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Dorothy James - Bill's 44th - Edinburgh Fringe Interview

As part of 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 Dorothy James about her show Bill's 44th.

Where did your arts career begin?
I guess technically it began when I was cast in a community theatre production of Bye Bye Birdie when I was 10 years old, but it really felt like it began when I booked my first puppetry gig in a haunted house in NYC in 2011.

What can you tell me about your show?
Bill’s 44th is a wordless puppet show for adults about Bill: a man who throws himself a birthday party…that no one shows up to. What begins as goofy Mr. Bean-style sketch melts into a surreal mediation on loneliness and self-acceptance. And it’s all puppets!

How would you describe the style of the show?
A wordless clown show where the clown is a puppet determined to have a great birthday party against all odds. It is a comedy that is sometimes terribly unfunny, and a constant tragedy that is often hilarious!

How have you approached developing the piece?
Bill’s 44th is a 100% devised piece of theatre; meaning that every idea, object, and action was birthed through a series of improvisations. As our development progressed, we curated the most successful moments into an order that felt the most exciting and satisfying, resulting in the piece you’ll see at the fringe!

How do/will you prepare yourself for a run at the Fringe?
Unfortunately, a lot of the prep we have had to do is super boring — emails and logistics and planning and budgeting and applying for the rare grant or funding opportunity — but once all of that stuff gets out of the way, we get to do the more exciting bits of pulling out all of our puppets and props an scenography and giving them all a few days at the spa for tune ups and a fresh coat of paint. We want to make sure that Bill and all that comes with him are looking their very best for the party!

Other than the show, what’s something you’re looking forward to doing in Edinburgh this year?
Seeing more shows! Last year was our first fringe and we were so caught up in making sure our own show went over well that we didn’t take as much advantage of the sheer number of productions as we would have like to. This year, we know what we’re doing and what to expect, so we should have much more time and energy to see all the cool, weird, and exciting work the festival has to offer!

What keeps you inspired?
Experiencing new work that is weird and risky, that bends genres and explodes mediums, and that somehow manages to simultaneously take itself very seriously and yet not seriously at all.

What do you hope an audience takes away from seeing the show?
Any response is a valid response, but we hope our audiences leave feeling a bit more accepting of themselves! A bonus would be if they find themselves re-evaluating their pre-conceived notions about what puppetry can be!

Where can audiences see the show?
In the Belly Button at Underbelly Cowgate at 6:55pm 1-25 August!

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