Random Accomplice's Smalltown offers three plays by leading Scottish playwrights
New works by Douglas Maxwell, DC Jackson and Johnny McKnight
The new show by Random Accomplice offers three plays by leading Scottish playwrights for the price of one. Writer Johnny McKnight talks to Allan Radcliffe about the joys of collaborating
Typical. You wait ages for a great new play to arrive and then three come along at once. As luck would have it the trio of plays that make up Random Accomplice’s latest production, Smalltown, have been crafted by three of Scotland’s leading young writers, Douglas Maxwell, DC Jackson and Johnny McKnight.
The playwrights have drawn on their experiences of growing up in different Ayrshire towns to create a zany comedy depicting the carnage that ensues when the water supply gets contaminated. In Stewarton (home of Jackson) the oversexed teenagers are turning into wild animals; in Ardrossan (McKnight’s birthplace) there’s a zombie trapped in a freezer; and in Maxwell’s hometown anyone who isn’t ‘Pure Girvan’ gets killed by the contaminated water.
As McKnight explains, the concept came after reading a review of his hit show Little Johnny’s Big Gay Musical, which drew comparisons between his work and that of Jackson and Maxwell.
‘It highlighted that we were three playwrights who created work with a strong sense of home and place,’ he says. ‘It sort of struck a match inside [fellow artistic director] Julie [Brown] and I. What could we do that could bring together Douglas, Daniel and I?’
While the resulting mix of zombie romcom, frathouse sex comedy and Scooby Doo has all the quirky sense of fun and bawdy humour that characterises the work of McKnight and Brown’s company Random Accomplice, McKnight insists he has always felt as though the project could go anywhere.
‘The story was never in place,’ he says. ‘The concept was. We knew there would be three endings, one for each writer. We knew it would be three separate towns. We had an idea of where we wanted to go, but absolutely no idea of the map or journey.’
If the notion of three playwrights getting together to let their collective creative juices flow sounds like a recipe for chaos, McKnight is adamant the process was relatively pain-free.
‘We met up initially face-to-face to discuss the idea, the possible reference points, how we thread the stories together. Then we all went away into our separate bat caves and started hammering out our own act. We met up for a day, read the scripts aloud and passed comment on what we thought. Then we brought in some actors for a day of script reading. Recently we’ve been back in the room pulling the script apart and working out the best way to vote on the show’s ending.’
Ah, the ending (which audiences will vote from a trio of options created by the three playwrights)! So, how will that work?
‘Oh, I don’t want to reveal that,’ says McKnight. ‘What I can say is that us three writers have put a bet on to see which of us gets the most votes. It probably says a lot that we only bet ten quid!’
Smalltown, Tron Theatre, Glasgow, Tue 15–Sat 19 Feb, then touring.