Mims' Musings

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As I was writing my portfolio for my Journalism coursework last year, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to interview Daniel Sloss and submit the write-up. Apart from being a fun chat, it was a great way to test my self-editing skills (and my tolerance for listening to my own annoying voice). It would’ve been a far more interesting  write-up if I hadn’t been so limited on what my ‘target publication’ had to be, there’s nothing I hate more than censorship but it worked (the mark sheet is still on my fridge as one of my proudest academic moments ever).

Special thanks to Daniel and his agent, I hope I get another chance to interview him in the future where I’ll be writing for something far cooler. It’s taken me a shameful amount of time to get this interview posted, while you read it you should definitely open this link up in a new tab for Daniel’s new tour, ‘The Joker’,  find the nearest gig to you and purchase tickets immediately! You won’t regret it, I promise: CLICK HERE!

Behind the Comedy- Daniel Sloss

 Walking through the crowd going towards the Soho Theatre, Daniel Sloss seems like any other average young man. He is laid back in both attitude and dress sense, and speaks honestly and eloquently with a melodious Scottish accent. His show, which he is currently touring, is called My Generation. During our conversation, as well as talking about his secret to success, he reflects on his views of his generation and older generations. It becomes easy to see how the 20-year-old comedian has risen in popularity over the last couple of years. This increase in fame is reflected by the weekend he’s just had:

“It’s been insane. I filmed Mock the Week on Saturday, I did the Apollo yesterday. It was amazing, my first time at the Apollo, it was a charity gig with 3500 people, it was lovely.”

As part of a generation that craves fame, you may expect Sloss to be somewhat inflated by this popularity. However, he remains remarkably grounded and modest about his success so far:

“I started by doing open spots. I’d been working on my set for ages before I had the courage to get into it. I had jokes and my Mum [who is an editor]. She was able to get rid of all the unnecessary bits, so I had a really tight punchy set. Since I was young, people weren’t expecting me to be funny, and then I was so they laughed harder. Then it was a matter of just really sticking with it. I’d say 70% of my career is down to luck, and the other 29% is my agent, then 1% me.”

During the course of our conversation Daniel often mentions his family, particularly his parents, who have been vital in supporting his career as a comedian. Unusual in that they encouraged him to take a gap year rather than pursue his place at university:

“When I started I was still at high school so I was just doing it after school. My Mum was like ‘Still revise, still get to university.’ I did manage to get into university, but over the Edinburgh festival that year I got to the finals of ‘So You Think You’re Funny’ [an annual stand-up comedy competition held at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe]. I wasn’t the one that wanted to take a gap year but my parents said, ‘If you’re on a roll, don’t get off it.’ My Mum made it very clear that I’d be working; treat it like a real job. She sat me down, forced me to write jokes and I just never went to university.”

This decision seems to have benefited Daniel, whose set holds audiences captive for over an hour; a length of time which some comedians would struggle to fill. However, Sloss does so naturally, with such flair and hilarity that the audience is left feeling light-headed, having laughed so hard for so long. Sloss’ success lies in how comedy appears to be intrinsic within his personality; he peppers our conversation with humour. He reveals that his comic ability dates back to his school days:

“I was always the funny one at school. I was never the sporty one, I was never really the attractive one, I was never the smart one. I was the one that could make everyone laugh. The funny kids are always more popular because they take the piss out of themselves. I wasn’t the most popular but no one particularly hated me so I thought maybe something along the lines of comedy might be a good idea [for a career].”

Daniel seems to be thoroughly grateful for the success the last few years has brought him, describing it as, “Absolutely mental! I can’t believe how lucky I’ve been, I’m very happy with how it’s gone.” However, he also identifies the drawbacks that come with having a career as a comedian, especially when it comes to travelling:

“It’s annoying to be honest with you. It’s why hopefully one day they’ll finally invent teleporters. The worst thing about travelling is that you just miss your own bed, and not seeing people as much as you want to. I’m away for weeks at a time so when I go home I need to spend time with my parents, and I go see my girlfriend, so those are the two things I have to juggle. My best and closest friends get pushed back, I don’t see them as much as I’d like to, then I rarely get to see my other friends. It’s horrible but it comes with the job.  The travelling can also be good, I get to go to some amazing places, meet new friends on the road, but it’s the actual travelling that sucks, like physically being on the train.”

One of the few regrets Sloss has about not attending university, is missing out on the social aspect of student life:

“I would’ve been terrible at university. I’m just too much of a lazy bastard. I wouldn’t have gone, I wouldn’t have done anything. The only bit I missed about university was that I was meant to go to Dundee and that’s where all my mates are. I don’t go out as much as I would like to. My mates don’t give a shit about what telly I’ve done, as soon as I get up there it’s like, ‘On television you’re Daniel Sloss comedian, here you’re dickhead, and we’ll refer to you as dickhead for the rest of the night’, that’s what I love about it.”

Another drawback that Daniel has found whilst doing his show is the sense of disapproval that members of older generations seem to have for some of his material:

“At one of my show’s there was an old man, I was on stage and I [swore]. He stood up, anyone else would’ve left, but he stood there and had a go at me for 15 minutes. After everything we’re told about learning manners I just thought you’re in an audience of 300 people, 298 are enjoying themselves, so you stand up and ruin it for everyone. I just can’t stand it.”

The frequency of complaints from older members of the audience has made Sloss consider extreme measures for future shows:

“We’re considering putting an age limit on the tickets, but not down the lower end of the spectrum but at the upper end. Not saying that it isn’t suitable for under the age of 15, because those aren’t the ones who are upset by it. If you show 12 year olds someone on stage swearing and talking about sex, they love it! They’re not going to complain. It’s someone over 60 that I worry about. Kids know more than people give them credit for, I learned about sex when I was 8 years old, like most kids. Kids are smarter than old people, maybe not intellectually on a degree basis but all in all…”

However, Sloss makes it very clear that his attitudes are in no way ageist:

“Age isn’t a number, it’s an attitude. When I was at the Soho Theatre, a 91-year-old man in the audience laughed the entire way through. When I did smut he loved it, that’s what it should be about! Then the next day a 55-year-old didn’t approve of anything. Age isn’t a number, its how you are. I would never be ageist, because I wouldn’t refer to someone as old because of their age, I would refer to someone as old because of the way they act.”

So what does he attribute this change in attitude to?

“There’s an age you get to, an age which I intend to die by, or if I don’t, kill myself by, where the world changes. Especially now, the rate the world changes is astonishing, and they don’t like that. They think everything should stay the same, and that ‘It wasn’t like that back in my day’, and its like ‘yeah that’s because your day was shit, in your day people only lived till 50.’ If a normal person isn’t enjoying comedy, rarely will they say, they’ll just sit there going ‘not enjoying this, I’ll go and tweet or Facebook about it’. An old person will say something then and there, ruining something for everyone else.”

Rather than sounding bitter about difficult audience members, Daniel remains optimistic about how his generation:

“Every generation before us has had trends and fads, like in the 80s with the stupid hair and stupid clothes, but there’s no such thing as fads now, there’s ‘oh that exists but now that’s a culture’. Emos are a culture, Goths are a culture. We don’t have fads we don’t have trends, we’re more universal. We’re not saying you have to be like this, you can be anything you want to be. It’s why stand-up has become so successful, because we’re the generation that accepts everything. I reckon when my generation gets older, we’ll be more tolerant. We’re very diverse and I think we’re also the most politically correct. Homophobia doesn’t exist in our generation, among certain groups it’ll always exist but normal decent people will go on to achieve something from this generation. Racism obviously still exists because you still have ignorant people but it’s not the kids, you have to blame the parents because you can’t get a racist kid without racist parents.”

As our conversation draws to a close, I feel sorry that we didn’t have more time. There is far more to Daniel Sloss than a label of ‘young comedian’, he has fascinating and intelligent insights into the world around him; a talent which I hope he’ll continue to use to inspire his comedy for many years to come.


From the moment the ‘bar lights’ floated down to their position above the Donmar stage, I knew Anna Christie was going to be something quite unlike anything I’d seen there before. Once my ear had fully tuned into David Hayman’s accent, I was completely immersed in the captivating, yet simple, story of a Chris, the  Scandinavian barge captain (Hayman), whose estranged daughter, Anna (Ruth Wilson) comes to visit him. During a storm, Mat Burke  (Jude Law) is rescued by Anna and they fall in love. As neither Chris or Mat realise that Anna had been working as a prostitute, they lock in a battle to ‘possess her’.

Ruth Wilson gives a spirited performance of the protagonist. Portraying her as a strong, ballsy, sassy, witty young woman, who appears to be in charge of herself. However, Wilson also exquisitely shows Anna’s vulnerable side, one that is traumatised by her past. By the end of the show, the audience is rooting for Anna to be happy. A testament to both Eugene O’Neill’s creation of a likeable female lead who is a prostitute, and the way in which Wilson embodied the character perfectly.

Jude Law’s performance as Mat Burke was one of intense electricity and raw physicality, which perfectly contrasted the innocence of a sailor looking to settle down with the pure anger that resulted from the sense of betrayal, as Anna peels the final onion skin off her emotional barrier and reveals her past.  This performance shows Law at his very best, fully shedding any past stigma of ‘good looking leading man’ syndrome and coming into his own with a refined command of the stage.

David Hayman gave a truly endearing performance as Chris Christopherson. Making the audience laugh with the character’s superstitions and personality quirks, and pulling at their heartstrings as he emotionally breaks down.

Although the acting would have been enough to do this play justice, the production and scenery made it perfect. The Donmar stage was transformed beyond recognition. The audience audibly gasped as it rose to an alarming angle, so high that the top of the stage was nearly level with the Circle seats. The storm scene was immense, and not only visually striking but so much rain was used that the audience could even feel the coolness of the water.

This production was the perfect marriage of visual and acting prowess. The perfect execution of an ambitious play, and the like of which I hope to see much more of at the Donmar in the future.

 


As part of the Summer Play Festival, the Donmar Warehouse hosts a Writer’s Residency, in which an SPF Playwright is selected to spend two weeks in London immersed into the world of London theatre, making connections with industry professionals.  This year the chosen playwright was Ken Urban, whose residency culminated in a staged reading of his play, “The Awake”.

On Friday the 24th of June, I had the pleasure of attending the rehearsed reading of “The Awake” at the Donmar Warehouse, which was directed by Seth Sklar-Heyn.

As I’d never attended a rehearsed reading before, I wondered how it would differ to a fully performed play, and whether anything would be lost by the actors reading from the script. However, within a few minutes I was completely captivated by the plot.

Despite tackling themes which are often difficult to convey successfully on stage, such as dreams and imagination, the play developed at an organic pace. The structure allowed for a sense of shared overlapping between each character’s dream, whilst dipping in and out of each individual’s story, resulting in a piece which was hypnotic and absorbing to watch. 

Michelle Fairley gave a performance which was both highly entertaining, as well as poignant. Her portrayal of Gabrielle, the Eastern-European housewife, provided several laugh out loud, comical moments at the start of the play, and equally poignant moments as her story was revealed.  She held the audience’s attention beautifully throughout and was a delight to watch.

Christopher Simpson’s performance as Edward/Nate was a great combination of contrasts. From a sense of wonderment to utter panic, and apparent innocence to what turns out to be complex.  Simpson seamlessly embodied all of these elements,  providing an engaging performance of a character with several facets.

Hugh Skinner gave a strong performance as Malcolm, the son caught between fantasy and the dilemma he faces in reality. Skinner gave a convincing portrayal of all the emotions involved in his character’s journey; from denial and escapism to acceptance, with a healthy dose of neurosis. The result was a wonderfully balanced performance, bringing the audience through every one of the emotions that Malcolm experiences.  Sorcha Cusack was a great counterpart as Malcolm’s mother, played with a great sensitivity and serenity.

Philip Joseph and Morven Christie executed the contrast between false sickly sweetness and dark sinister undertones with perfection. Christie in particular provided some great comical moments, delivered with confidence and timed perfectly.

Charlotte Beaumont conducted herself with professionalism throughout the play. Although she didn’t have any lines until toward the end, her presence on the stage alongside the other actors left the audience intrigued by the question of who she might be. A factor which would’ve been lost if this had been a full staging of the play rather than a reading.

At the conclusion of the play I found myself asking how one would even begin to think about staging The Awake, and whether it would work as well as a rehearsed reading.

I particularly enjoyed the way in which some of the actors used the music stand as a space which they could move in and out of, to signify a change in either physical or emotional state. I also felt that staging the play might distract from the essence of a strong piece. Minimal staging allowed the audience to focus completely on what was being said and speculate on what might be happening. When it was revealed how the three strangers’ lives were intertwined, I felt I was able to reflect on how intricate and clever the plot was.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, and I look forward to seeing what next year’s Summer Play Festival will produce.



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