It’s an hour before the last ever episode of Britain’s best-loved panel show: the original host is back, revved up with a cocktail of prescription drugs. The one regular panellist is as grumpy as ever and the audience has arrived an hour early.... Comedy Weakly is about to begin! I went behind the scenes to meet the team of this upcoming ADC show whilst they were putting the finishing touches to the production. I spoke with the writer, Colin Rothwell, and director, Josh Cleary to ask them some questions about the genesis, development and concept of the show. 

To what extent is this ‘meta’ comedy or did you start with an idea for a panel show you wanted to put on?

Colin: “It is very much a meta comedy! Though, that makes it almost impossible to actually break the fourth wall. The characters are all aware that there is an audience, but because of that any time they refer to the audience is legitimate. The characters are aware they are in a panel show, but not that they are in a play about a panel show! I got the idea for the play, because a friend mentioned she was going to pitch [a panel show] for the ADC and I thought there was a lot of comic potential in the situation. Some of the show does come from real life... the ADC does have an alarming tendency for the electricity to cut out. I carry everything a lot further than it actually goes in real life, though.”

"It is very much a meta comedy!"Caitlin McCartney

This is the third play you’ve written, how have you developed your writing as you’ve gone on?

Colin: “My first play, Politics!, ended up being put on with a script that was in dire need of cutting. The next play, Spilt Milk [I] wrote with Haydn Jenkins. The idea behind co-writing was that the play would be produced without needing as much in the way of cuts... Somewhat astonishingly, [Comedy Weakly is] the first script I’ve done that’s had a group read through before it went into rehearsal.”

How do you feel about someone else directing while you’re still involved?

Colin: “Mostly, pretty good! I very deliberately don’t choose to direct my own play. This is partly because I am lazy, and directing is a lot of effort... I think that having a lot of input [in]to a play is a good idea, particularly with new writing.”

I also asked Josh about working with the writer:

Josh: “Working with a writer is really great because you can go to them and say ‘I’m not sure the line is working’. Either you say ‘have we got the tone of it right?’ or they say ‘I’m not quite sure that works’ and they change it.”

On the highlights of the play, without wanting to give too much away, Josh said: “You get to see one of our actors in his boxer shorts... if that doesn’t get people along I don't know what will!” Although this is a late show, starting at 11pm, I will definitely be making the trip to see it.

Comedy Weakly is on from Wednesday 9th to Saturday 12th November at the ADC