Tim Fraser is the writer of 5-star show Candy at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the production stars Michael Waller and is directed by Nico Rao Pimparé.
The Edinburgh run follows a sell-out run at the King’s Head Theatre in London in 2020 and a special online performance released last year.
Candy was originally a 15-minute piece performed as part of Reboot: Shorts at the Bunker Theatre in London in 2018, selected by Reboot Theatre from over 1000 entries, before being developed into a full-length play.
Candy, written by Tim Fraser, is at Underbelly Bristo Square 5 – 29 August at 15:50
Candy is coming to Edinburgh Fringe, what can you tell us about the show?
Yes it is and we’re very excited! Candy is a one-man show about a lad called Will who gets the surprise of his life when he sees his friend perform in drag as a woman named Candy and falls head over heels in love with her. It’s all about love and identity as well as masculinity and mental health.
What inspired you to write Candy?
The impetus of the original short play was the song ‘Andrew in Drag’ by The Magnetic Fields, about an American jock-type dude who falls in love with his mate at an amateur drag show. I essentially lovingly stole the premise and made the story British and sad, haha.
By the time I started writing the full-length piece, I had themes on my mind that I was keen to delve into: toxic masculinity, male mental health, infatuation and heartbreak. I wasn’t a very happy man at the time and writing it was a really cathartic process.
Tell us a little about the show’s journey so far?
By the time Mike, Nico and the other fine people at Reboot Theatre Company got their hands on the original short play version of Candy, it was already almost two years since I’d written it. They performed it at their Shorts night at Bunker Theatre and afterwards approached me about developing it into a full-length play.
It was something I, bafflingly, hadn’t considered, and was nervous about the prospect of, as I was worried it wasn’t my story to tell. But with Mike and Nico’s collaboration we developed something I felt was quite special, and Mike performed it at the King’s Head Theatre in 2020.
The plan was to bring it to the Fringe in 2020, but then… you know. We filmed a digestible, 20-minute version – like the original short play, but a little different – at the Blue Elephant Theatre for the Online Fringe in 2021. The response to both those versions were really encouraging. So now, finally, it’s coming to the Fringe proper this August, as it was always meant to!
Did such positive reactions surprise you, and why do you think audiences identified with the character so much?
I’ve been consistently overwhelmed by all the positive reactions the play has received and all the kind words people have said about it, both to my face and in print. I think perhaps the reasons why people identify with Will are multiple, and that’s why in my experience it’s been lots of different kinds of people who the play’s resonated with.
On one level, it’s a love story about infatuation and heartbreak, and I don’t know if there’s anyone beyond a certain age who hasn’t had an experience like that. On another level, it’s a story about someone wrestling with their sexuality, and Mike brings his own experiences to that that give the play this rawness that a lot of people who’ve been through a similar experience can identify with. Also, Will is very sad, but does a pretty good job at masking it, at pretending he’s alright. That’s something that I think a few too many of us can identify with too. Finally, he’s got a sense of humour, and engages with the audience, which makes him, hopefully, likeable and identifiable.
What is it about Michael Waller’s performance that impresses you the most?
Will sees himself as a simple bloke but is a deceptively complex character, so it’s a tricky balancing act to portray all those different sides of him, which Mike does superbly. Couple that with the fact that it’s just him, on stage on his own, for a full hour, and what you’re looking at is a bit of a marvel, really.
I’d also say, beyond that, the fact that Mike is also producing the show and works full-time as a doctor is just… it blows my mind how impressive this man is. He can’t really take his drink, but you can’t have it all I suppose.
What would you say to anyone thinking of booking to see Candy?
Trust those thoughts! It’s really good, promise. And if you don’t like it, well then it’s only taken an hour of your time at 3:50 in the afternoon and barely a tenner from your wallet. So it’s worth the risk!