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David Hendon on writing the D-List

5th Aug 2016

All stories start somewhere and this one started with me having a drink. And then another drink…
I was on the train coming back from last year’s Edinburgh fringe thinking, yeah, I’m gonna write my own comedy play! It’s gonna be well funny!
The next day, sober, I looked back on my notes and found I had mapped out a story in which an ordinary member of the public goes on a big TV talent show and becomes famous and then tries to keep the celebrity flame burning bright in increasingly desperate and hopefully funny ways.
I wanted the protagonist to have a home life – a girlfriend and a best friend – so I could chart the consequences of fame-chasing on those around him, not just on the character himself.

When I finished writing it I thought, right, now what? At this time the last series of The Apprentice was on BBC1 and I noticed one of the candidates, Sam Curry, was also a professional actor and was about the same age as the central character. It was like a klaxon going off, albeit a klaxon which spoke the following words: maybe Sam could be in the play!
Amazingly, after he read it he thought the same thing. This helped get the ball rolling and, thanks to Shrapnel Theatre and the director, Phil Croft, we now have a production of which we’re very proud.
It was a big step for Sam because he’s aware of the irony regarding his own brush with low level fame but since The Apprentice ended he has rejected various offers to become the sort of ‘celebrity’ we parody in the play and is concentrating on acting. I’m actually sharing a flat with Sam in Edinburgh and it’s going quite well considering I make him wear a bra at one point (in the play, not the flat).
I’ve met a few well known faces in my job as a sports broadcaster (I commentate on snooker for Eurosport when I’m not writing plays). It’s always interesting to see how people react to a celebrity. Quite often it involves staring, sometimes pointing and sometimes gushing, unremitting declarations of admiration. It always surprises me how people think it’s fine to be familiar with someone they’ve never met just because they recognise them off the telly, bearing in mind we don’t even acknowledge one another on public transport.

In my experience, the more famous the person, the nicer and more relaxed they are because they feel they have nothing to prove. That said, I once called a ‘wazzock’ by the many times world darts champion Phil Taylor when my friend, in the days before smartphones, wanted a photo with him and I managed to take it with the camera the wrong way round, meaning I took a pic of part of my own face. On the plus side, I may have invented the selfie.
Reality TV is of course a huge industry and we must remember that much of it is very entertaining to millions of people. That’s why the play isn’t sanctimonious but it does touch on a very modern phenomenon – the way social media and the internet in general has helped create instant celebrities famous for being famous. We like to mock them but they are human beings too. Even Joey Essex.
I hope people find the play entertaining. There’s hopefully a lot in it that audiences will recognise from the times in which we live.
Plus Sam Curry wears a bra! What’s not to like?

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