INTERVIEW: Scott McArdle

Interviewed by: Jonathon Davidson
Image credit: Facebook

I first meet Scott McArdle, Perth born 21 year old playwright and self-confessed caffeine addict with 14 produced shows under his belt, in the backstage of Murdoch’s Nexus Theatre.

The ex-usher turned artistic director of his own independent theatre company, Second Chance Theatre, and writer and director of locally acclaimed performance Coincidences at the End of Time was a pleasure to work with if only for his collection of amusing ex-girlfriend and touring stories alone. Coincidences is coming to Fringe World 2015 on the 19th, and was included in Sarah Ison’s Top Picks For Fringe Theatre.

As I descend the stairs inside the Nexus heading to the back on Monday evening, I could overhear a busy discussion going on regarding finances and on-stage blocking. After a slightly awkward entrance, lamely appearing from behind a curtain halfway through their conversation, I shake hands with Scott and meet his co-workers who are busy painting for set design; Sam Knox and Aaron Vanderkley, whom plays the role of Peter in Coincidences. We choose a row of seats and sit down to talk.

The most notable thing about McArdle – despite his young age and existence as an absolute goldmine for quotes, which I’ll get to shortly – is the sense of honesty and authenticity that exudes from his presence alone. I ask him if he would be fine with me describing him as “open” at some point in the interview, which he quickly agrees is an accurate descriptor. This comes just after he recounts to me the time he spent living in Sydney alone. Scott does not believe that he is an individual wired to cope with that kind of scenario, and it shows – almost all of Scott’s productions, and sidebars in our conversation too, come from a place inspired by strong emotional provocation and connection. Scott quickly left Sydney and came back to resume his career in Perth, telling me without any sense of stigma that the isolation drove him to suicidal ideation.

Scott has no fear of bringing conversations into an interesting place. He mentions one play he’s written where a man realises his sister is a malicious god who nails accountants to telephone poles because she is bad with her finances.
Scott talks with an amusing degree of professionalism when discussing another production of his, Narrow Graves, including a man who stands on stage naked being degraded for 30 minutes and a forced sex scene that he tells me has before elicited at least one extreme reaction from audience members.
“Yeah, it’s set in a concentration camp in the future.”
Knowing this is the same mind behind Coincidences, it is at this point I become 110% excited for this production.

Coincidences started out with humble beginnings. It came in the same year Scott produced six individual shows, almost perfectly in the middle point. To highlight his involvement with other projects, Scott has also been a drama enthusiast since high school, then an usher at the Blue Room Theatre, up to being accepted into NIDA (where he overcooked toast one day and set off a fire alarm), leaving NIDA (unrelated to the toast), successfully working as a stage lighting designer – a massive asset to his craft – touring Busselton as part of a 4 month artistic residency with Moore & Moore gallery, and having the Blue Room Theatre call him up to tell him his show was accepted.

“We had 2 bigger shows during the year…people loved it [Coincidences], we had no idea.”

The play, originally written in 2013 which Scott describes as a love story and partial ridicule of both the disaster genre and Sci-Fi – his favourite genre – covers two characters, both ex-partners from a relationship, who find themselves together, despite all odds, in the same cafe during the apocalypse on Earth.

“So is the ex real?” I ask.
“Yeah, the ex is real” he replies.
“It was a really messy breakup, and it was all over the phone…and we used to have ‘our cafe’, as you do… I continued going there and never saw her…the next day they were closing, they went bankrupt, and the last day I was there she walked in at the last possible moment [before I left] and we were able to get all of this stuff off our chest…”
Scott talks of the inspiration behind Coincidences with genuine enthusiasm and lingering awe. It is perhaps this very genuine experience with the phenomenon of coincidence that drives home the obvious amounts of unrestrained love Scott has for this project, and the rest of his catalogue – though, he does admit to one or two performances being fairly low on his list compared to others.

I ask Scott about the dynamic between his role as both an actor and writer/director.
“I love performing…but I feel like I’m more natural when I’m directing”.

Regarding his style of direction, Scott self-describes his pieces as “Magic Realism” – the everyday, ordinary, even the mundane – represented largely unchanged, but with the “slightest” twist of unreality.

Coincidences, you could argue, contains more than a slight twist of unreality, as the promotional blurb attached to Fringe tells the audience of sewer mutants and UFOs.
“Well, you never actually see the sewer mutants…” Scott says, grinning slightly.
I ask him how Coincidences differs from a traditional love story, not counting a script dripping with excess that pokes fun at the 2012-era natural disaster fetish that swept through popular culture.

“I guess what it is, from the start, we tell you: the love has ended…they’re not in love anymore, this is not happy, they’re not happy people…they were happy once, but this is how we got to where we are now.”
Coincidences contains flashbacks and a heavy propensity to lean on alternative modes of storytelling.

As for the future, Scott tells me he’s looking to take some time off for a few months when Coincidences finishes its Fringe World runthrough. There is a drama teacher in New York interested in buying one of his scripts and he has already been asked to adapt another work for stage, as well as being commissioned for a separate project. I ask him if he will get bored with the time off.

He responds only with body language, but we both know the answer is a resounding “yes”.

Coincidences At The End Of Time is playing at the Blue Room Theatre’s studio space from the 19th to the 21st of February.

I give you my solid guarantee that no matter the type of theatre you enjoy, you should definitely grab some tickets to this one.