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Chess Hayden - Rock, Paper, Scissors Interview

Born from a savvy short sketch and returning to the stage following a hugely successful debut in 2023, Rock Paper, Scissors is a playful comedy of errors with a deeply dark twist. Written and directed by Chess Hayden, this farcical thriller will uncover the rawness of human nature, where the game of Rock, Paper, Scissors is used to make life-changing decisions.

Following Dylan and Lucy, best friends and housemates, this satirical journey of friendship, lovers and even manslaughter, will explore the trajectory of the pair’s relationship as they descend into unexpected chaos. Reprising the role of Lucy will be Emma Lo (Guardians of the Galaxy, Secret Cinema) and also returning to his role will be Jimmy Roberts as Dylan. Rejoining this terrific cast in the role of Jemma will be Megan Cooper (Love Talks, New Wimbledon Theatre, Othello, Birmingham Hippodrome).

As the situation escalates and the stakes get higher, this gripping production toys with themes of control and how much of life is ever really left up to chance? Based around human nature and the intricacies of our individual moral compass, this dynamic and delightful production is a riveting new comedy with a cutting edge script.

The piece will play at Hope Theatre in London from 7th until 11th May. Ahead of this we caught up with Chess Hayden to learn more.

Where did your arts career begin? 
I’ve always loved performing arts since I was a kid and then this naturally progressed throughout my education to graduating with a degree in Film and Theatre. My first main job out of uni was as a Producer of live comedy in the West End and I was also working as an actor in commercials and theatre. 

Were there any people or productions that had a big impact on your career?
I’m really inspired by the work of Jesse Armstrong (writer on Peep Show, Four Lions, Succession). I love that dry, raw sarcastic style which feels such a natural part of human nature. Pretty much all of Edgar Wright’s tv and film work is incredible too!

What can you tell me about Rock, Paper, Scissors?
The play is a dark comedy with a little bit of slapstick and farce thrown in the mix. It’s also a comment on the temptation of removing accountability - if a game makes a decision for you, then is it really your own choice? On the other hand, how many times have you flipped a coin to get the decision you wanted all along?

The script is fast-paced with lots of silliness and larger than life characters - oh and possible case of manslaughter!

Where did the inspiration for Rock, Paper, Scissors come from?
The play originated as a short comedy sketch; two characters unable to make a decision around a pretty intense situation. I thought about all the times I’ve casually used a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors to decide something and then the ideas just clicked. 

How did you go about writing and developing the piece into the show it is today?
I performed the short sketch as part of a Theatre Making event at the Cockpit theatre and then later developed it into a 50 minute play. We did a short run last October to gauge audience and critic response and it actually went really well! I was then invited to bring it to The Hope Theatre as part of their Spring Programme and I’ve extended the length of the play even further.  I always start with dialogue and then piece the action around it. It will start with an interaction or a significant moment and then the rest just organically follows. 

How would you describe your writing style to anyone who hasn't encountered your work before?
I really focus on the complexities of human relationships and my work is always very rich in dialogue. It’s funny, witty and usually with a bit of a dark twist. 

As well as writing the piece, you also direct the production. Does that give you more creative freedom than if you had a different director staging the show?
Absolutely! I originally wrote the piece with myself playing one of the characters, but I knew I needed to step back and be objective about the work we are creating. I’m really lucky the cast is so versatile and able to pick up the comedic timing so well. Emma Lo who plays the role of Lucy also brings elements to line delivery which I never even considered, so it’s great to be able to just see new dimensions of the characters unfolding while I direct.
What keeps you inspired?
I try to see as much art and theatre as possible (I also review theatre on the side, which helps massively in being able to see all kinds of new and exciting shows.) I think the fact that people seem to really get on board with ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors’ and we had such a fantastic response the first time around also keeps me feeling inspired to keep writing and developing my ideas further.
What do you hope an audience member takes away from seeing Rock, Paper, Scissors?
I suppose my aim is to have the audience leave reflecting on parts of the characters they resonate with as there are no clear ‘heroes’ of the piece. Most importantly, I want them to have as much fun watching the show as we have had making it!

Rock, Paper, Scissors plays at Hope Theatre from Tuesday 7th until Saturday 11th May 2024. Tickets are available from

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