Following on from the acclaimed success of Pre-drinks/Afterparty at last year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Deadpan Theatre is now presenting new play GATE, a poignant and witty story of love and loss that asks what really happens to us after we die, what we leave behind and what we will become.

GATE is written by Artemis Fitzalan Howard, co-founder, with Eliot Salt, of Deadpan Theatre. The production will have a limited run at the Cockpit Theatre in London from 13 to 24 September.

Theatre-News.com hooked up with Artemis Fitzalan Howard to find out more...

How is life treating you right now?

Life is treating me very well thank you! It has been slightly hairy trying to balance writing/producing Gate and a full-time job, but I’m enjoying it. It’s good hairy…if you know what I mean.

How did your production company Deadpan Theatre come into being and what was the original masterplan?

I started up Deadpan Theatre with another girl, Eliot Salt, whilst at University in Bristol. We met backstage at a boring dress rehearsal. As the token female characters in this play we were rehearsing, (the wife and the sister surprise-surprise), we were both killed off before the interval, so had not much else to do than discuss how we should’ve had much more stage time and what an outrage it was that the audience didn’t get to enjoy our performances for longer. “Why not get off our asses and write these parts we long for?” we said. So we did - and Deadpan was born! We wanted to write some great parts for the gals to sink their teeth into as well as the lads. And to have fun, that was the main masterplan there.

Where did the seeds of Gate begin?

The idea for Gate has been brewing in my mind for a while but ultimately stemmed from a conversation I had with a friend about what she thought would happen to her after she died. She laughed and said ‘obviously nothing, we’re buried or burnt and that’s it. You can’t really think there’s something else?’ It got me thinking…what if it wasn’t as all clouds and trumpets and pearly gates like I’d imagined since childhood. What if it was a little more…bureaucratic than that. It could be funny?

At some point we all think about death and what awaits us on passing, is it something that you think about more than most?

I don’t think more than most. Once I’d opened up this conversation in my mind I thought about it a lot. But until I started writing Gate I hadn’t really stopped to question it. Probably just trying to tackle the every day without crying rather than dwelling on the dying part!

How long has Gate been in development and where did your research take you?

I started writing Gate in January this year and a lot of it has been informed by conversations I’ve had with other people. I am fascinated to know what others think will happen to them after they die - whether they are religious, atheist or just not sure. Everyone has their own opinions and they have really informed the characters in their journeys in the play.

Why did you choose the Cockpit theatre?

It is a fantastic space that really suits the play. It’s intimate yet very spacious with beautiful high ceilings and lots of audience space. The staging in the round perfectly compliments the plays feelings of being watched too…I can’t wait for the audience to see the fantastic work the designers have done!

Briefly talk us through the cast.

It took the director Sadie and I days to narrow down the casting list to these 5 and we agonised and agonised over it, but we are so happy and excited about these five. We have Emma Dennis-Edwards playing Eve the guardian of the gate, she is hysterical and a real sass-pot, then Wil Coban playing Mark an arrogant, know-it-all city slicker, then Eleanor Henderson as Rebecca who’s sarcasm and death stare could kill. Joe McArdle is Luke who is completely loveable and a comic gem and finally the wonderful Katie Sherrard who's our manic, goodie two-shoes Esther. They are such a talented bunch.

What were the main challenges in staging this production?

Rehearsing anything in the round has its challenges because you want every member of the audience to feel completely included and part of the action at all times. This worried me a lot, but Sadie and the design team have done a brilliant job at making this all possible.

What’s next for Deadpan Theatre?

Help! I can’t tell you that, I wish I knew. Next step is to see the reception for Gate and go from there. We’ll hope to have another production for you next year all being well!

Anything else to tell Theatre News readers?

Just that I’d love Theatre News readers to come along to Gate and tell us what they think of the play. I really love people’s feedback and genuinely welcome it. So if anyone ever wants to get in touch or chat after the show, I’d really enjoy it!
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