Maria: You have to respect anyone really who's working in the arts. You can't go around being jealous!
Frode: I think it's important to have faith in your own work, rather than look at other plays and be jealous. As long as we believe that our work is worthwhile then that's the main thing that matters to us, and if we see other people doing a great show then we feel excited for them. Of course at the Fringe and stuff there's pressure and some shows fare better than others - but it's all part of the fun, we certainly don't get jealous and I hope others wouldn't feel like that about us.
What tips would you give to younger drama squads like yourselves about trying to maintain healthy working relationships? There must be times when you need space from each other.
Maria: You can learn a lot from other projects, looking outwards, we all go away and do things and then come back together as a group having learnt new things. When you see other work that impresses you, go and talk to the people who made it, find out about it. That solidarity in theatre is really important I think.
Frode: I think it's important to listen to your own work too. It's easy to look at other peoples' work and think 'Oh I could do that' or 'I should do that', but instead look at your own work and think, OK, so this is what I made.. er... what is it? Keep doing things to it, and then you start to see yourself through your own work. We look at old work of our own and think which paths do we want to do more of this time, and which bits shall we maybe leave behind for now, and so we build on our own strengths with each show - hopefully.
Simon: I would say to younger drama companies... if you're going on a long tour, single rooms is a must !! You can't be sharing and crashing the whole time, I know it's hard with the Edinburgh Fringe and it gets expensive but it's important to have your own space to relax and collect your thoughts after doing a show, and because you're constantly sharing a work space and a stage. And like Frode says, keep perfecting your own work - but also know when to leave stuff behind or drop bits. That can be the hardest thing to do - when you have an original concept or idea, but you're dragging it through this whole process, and then at the end you have to drop it anyway, sometimes you knew that all along but were blocking it out.
Have you ever dropped projects because they're not working?
Simon: We're lucky to have made everything we've set out to make in terms of the actual shows, but we often see big changes as we learn that the show is actually about something different to what we thought at the start of the process. With devising - If you work in devising a play - you have to let the show take the reins at some stage.. rather than try and force something into the play because it's cool. Let the show tell you what it needs kind of and listen to the show.
Talking about solidarity earlier... what was the last play that you walked out of?
Frode: That's harsh! I rarely walk out of a show, even if I'm bored I will still sit there - not out of politeness but because I paid for a ticket and I can survive boredom for a bit! I walked out of a comedy duo in Paris, they were so up their own a*** and nobody laughed for ages, and at one point they were like "Oh wow it's incredible - everyone's still here" but actually people had left, and then a friend of mine got up and left so I thought 'Ok I'm coming too'. I would have stayed if he didn't leave though probably.
Maria: I think you can learn a lot from shows that maybe don't work or that aren't so great as well. I don't walk out of plays!
Simon: Yeah, I probably sit there quietly and put up with it and then afterwards I might phone a friend and discuss it with them. There's so many things that you can do on a stage to entertain a crowd, but I think there are also fundamental things that you should at least aim to achieve, so when a show isn't even aiming to achieve those fundamental things then I get very sad - because I think to myself what if people came to see that show and then judged the rest of theatre on it, then there's no hope for any of us!
Lightening things up a bit... Which Spice Girl would you be...
Maria: A mixture between Ginger and Scary, because they're quite fabulous I think, yeah.
Frode: I don't know, Sporty Spice maybe, these days...
Frode: Not all my life have I been Sporty Spice...
Simon: (bewildered) I guess Posh..?
What's the most awkward thing a friend has ever said to you after watching you in a play?
Maria: Each of us tend to get friends saying "OH - the two people you work with are so amazing!" and it's like "Er - What about me?" People often comment on how different we are in real life too, which can come across the wrong way sometimes.
Frode: In Edinburgh I found that the other two would get all these compliments after a show, but because I wear a fat suit, facial hair and glasses in The Jurassic Parks I change a lot and the audience don't recognise me so I'm just standing there like "Oh thank you" in the background and they're looking at me like "Are you...er.. involved in this play?"
Simon: Sometimes theatre-type audience members will suggest changes, or say there's something they didn't like about the show, not to us necessarily but maybe to someone who knows us and then we hear about it and we'll have a moment to consider what they suggested, but it's very rare that someone you don't know would say something bad about a show to your face! Once an American couple came up to us after Centralia (in which they play Americans) and said something like "You guys sure think Americans are dumb..." and I was so angry - no not angry - so sorry that they'd got that from our play, because the characters (who are eccentric oddballs from an abandoned disaster town) are naive in Centralia but that's not a comment on Americans being dumb.
What tips would you give to other theatre groups rehearsing at Green Rooms?
Maria: Make use of your restaurant discount, I didn't know I had one for the first few days - the boys didn't tell me!
Frode: And bring a coat, it can get cold up here.
We are getting radiators for the large room soon - but yes good advice! One final question, Is it normal as an actor to imagine yourself being interviewed on Graham Norton, and how is that for you?
Simon: I think that's normal, I do !
Maria: I don't imagine being on Graham Norton but I see actors on shows like that and the idea of doing it all slightly freaks me out. I think TV promo is something people in theatre could definitely improve at. This last Edinburgh Fringe gave us more interviews and opportunities to practise that skill. On TV chat shows you have to come across as witty or charismatic perhaps and I find that a bit nerve-wracking.
Frode: If I imagine being on Graham Norton I think about how scary or horrible it might be yeah!
Simon: No! If you're there then you're there to be you and to talk about your work - that's always fun!
Thank you so much Superbolt! We'll leave you to rehearse up here, and we can't wait to see Mars Actually next month!
THE JURASSIC PARKS is on soon at Vault Festival: MORE INFO
MARS ACTUALLY premieres, also soon at Vault Festival: MORE INFO
GREEN ROOMS HOTEL top floor rehearsal space is available for half-day, full day and evening hire: MORE INFO
Interview by Jack Cullen.