Bridesmaids Revisited

Comedian Mike Fleming on created the acclaimed one-man show, Best Man, coming to The Whale on Friday, March 31st.

I work as a Creative Director in the Advertising industry and I write and perform in my spare time. We’ve both written and directed short films but Best Man is our first proper foray into Theatre. I originally met Colman through Improv comedy, I asked him to read something I’d written and he asked If I’d be interested in writing something together, so I pitched him the nugget of an idea I had – A best man speech that spirals out of control.

An ambitious one man show about relationships, regrets and reality checks.

When we finally met up to chat about the idea in September 2021, it transpired that there was a lot of overlap in our dating history. We were both single at the time, had a long string of failed relationships, and just spent the last few years attending all our friends’ weddings.

Which left us wondering, what have we done wrong? What choices have we made? Why can’t we find lasting love? Writing this became an exercise in trying to answer those questions.

We amalgamated our stories and transplanted them into a fictional character who was much less emotionally stable and more resentment towards his wonderfully happy friends. Once we defined this character we just had fun creating the exact right environment and series of events that would lead to him unravelling in front of a congregation of his friends and family.

In October of the same year we submitted our Idea to Scene + Heard, a festival of new work. A month or so later we got accepted, but at the time all we had was an outline, the basic idea; we truly didn’t know if it would work as a show or not. We had just under 3 months to take that outline and turn it into a full show, a behemoth undertaking from Colman – who is also the performer of what was essentially a 50-minute monologue.

Such an amazing process, to go from thoughts to a fully actualised thing in such a short space of time. We had a lot of fun writing and developing it together, but we were always a little worried that what we found funny wouldn’t translate to a broader audience. Also, a big part of the show is Colman interacting with the audience as though they’re the congregation at the wedding, and we really were just guessing how they might respond and trying to write his interactions based on those blind guesses. Like writing crowd work without the crowd.

I cannot tell you the relief we felt after our first show; to see every joke land and discover new parts we didn’t even know were funny was a true joy for us. Turns out relationships and weddings are a very relatable territory.

We did have to do a lot of reassurance to our friends and family that we were actually fine, there were so many similarities with our lives and Cathal, the character in the play, that it was hard not for them to presume we felt how he did.

After Scene + Heard, Lucy Ryan (Smock Alley’s director of programming) invited us to do a full run last October. Which gave us six more opportunities to tweak it and refine it based on each performance.

A lot of the fun for us was the surprises thrown at us from the audience and how that might affect each show, they all become a little bit unique.

 

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