LOCAL playwright Mark Carey tells Gill Sutherland about how his new play, Body Double, which is on at The Bear Pit this week, came about.
“In 1986 I did a long tour and a stint in the West End with a play in which I played the title role. Sadly the play was called Corpse.
“In this play I was understudy to Colin Baker (Doctor Who) and was his body double. A body double, for those who don’t know, is an actor who appears briefly on stage to cover for another actor who is making a quick change.
“The audience watch the body double believing them to be the main actor and then, ta dah!, our leading actor appears again on the opposite side of the stage as someone else. Geddit! Amazing, if rather corny.
“Half way through the tour, we were at the Beck Theatre in Hayes, or was it the Grand Wolverhampton, never mind, I had an idea. Colin Baker is a really nice man and we got on well, but what if I killed him? What if, instead of shooting him in the play with a blank I used a real bullet? Could I then take over in the leading role? Could I even be TV’s most famous Time Lord? Something like that could lead to bigger things — Hamlet at the RSC! No, that would never happen.
“I quickly realised this was not a good idea in reality but was a decent idea for a play. A traditional thriller set in the theatre.
“I hope the audiences at The Bear Pit have a cracking night at the theatre. Body Double is a thriller in the true sense of the word and I defy anyone to predict how it ends.
“It’s not a ‘who dunnit’, it’s a ‘will they get away with it’. For those who want deep meaningful drama with brooding sparse dialogue this may not be for them.
“I’ll send those people one of my earlier plays!”
And it was one of those earlier plays from Mark’s collection that inspired Body Double. He told us: “A year ago I dug out my thriller then called An Act of Murder and had a reading with Ilmington Drama Group folk.
“I still believed it could work, maybe not as a straightforward thriller, but a pastiche of a thriller. A thriller that paid homage to all those thrillers of the 1980s by Ira Levin and Antony Shaffer. So that’s what I came up with Body Double.
“As this play is plot-bound, you have to be fairy disciplined, you can’t go off on flights of fancy.
“The plot is all and has to move quickly with regular twists, shocks and surprises. The audience have to be kept guessing until the end. The writing process is like a crossword puzzle: put in one idea and it affects all the others. Take something out and it all falls like a house of cards.
“It’s odd being the writer and the director, but I don’t think I’m precious about my words. I encourage the actors to change things if they want to.
“I’ve been in lots of plays as an actor and I know what it’s like. All actors work in different ways and I’m keen to let this bunch, who are really experienced, express themselves.” Mark also gave us a sneak peak of what we might expect from him next.
“Writing-wise I’m working on the sequel to my one-man play Into the Breach called Bottom’s Dream, where an amateur company do A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I’m also writing a play about the Gypsy Women’s’ Theatre Company, who came to Stratford every year in the early 20th century, called The Blood Tub.
“They performed an all-women Macbeth, which caused a huge stir in the town.”
Body Double stars Natalie Danks-Smith as Emma Tomlinson, David Derrington as Barry Liston, Christopher Harvey as Martin Barnes, Pamela Hickson as Joanna McArthur and Graham Tyrer as Simon Shawruns. It runs at The Bear Pit until 9th April, with performances nightly at 7.30pm and a 2.30pm matinee on the last day. Tickets are £12 (£10 concessions) from 01789 403416 or in person from the RSC box office.