David Callaghan: No Compromise, No Comparison

David Callaghan is confident audiences will appreciate the total commitment and care he has put into his new comedy, Everything That’s Me is Falling Apart.

Art is good, people should pay for art

I caught up with him just before the show opens in Edinburgh and discovered that comparisons and commercials don't cause him concern.

To start us off, please can you summarise the show in a single sentence.

It is a toast to life, and all its awful brilliant unforeseeability (sic).


Everything That’s Me is Falling Apart centres around the idea of "What if"; tell us about its themes.

I think this show is about indulging reflection, feeling hopeless and being resigned to the hopelessness.

As you get older you start to carry around memories, both good and bad, attached to the places you’ve lived. I live in Glasgow now, but whenever I go back to Newcastle, I find myself confronted by ghosts at every corner. A lot of these are millstones.

The show looks at how we have to face our own powerlessness, and how cathartic it can be when we embrace our lack of control.

These are very human topics, so what's the role of the much-publicised technology in the show?

It’s the emotions first and foremost that anchor everything. I work out the emotions I want the audience to feel and the complexity of them, (then use) technology as a tool to evoke these emotions.

This is a show about reflection, so it’s important that the audience are looking at technology that they associate with their past and present selves. I did a lot of reading into auratic technology (how technology relates to an aura), to discover how audiences feel about certain types of tech.

I built an augmented reality system to tell a story about heartbreak, hope, and loss. I've tried to play with complexity by mixing a toy train, a live camera, handmade miniatures, and augmented animation.

I think it’s better to spend time with people who like to feel and experience stuff, rather than those invested in technology.

It certainly sounds quite unique. And that says a lot when you're talking about the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. What other shows would you compare it with?

I don't compare myself to anyone else. I'm so caught up in the work all the time that I barely have time to think about its place in the wider entertainment ecosystem.

In about 2016 or 2017 I decided to stop compromising on what I wanted to create, and just make it the best version of what it was.

It’s taken an incredibly long time for that to start working, but I've just started touring international festivals and winning international awards, so it is at the very beginning of paying off.

When you say 'paying off...'

I have almost zero commercial concern for (my shows) because I know that they are worthwhile artistically, and I'll just have to find a way for that to pay each time.

Art is good, people should pay for art. I think when people watch what I do they'll be seeing a true and pure vision of an idea being carried out with total commitment and care, and I think audiences appreciate it.

It's clear you have a great deal of confidence in the show. Do you go through a process to build confidence in the content?

I think about shows from a macro rather than micro level. I create the arc and develop the theme first. Then I painstakingly write jokes and emotive lines to fit later. I wrote a ton of stories and then worked out which fit together best.

I did previews of this show every three months for about two years. Segments were chopped down and swapped out. I knew how the audience should feel at every juncture, so it was easy to know when it wasn't working.

When you work from the standpoint of conveying emotion, if that emotion isn't conveyed, then you're doing it wrong.

How about the jokes?

I still try to keep to the stand-up expectation of a laugh every 15 seconds. I pack the shows full of jokes.

Hopefully people come away feeling like they've experienced joy in traditional and non-traditional forms.

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