Amy chats to Sophie Swithinbank, the writer of Bacon, a play currently on at Riverside Studios before heading to Edinburgh!
Hey Sophie – here’s your chance to give an elevator pitch, can you give us a brief synopsis?
When Mark stumbles into Darren’s territory at lunchtime, the pair form a deep-rooted and complex friendship, which leads them blindly into a dangerous experiment…
BACON takes an unblinking and unexpectedly humorous look at masculinity, power and sexuality through a murky teenage lens. Mark and Darren are the unlikely double-act. For Mark, their relationship is a genuine friendship. For Darren, it is a shiny opportunity to push boundaries. From this slanted springboard, the boundary between bullying and loving becomes blurred.
What inspired the show?
BACON is based on real events. The two central characters were wrought from a real act of bullying; a humiliating display of sexual power. When I witnessed this incident, I was looking after a seven-year-old boy. I wondered whether he might learn and copy that behaviour, which led me to explore learned masculine behaviours. In so doing, I dug further into the notion of bullying – it never comes from nowhere. And I began to explore how these two boys knew each other, what was the genesis of their friendship. And that became the play. BACON is a love story, and it is love, in all its complex guises, that has driven this story, in its teenage lack of perspective. I wanted the play to have a teenage tunnel vision sense that little else exists outside of their relationship.
How important is the Fringe for new work? And how does it feel to be at the Fringe this year?
The Fringe is essential for new work. Bacon was programmed by Soho Theatre at Pleasance for Edinburgh Fringe 2020, but due to the pandemic, the festival was cancelled. To be finally able to take the show to the fringe feels special! The pandemic threw my career (and the careers of millions of other artists) into disarray, so this moment is affirming for me, I feel I am fully able to regain control of all that was lost during the dark time of theatres going dark. This will be my Edinburgh Fringe debut and I am so excited to be part of the buzz.
What are the main themes within the production, and what can audiences expect?
Control and masculinity, love and forgiveness.
Darren has an obvious, active control over Mark, while Mark’s control over Darren is subtle and financial, cultivating disruptive roots in Darren’s life. Forgiveness plays a complex role as boys are all too often not taught to accept accountability for their wrong-doings; it’s usually ‘forget and move on’ which can inhibit emotional growth. In this instance, Darren cannot forget and Mark cannot move on.
Audiences can expect a fast-paced and zingy experience, with both laughter and tears equally possible. At the heart of it, BACON questions whether we can do better to guide teenagers through the process of becoming adults. It is a study of the journey from boy to man, and why so often, boys fail to make it there. I think a lot of people can find their own truths in this show.
Finally, with so many shows at the Edinburgh Fringe, why should people book a ticket to this show?
We have all been teenagers. We have all made friends. We have all been hurt by our friends. We have all fallen in love. We have all tried to move on. We are all plagued by memories of the past.
This story is your story, so you should come and see it.
BACON is on at Summerhall from the 2nd – 27th August at 3.30pm – find out more here!