INTERVIEW: Daniel Bye | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Middlesbrough-born Daniel Bye is a writer, director and performer of award-winning theatre productions who creates stories that focus on our choices around how we live on this planet, something that he has done since very young. “At the age of nine I wrote, directed and starred in my debut, Rat of the Gang. It was a critical and popular hit with its audience of my Mam, my Grandma and my Auntie. God knows where it comes from but it’s how I filter and process the world, and somehow I always have.

This filter that Daniel’s creative ideas are processed through have been tinged with surreal and wonderful influences, but ones with a keen eye on what’s going on, as he explains: “I loved the freewheeling surrealism of Eddie Izzard. It always felt like completely rudderless silliness, yet somehow it would always work its way round to being exquisitely structured, like if a tornado went by and arranged all the houses into a pearl necklace. And in the world of theatre I’m endlessly inspired by Tony Kushner’s Angels In America: so fantastical, and yet so bitingly political; so funny and yet so angry and sad.”

The show is about the impossibility of any progress unless we admit to each other that we’re all a total mess and we’ve fucked it all up

Imaginary Friends is his first solo show in seven years and is set to open at Alphabetti Theatre on Tuesday 19th March. It’s about a TV comedian whose brother dies; grief-stricken, he loses the plot and conjures up imaginary friends in the guise of awful people off the TV. “There’s Piers Morgan, that Scottish Neil bloke off Coast, you know the type. He’s cool and cynical and embittered in the way TV people are and there’s no space for grief in that attitude. There’s a kind of cynical knowingness that everyone affects these days, particularly in the media, that absolutely gets in the way of any real feelings, including not just grief but unfashionable things like hope, and the belief that people might be basically alright. The show is about someone trying to make jokes in the face of all that, but it’s also about the impossibility of any progress unless we admit to each other that we’re all a total mess and we’ve fucked it all up. At root, I suppose it’s about vulnerability.”

It’s a wild trip through the looking glass, albeit one that Daniel says is more inspired by Vic and Bob than Lewis Carroll, and potentially a ‘be careful what you wish for’ tale, as he goes on to explain. “I suppose there’s a sense in which this is true. The protagonist really wants a certain kind of credibility and success, but the poses he has to strike to get towards that are bad for him and bad for everyone. I should probably admit that although I’m not him, I identify with him a whole lot.”

And what does Daniel hope audiences take from the show? “It’s not up to me! And if I tell people how I want them to feel, they’ll have their guard up against that in particular. Maybe what I want is for people to think about some of the ways we all have our guard up, and how maybe things would be better if we all admitted we’re a big old beautiful mess. I know I am. I bet you are too.”

Imaginary Friends runs at Alphabetti Theatre, Newcastle from Tuesday 19th March to Saturday 6th April.

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