Scott Edgar on Tripod, Comedy, and Dragons

Posted on 24 July 2013

Rock stars can age badly: partly due to shifting public tastes, partly due to a reliance on physical glamour. Comedians Scott Edgar, Steven Gates, and Simon Hall, collectively known as Tripod, are in the enviable position of being able to age gracefully…or perhaps ridiculously. In their case it’s one and the same thing. As long as comedians remain likeable and engaged, we are all allowed to age happily with them.

Recently Tripod agreed to participate in The Dragon, a theatrical production put on at The Malthouse. They play a three-headed dragon which must be vanquished by Sir Lancelot. With this play they have continued to experiment and stretch themselves as performers. Scott Edgar agreed to answer a few questions I had about Tripod’s experience.

The Dragon has you performing in something darker than your usual fare. Have you learned something about your own storytelling by taking on this perspective?

The process has been a huge learning one by virtue of six weeks of being in a room with people at the top of their game. Particularly watching the actors construct a through-line for their characters. It’s fascinating and enlightening how robust the script needs to be to sustain that kind of rigorous examination. Also I was reminded yet again of the idea that we keep learning over and over—that in a narrative, funniness and scariness are not an either/or proposition. They cannot only co-exist but hugely complement each other.

How do you feel about doing something more political?

I’m fine with it. We used to carefully avoid being too political but as you get older, you start to be more comfortable voicing a point of view. I guess the danger is getting too didactic or preachy. In this type of process that responsibility fell more towards Toby Schmitz, the writer. We just concentrated on telling the story, and writing good music. The political dimension of the piece sort of takes care of itself. Hugely helped, of course, by such ingredients as Anna Tregloan’s startlingly brutalist/fairytale set design and Kim Gyngell’s alarming portrayal of the slippery mayor.

An uplifting ending is not the same thing as a Hollywood ending. One is about easy unrealistic solutions that satisfy our culture, the other charges one to take life-affirming action in a faulty and vulnerable world. Tripod has always been about the uplifting. Are you finding it easier or harder with age to maintain sufficient optimism to keep telling uplifting stories?

Aw thanks! Nah. I don’t think age has hurt my optimism at all. I mean it’s a grumpy kind of optimism, leavened by cynicism and weariness (too many late nights playing videogames). But, I haven’t seen anything yet that’s shaken my belief that people are essentially half good. Course they’re half bad too, but if you talk to the good half, have faith and courage in it, that’s the half that will come to the top. Okay now I’m getting preachy. Anyway what I wanna say about optimism is that you should subscribe to the kind that involves keeping your eyes open, not the kind that requires you keep your head in a box and deny what’s going on around you. The struggle is eternal, see. Not only has “good” not won yet, it will never win, and neither will evil. So keep at it and don’t be a dick.

Usually people agree to do things out of the ordinary to challenge themselves. What challenges really piqued your interest in The Dragon?

Exactly that – to challenge ourselves and keep things new and interesting. We put huge value on career sustainability over at Tripod HQ and for us, because of our particular combination of temperaments, that involves doing different stuff as much as possible with different people.

Specifically we were attracted to writing songs for a mainstage theatre piece. Our career has been naturally flowing that way over the last decade or so, and it was a great opportunity to get into that sort of thing. Hopefully we’ll do more. Also I really like dragons—you can probably tell.

Without any spoilers, can you hint a little at your favourite bits?

Me and Tripes play the three-headed dragon. I come on as the third and least human head. I was struck by fear when I got given that role—there is a certain amount of responsibility to live up to the anticipation. But once I got in front of the audience, I realised how fun a part it was. Now I relish my stint as a filthy scary baddy. I look forward to looming in through that door every night.

There’s also a romantic scene at a well, where Elsa is agonising over whether to deliver on a dark pact, and Lancelot is turning on the heavy-handed charm. And meanwhile Lancelot’s invisible animal guides (also played by us) are heckling from the sidelines. It’s a solid scene with a dramatic turning point and heaps of gags. I love doing it.

Are you finding The Dragon inspiring you for new shows in the future? What sort of challenges would you like to grapple with next?

Hmm, more music for theatre, as I’ve said. And I’m sure the next script I write will hugely benefit from witnessing the actor’s process and the importance of keeping that emotional motor humming along. Our last two shows have been about dragons. I wonder if we need to do a third one and call it a trilogy. Maybe at last the next one can have a real actual dragon’s head come onto the stage. None of this symbolism and evocation rubbish. Maybe I’ll call up the King Kong people, see what they’re doing next.

The Dragon
27 June—26 July
The Malthouse Theatre
113 Sturt Street, Southbank

Peace and kindness,

Katherine


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