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Darby James - Little Squirt - Edinburgh Fringe Interview

As part as our Edinburgh Fringe 2024 coverage we are running a series of interviews with artists and creatives that are taking part in the festival. 

In this interview we speak to Darby James about their show Little Squirt.

Where did your arts career begin?
It’s hard to decide whether this is a career or an expensive hobby fuelled by positive reinforcement, but I like to think my arts career began when I told Ms Marsh in the first grade I wanted to become an author and she said, “Sure thing ding-a-ling”. Since then I’ve been working tirelessly under the capitalist regime to churn out new work for the adoring ghosts who haunt my parent’s home. It might have begun in March 2018 when I quit my job at the bank and took up a casual theatre bar job. Or maybe when my two childhood idols Stephen Sondheim and Doug Macleod died in the same week and I thought, s’ppose it’s time to join another generation of rhyme-zone-rummaging thesaurus-o-philes.

Photo by Lucinda Goodwin Photography.

What can you tell me about your show?
My show Little Squirt is about my journey through the sperm donation process as a gay man navigating the ethical dilemmas of reproduction. It’s a one-man-musical with original songs, where I play myself, dressed as a nautical seaman singing existential ballads, patter and sea shanties. It’s won five theatre awards in Melbourne and is maddening fun to perform, packed full of vulnerability and introspection.

How would you describe the style of the show?
Nautical-kitsch wanna-be Minchin/Manuel-Miranda, but gay and stuck on an island. Heartfelt, existential hope.

How have you approached developing the piece?
We developed this show over a couple of years. I started writing it mid-2022, and we did a development reading in January 2023 at Midsumma Festival, Melbourne. We made a few edits, a couple of rewrites and then premiered the show at Melbourne Fringe at the end of 2023. Since then we’ve been making a few small tweaks along the way as we tour to different cities.

How do/will you prepare yourself for a run at the Fringe?
Our full month run at Melbourne International Comedy Festival was excellent preparation for Edinburgh. The touring team also did a short stint together at Adelaide Cabaret Festival, and it was perfect to get a feel for how we jigsaw together and play to our strengths in a festival setting. From a performance stamina perspective, in the lead up I’ll keep my voice warm and keep up my fitness in prep for doing the daily show and racing around the city for press and party.

Other than the show, what’s something you’re looking forward to doing in Edinburgh this year?
Watching the squirrels. Being amongst the squirrels, accepted by the squirrel community. Living a new life as a squirrel whisperer. Also Sunday roasts.

What keeps you inspired?
People who pickle their own onions. Wedding singers who have the cake and eat it too. Asymmetrical bobs. Gillian Anderson.

What do you hope an audience takes away from seeing the show?
It’s been so special to see audiences each take something very different and personal from the show based on their experience and musings on reproduction. I’ve met people on the IVF journey, or donor conceived adults, or couples contemplating kids, who have shared heartfelt stories after the show. Those brief impactful connections mean the world to me and I hope it continues to stimulate conversations.

Where can audiences see the show?
Little Squirt is at Summerhall (Anatomy Lecture Theatre), from 1-26 August (not 12, 19) at 7.40pm.

Photo by Lucinda Goodwin Photography

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