*Contains spoilers about ‘Zanzibar’, ‘Once, Removed’ and other aspects of series four of ‘Inside No.9’*
Q&A with Steve Pemberton, Reece Shearsmith, Adam Tandy and David Kerr, hosted by Justin Johnson
SP – Steve Pemberton (Actor, Writer and creator of ‘Inside No.9’)
RS – Reece Shearsmith (Actor, Writer and creator of ‘Inside No.9’)
AT – Adam Tandy (BBC Producer, ‘Inside No.9’)
DK – David Kerr (Director, ‘Inside No. 9’ (S1) and ‘Inside No. 9’ S4 episodes ‘Zanzibar’ and ‘To Have and To Hold’)
JJ – Justin Johnson (BFI programmer)
This is a complete transcript of the ‘Inside No. 9’ Q&A – featuring Steve Pemberton, Reece Shearsmith, Adam Tandy and David Kerr – which took place at the BFI Southbank on 30th October 2017, after a preview screening of ‘Zanzibar’ and ‘Once, Removed’, two new episodes from series four. The transcription replicates – as closely as possible – what was said and by whom at the post-screening event. Some of the words spoken on the night were unclear – to my cloth ears anyway – and I have left these out in order to ensure the transcript is as faithful as I could make it, rather than resorting to guesswork.
Transcribing is a painstakingly slow, unbendingly methodical task to undertake – as I’m personally devoid of those helpful time-saving recording to text software shortcuts – especially when there are five voices to decipher accurately. The occasional verbal overlaps, variations in pitch, voices tailing off and faltering phrasing all have to be contended with as well. The patience and effort it takes to convert speaking voices to the written page makes the end result all the more satisfying, especially when the Q&A is so entertaining and informative. It’s packed full of illuminating detail on the behind-the-scene pressures and what it takes to bring a new series of ‘Inside No. 9’ to the screen, including the creative challenges presented by growing budgetary restraints and contracting shooting schedules. The creators’ discussion of their working methods and writing inspirations for series four were particularly intriguing and there was even time to briefly talk about the 20th anniversary League of Gentlemen specials that Steve and Reece (alongside Mark Gatiss and Jeremy Dyson) had just finished filming.
So here it is in its unedited glory – 40 minutes of sharp, intelligent and perceptive analysis on ‘Inside No. 9’ from Pemberton and Shearsmith, aided and abetted by Adam Tandy and David Kerr.
Inside No.9 Series Four Q&A at BFI Southbank (30th October 2017)
JJ: Thank you very much for coming back for another preview of another series of ‘Inside No. 9’. It’s something we don’t take for granted at all. It’s really exciting, they are really great episodes. Adam, just to start off with you, they don’t make it any easier do they? In terms of the things that…we look at the kind of conceits, if you like, of the first two episodes. One, from the Shakespeare in iambic pentameter, everything it conjures up, all those kind of plot devices we associate with kind of Elizabethan drama. And then the second one, everything is told in 10 minute increments going backwards.
AT: Well ‘Zanzibar’ was like a delight. The script arrived completely fully formed… just looked at it and said ‘Yes!’
SP: Don’t lie, it was all improvised (audience laughter)
AT: And the BBC went, ah we think we could probably find a hotel somewhere to film that. No. We went the whole hog. We built the set at Pinewood and spent a week there shooting it and it was great. ‘Once, Removed’ on the other hand was quite tricky mentally because the script arrived like that but we all had to disassemble it and make it work the right way round so we could even start to consider how to shoot it. And in fact we ended up shooting it backwards.
RS: We shot it in the order that you didn’t see it. It started happening for us the way you would watch it backwards.
AT: And went forward. But then Monica (Dolan) was in the beginning and the end and she found it I think…she was very forensic wasn’t she? She interrogated the script in a way that I couldn’t follow.
SP: I don’t think we understood it really. We’re hoping somebody, when the DVD comes out, will assemble it the right way round and put it on YouTube so we can watch it.
JJ: How do you decide which story to assign with which director? Because you’ve got, obviously David’s here, you’ve got Jim O’Hanlon who isn’t here tonight though I don’t think, is he?
AT: No. He’s filming. He’s filming in London. He was going to be here. He sends his love.
JJ: And you brought out of the home, you’ve got Graeme Harper back…He worked on two we haven’t seen.
AT: Well there is a kind of, I suppose, a knack to offering the directors the pieces you think they will be most sympathetic to. But sometimes its all about dividing the episodes up a way you can film them practically. So you find you’ve got, in this case it was I think three blocks of two…And I thought David would like the two I gave him, which was this one ‘Zanzibar’ and then ‘To Have and To Hold’, which you haven’t seen.
RS: They’re very different.
AT: Very different.
JJ: So in terms of going back to the blank page sort of situation that you two find yourself with each season. In the past you’ve talked about how with things like ‘The Bill’ where you just thought, you know, a situation in a restaurant. It is similar things kick things off like that for you. Where do the ideas come from?
SP: Well I think with these two…The one we’ve just seen ‘Once, Removed’ has been kicking around since series one. And every series we go back to it “Can we make this work?” and we empty all the bits on all the scenes. We could never find a way in to it really. And I think what opened it up this time was coming up with the very first scene and ending it with the reveal of all the bodies. And it was that line “I can explain” and that kind of unlocked it really because then you’re going to explain how you got to that point. But that has been something that we’ve kicked around for the past three or four years.
RS: We knew we wanted to do a ‘9’ with a kicking off point, with the confusion of that, so we just had to find a way to work back towards that moment, even though it was the beginning.
JJ: The first one, the one that David directed ‘Zanzibar’. I mean was that right from square one you decided we’re going to do something, we’re going to throw lots of Shakespeare into it?
SP: Not really no. That started off talking about…we talked about doing a farce. We talked about it in our very first meeting. We’re going to do a farce in a hotel corridor and the interesting thing will be what you don’t see which was what’s happening in the rooms. Can we make it work in a corridor? And so we made a list of all the different characters, most of whom we ended up putting into it and then when we started looking at it, we had the twins, we had the guy trying to murder the other guy. And it felt a bit contrived, you know, to do it in a contemporary way. And there’s just one of those nice lightbulb moments where you go ‘let’s make it Shakespearean’ and then lets really draw on all the Shakespearean sources that we can. And then we put in things like the love spell and what else did we put in…the suicide, the guy coming to kill himself and the gun became a knife. So it was really putting those two things together. On the one hand it was a farce and on the other hand it was every Shakespeare play you’ve ever seen. In half an hour.
JJ: David do you remember when you received the script what was going through your mind in terms of how you thought you would approach the…’Zanzibar’?
DK: Sheer terror. No. I mean when you get a No. 9 script from Reece and Steve, you get something which is…something which is pretty complete. You know, as directors in this industry we’re used to getting, you know, half-baked scripts half the time and also, not necessarily down to the writers, but often they’ve been through heaps of notes from execs and all of that. And one of the joys of Reece and Steve’s scripts is that they go through the brain ache before they pass them to anybody else and they’ve gone through the puzzles themselves and worked them out. These scripts are really well evolved and Jon Plowman, who isn’t here tonight, but has been a very effective shield I think from any interventions from elsewhere, so yeah, as a group we’ve been fairly self-sufficient a lot of the time in terms of making these things, which is just as well cos there is never enough money. But, you know, the feeling on reading this was just I mean…the sheer joy of the language, its incredibly rich to get that sort of iambic pentameter and then the intricacy of the farce and the feeling of needing to serve, you know, serve that, in a very contained space. You know, its something I did in the first series as well, that first series of ‘Inside No. 9’. But I think a lot of the challenge on this one was the timing. You know, one door closes, another one opens, trying to try and keep that flow, so there’d be quite long takes, but there’s a lot of precision for something that feels as kind of fluid and flighty and light in many ways, its incredibly demanding in terms of precision and the camera movement and the timing of the actors – many of whom are here tonight I’m very pleased to say.
AT: Ladies & gentlemen, the cast (audience applause)
DK: You know, the other thing is we’re shooting these in five or six days, very little rehearsal.
AT: We did make time for rehearsals which was the key to making the rhyme and the pace of the thing work when we actually shot it. It gave you the chance to plot it all out and choose your shots.
AT: At that point you weren’t really, you didn’t stick religiously to it.
DK: No, but you know, pretty close. I mean the nearest thing I’d done, I mean I did a Shakespeare last year for the BBC, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ – Russell T. Davies. But I guess the nearest thing was ‘A Quiet Night In’, which we did together, which again, you know, it’s a very heightened form – silent comedy – and so you have kind of to embrace the heightened quality of that, but also give it some kind of grounding. And I think, you know, a lot of that was about nailing the tone, the performance, so it kind of felt of a piece, although its, you know, quite a heightened farce.
JJ: You talk about the precision of it, because it is so meticulously written, I mean presumably there’s not much you can change I presume, either on set or in the edit?
DK: That’s right. I think we barely cut a line.
AT: There’s half a line cut isn’t there?
SP: You couldn’t take half a rhyming couplet out…and even…we very rigorously made them in blocks, especially from the end point, the last 10 minutes, it’s in blocks of 8 lines, the way Shakespeare would have written, or any of those Elizabethan , Jacobian writers, would have written, and I’d like to think they sweated like we did. You couldn’t…without making the whole thing collapse.
AT: And actually you’d done an awful lot of the work prior…because you must have sat there with a diagram of the rooms, and people going in and out, so we knew where everybody was because all those stage directions are absolutely there in a way they weren’t in Shakespeare’s time.
JJ: In terms of, we’ve talked about it before in previous visits about the kind of casting and so forth. As the show’s become more successful and its been recommissioned and so forth, do you get a bit bolder then in terms of actually writing kind of parts for people or are you still very much thinking the cast can come later.
RS: Yeah. It’s so…long in advance that you write the scripts that you never dare pin your hopes on a person that might just not be free, might want to do it but not be free, so we just write them and then hope that nearer the time that people who spring to mind will be available. Some are cast very close, like a week before, sometimes that short notice. I don’t think we’ve ever had anybody we’ve thought this person would be really good in this part and didn’t get them. We’ve always just written it, hopefully with good parts for everyone who’s in it. I think as actors we write scripts that we know if you’re an actor reading it and you’re getting offered a part, even if it’s a small part, we try to hook something in to that part that you would think this isn’t a very big part but that line (is) the reason to it, that would be good for me to do. And I think we’ve got that, we’ve used that trick a few times to trap people into saying yes.
AT: And we’re casting while we’re shooting as well. I mean even while we’re doing block one I don’t think we’d got half the cast for block three, so we were still trying to put it together as we’re there, through a process…in order to, to buy ourselves thinking time between the blocks we allow a little extra bit of pre-production between the blocks. So we get a week off to rehearse and to do recces and things. But that means that we don’t have enough money to do proper pre-production so everything slides for later shows.
JJ: And they are truly kind of great ensemble pieces…I mean if I was talented enough to write a show I’m sure I would give myself all the best lines and everybody else would be like my foils, but actually they are consistently really good ensemble pieces aren’t they?
SP: Yeah. I mean take ‘Zanzibar’ for an example. We decided very early on that we wanted to cast somebody in the dual role, whereas if we were being selfish one of us would have played that cos that’s such a great role. But that was a great opportunity to get somebody like Rory and his clone, who came out of retirement, his evil twin. ..and then yeah. It reminded me of casting ‘Sardines’, which was the very first episode we did in series one. I love having a big cast and we can’t normally afford it, lucky we got the cheapest actors, so…But it was brilliant to look at the whole cast and the range of ages and different character types there were within… ‘Zanzibar’ was a real joy to cast.
JJ: David obviously when you have two actors playing the same role that presents a certain issue with filming, not least when you’ve only got five or six days to do it in. So that, from a planning point of view, must have taken up an awful lot of your time.
DK: Yeah. I mean…There are a number of ways you can do these scenes when you’ve got the same person playing two roles. You know, there’s the expensive way with the motion control camera and that’s not the route we took. So um…I think there are some technical challenges but you kind of don’t want anyone to be aware of any technical, you know, trickery. You just want them to be in the story and going with the character, going with the comedy. So of course you think about that stuff and you think about it in a way that you’re doing your best to ensure nobody else is thinking about it, I hope.
JJ: Bearing in mind that obviously the show is successful, it’s in its fourth series, the BBC must be now showering you with money…
AT: No. The same as we were getting for series one, I think maybe slightly, maybe slightly less. Slightly less I think. I don’t know, its difficult to say because with a co-production deal we do with Worldwide it does go up and down. It does mean you have to be very frugal about what you can give, so poor David doesn’t get a motion control camera. But Graeme Harper does…
DK: You find creative solutions, but I mean, you know, we were very fortunate and really it was the only way in ‘Zanzibar’, to have a set built. But we could literally only afford the set and no more, and it was, you know, to the point where they were…
AT: Scene hands moving rooms…
DK: Interior bedrooms, but we only had two of them…so we shot them around…
AT: Eight doors but only two rooms. ..one for the left hand side of the corridor, one for the right hand side of the corridor.
DK: There was one point we were thinking can we actually move that during the shot, can we move that room around, so the camera tracks back, there’s another room.
JJ: Are there any stories from this season that either had to be changed considerably because of the financial constrains or just couldn’t work? Or have you got pretty much now what you wanted?
SP: Well there was actually. Was that on series four or three?
AT: No. Four. I just chased…There was one script that came in, just…
RS: What was it?
SP: Too expensive.
AT: Just too expensive.
RS: Oh yes… (audience laughter)
SP: We might do it in the future.
RS: It’s a really good one actually.
JJ: When you spend that time writing a script as well and then it gets rejected.
SP: Can’t get those two days back (audience laughter) To be fair to us, we did ‘Zanzibar’ with 11 characters I think because we had another script which had only two of us in it, which is one of Graeme’s scripts.
AT: And a motion control camera…
SP: But, you know, we do try and think about the budget as a whole over the series and so, um, because we knew we had one episode that was going to be relatively cheap, just the pair of us playing an old double act who hate each other now (audience laughter) We knew that we could then afford to have a bigger cast on ‘Zanzibar’.
AT: But actually this…the cast are slightly larger in this series, very slightly.
SP: What do you mean?
AT: No, the cast I think in terms of numbers. They’re slighter bigger per episode. But that’s because you’ve gone for, I think, bigger, brighter, slightly less horrific stories.
RS: Yeah I think after…We thought that a lot of the third series was quite dark, even for our standards. So I think the tone generally of series four is a bit brighter. There are some nasty ones, but I think generally…’Zanzibar’ is a sort of joyous episode really. Surprisingly I think that’s its own twist in a way. But I think generally they are a bit lighter, aren’t they? We try to be funny, one time…one time (audience laughter)
JJ: Is one of you a particular fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber? (audience laughter)
RS: We’ve always had something about Andrew Lloyd Webber. We had a character we could never fit in. There was a man sat trying to tell another man in a pub about, he’s like a tax bore, a bit boring about tax and he was explaining to this other man. Did you see him or did you just hear him?
SP: I can’t remember now.
RS: He had this…around this idea…something to do with Andrew Lloyd Webber. It was “Right. I’m Andrew Lloyd Webber. You…” Explaining about tax and what we would do with the money and he was Andrew Lloyd Webber. It sounds funny but we’ve always wanted to do something.
JJ: Did you have to research any of that or did you actually have a memory about it…Roger Moore…
RS: Oh yeah, that one came (clicks fingers) like that.
JJ: Because all that stuff, its all true stuff.
RS: Yeah, yeah…Julie Convington.
SP: Julie Convington as well.
RS: I mean its so…you had to know about Andrew Lloyd Webber. And if you don’t, you do by the end.
JJ: In terms of coming up with new ideas and so forth. Do you find its still just as easy to come up with stuff or do you have that kind of…writer’s block… kind of moments?
SP: It’s stressful, I mean, you know. When you…it’s not just Day One you’ve got a blank page. You finish the first script and then you’ve got another blank page (as) you start the next one. And I worry about it. I worry about being able to come up with the ideas. But really it’s like anything, you’ve just got to start. And once you’ve started, as long as you’ve got a strong kernel of an idea there, the other stuff will come together. Like I said about ‘Zanzibar’…started as a farce, ended up something farcical but with other ideas. Um, but you could never know, you’ve just got to jump off the cliff and begin. And I think that’s…anyone who does write will know procrastination is your greatest enemy and we do sit and procrastinate a long time before we…
RS: We talk a lot longer than we write I think because we’re so…um, I think we’ve got a good patter now. We really talk for a long time and decide what scenes are required to make the story work and then we, once we’re really sure of where it’s going, then we begin to write. And that gets over that thing, where you think you’re writing absolutely…you know, where are you going. Avoiding that really helps your spirit…that’s a version. Once you’ve got physically something, even if it’s terrible, you can then sort of ‘we have got a script’, then you can go back and start to layer it and see things… Once the idea is there then the writing (becomes) quite quick.
SP: Can be, yeah.
JJ: If the BBC were to cobble a bit of money together and ask you to do another series, is there another series in you?
RS: Of Number Nine? Yeah, of course.
JJ: It could go on forever?
RS: Yeah, as long as we can keep coming up with the ideas and feel that we haven’t…we’re not repeating ourselves, because we’re too aware of what it’s like to watch a thing and feel disappointed. We’ve been like that since writing ‘The League of Gentlemen’. We’re really hard on ourselves to not feel that it can be levelled at us that we’re doing the same again or we’ve sort of done that script but in different ways…But of course we have, they’re all riddled with things that you can see that are very us I think, when I watch them…
JJ: I wasn’t going to mention ‘The League of Gentlemen’ but seeing as you have. Obviously this is going to come out in January, but it looks like over Christmas we’re going to be treated to the two of you with Adam again and those two other guys. Um, is there anything you are able to share with us? I mean obviously you don’t want to…
RS: Well we filmed it and it nearly killed us. It’s a young man’s game.
JJ: You filmed that really quickly as well, didn’t you?
RS: Yeah. Eighteen days, for three half hours.
JJ: And that was literally about two weeks ago you finished.
SP: One week ago.
RS: So that’s done…its good, I mean….We did it from a place of absolute joy.
AT: It’s not done. It’s in the edit. You mean your bit’s done (audience laughter)
RS: Yes, it’s not put together yet. We had fun doing it. It was purely ‘lets do it, it’ll be fun’. We didn’t need to do it, so it had to be fun and it was. It was really great to return to that world and hope that people will enjoy it.
JJ: It’s three episodes and there’s a story going through the three…
SP: It’s more in common with series one and two. The third series we had a lot more narrative which is something, you know, that we enjoy doing with ‘No. 9’, but League of Gentlemen I thin always worked best when it was sort of quite sketch-based. So whilst there will be some through lines a lot of its self-contained sketches. So for a lot of the shoot we were playing one character for half a day, won’t we?
AT: Or sometimes a third of a day.
SP: Yeah yeah.
JJ: In terms of the length of the shoot and the amount of kind of costume changes and numbers of characters you’re playing and stuff, that’s… I mean is that similar to what it was when you were doing it last time around or were doing…or did you have a lot less time to do (it) this time round?
RS: Yeah, a lot less time. I mean, I think that’s why you don’t see…
AT: You did fifty characters in the first series didn’t you, between you. And you done – and this is half a series – and you’ve done 35 or 36 characters. So it’s pretty tough on you.
RS: It’s good though. I think its feels like we do dart around and see all the faces that you want to see. It was hard to choose because, like you say, we did so many, we couldn’t do them all. So we had to decide what ones we’d like to see, what we think people would like to see and is there any more stories left to tell. But it was, it actually flowed out of us, once we started writing, it was a fun…It wasn’t like pulling teeth, which it normally is, writing, for me anyway.
JJ: Do you feel this time you’ve sort of shut the door on that bit now or is there always room…
RS: For League of Gentlemen?
RS: We did it because we wanted people to stop saying “Are you going to do any more League of Gentlemen?” (audience laughter) We did a round table thing on set and a lot of the journalists came and they said “Do you think they’d commission it today, you know, nowadays?” I said “They have…” (audience laughter) “Would they commission it now?” “They have done!” (audience laughter)
JJ: We’re going to ask if you could keep these to ‘Inside No. 9’ questions now because we are going to do ‘League of Gentlemen’ in December. So if you want to put your hand up. There’s a question in the very, very front row. There’s a microphone coming down and then after that if we go to the very, very back on that side…for the second question.
Audience question: First of all, I thought it was fantastic…Opposite to the problem of having to come up with a new idea every time, I wondered do you ever find yourself in a situation where you’re sort of frustrated because you’ve come up with a setting or a character or a conceit that you particularly love and it’s difficult to put them down after an half hour episode and you’d like to return to them or do you feel they’re quite complete ideas that you’re happy to sort of put away?
RS: No. Sometimes I do feel like we…you could do more with the scenario or setting. I would have liked to have done more with…I would have six half hours of Mr Warren and Mr Clarke doing witch trials (audience applause) Maybe nobody else would. Sometimes you do think that’s a…that’s a…there’s a series in that. Maybe not. Sometimes the reason why they work well is that they can conclude in an extreme way where there’s no consequences and that’s why you can do it the way we’ve done it. So sometimes you think maybe you couldn’t actually, it’s a nice idea but perhaps you can’t do them after the half hour’s over.
AT: They’ve got a beginning, a middle and an end, unlike so many series now… (just) go on and on and on and on. These are done and dusted in half an hour. Hopefully you’ll have a good time and you take the story away with you and you’ll reflect on it afterwards. It’s not something you can with a lot of TV these days.
Audience question: What were your kind of all-time favourite horror icons…?
RS: Where’s it coming from?
Audience question: What’s your kind of favourite all-time horror icons you’ve used when creating ‘Inside No. 9’?
SP: We did more in ‘The League of Gentlemen’ I think. ‘Inside No. 9’ I don’t think we do in quite the same way. ‘League of Gentlemen’ we used to make a taster tape to give to the director and all the crew and make a sort of compilation of all our favourite horror films. But now we’d like to think that, you know, people are doing that with our show. And…yeah, we don’t really think in those terms for No. 9…But ‘The Harrowing’ had quite a strong…
RS: Yeah, but then that was more all-out gothic Hammer horror I guess. But yeah, but we don’t really try to…none of its parody. We tried to stop doing earnestly when we’re trying to do a scare or whatever…
JJ: I guess you might say ‘The Harrowing’ and perhaps ‘Witchfinder General’ for the Elizabeth Gadge?
RS: Yeah maybe for ‘Elizabeth Gadge’ and um…’Blood on Satan’s Claw’, that sort of Piers Haggard feel…
AT: Once you’ve done one of those you don’t want to repeat it do you. I mean that’s one of the hard things about doing another series is trying to work out what the tone should be to keep it distinct from all the other episodes. That is quite hard at the beginning of series four, you sit down and think okay what’s this one, okay. So ‘Once, Removed’ for me felt like ‘Memento’ meets ‘Midsomer Murders’ (audience laughter)
JJ: I remember asking you in the first series, we talked a lot more about the anthology series of the 1970s and 1980s. And this was absolutely that time of doing something kind of groundbreaking and sort of revisiting that. But actually now there are quite a lot of…There’s a number of quite important anthology shows out there, like ‘Black Mirror’ and ‘Room…’
RS: Yeah, there’s definitely a trend to being accepted that you can do them again which is great.
JJ: Do you feel some pride in that?
RS: We started that (audience laughter)
AT: Original and still the best.
JJ: There’s a question coming from over there…then…the other side.
Audience question: So with you two writing episodes do you ever find it difficult when you’re given a note because in your mind you’ve got a preconception of the characters?
JJ: It must be quite difficult to direct people who’ve written and conceived and are acting…
SP: A note when we’re filming you mean?
Audience question: Yeah…
SP: Doesn’t happen (audience laughter)
RS: They know to stay well away…
SP: No, we do genuinely, I like to say, work in quite a collaboratively way, don’t we. So it’s a collective thing from the point of which we’ve written the script it then becomes a collective thing that we all go into the rehearsal room with and onto the shooting floor with and um, yeah, you know, it’s not difficult to get notes at all.
JJ: David, have you ever had a conversation with them that start with them saying “So David, do you like working on our show?”
DK: No, no…yes they imprison me for a number of weeks. No, I mean the truth is they genuinely are the most kind of open collaborators around. I mean, I guess kind of before I worked with them I sort of imagined they’d be, you know…you know, incredibly specific about “here’s this scene from ‘Witchfinder General’, “here’s this scene from…”, “this performance from Vincent Price” and blah, blah, blah and, you know, sort of lead me to very specific references for each script, each scene. And actually there really wasn’t any of that. I think they gave the scripts to read and they’d always be there to discuss and consult them as I was kind of thinking about sets or we’re talking about costume, you know, any other aspect of the design. So it’s very kind of collaborative and consultative, but it’s always a two-way conversation…
AT: Definitely. I mean, you hadn’t really decided how to play Vince in ‘Zanzibar’ until quite late on. I seem to remember us having conversations about it when we were rehearsing…
RS: Oh yeah, yeah. I know…
SP: That’s because he played Henry in ‘Zanzibar’.
AT: Oh sorry, Henry…All these names.
RS: Yeah. You hope that when you enter into a thing with a lot of people all with the same aim, which is to make it the best it can be, that you, that the director will make you better than you are, you know, you just hope that they’ve got things to say that will change your performance or give you an insight into something that you think I always do it like that actually, it would be good to try something like that. So you want to hear different viewpoints cos you can’t always be right. You do hope that everyone will contribute and elevate the whole thing from the page. We’ve got a sort of idea of how we imagine the collection of the elements and then they’re put back together in the edit, and then the music changes it, and the edit…
SP: The important thing I think is we’re allowed to be part of, not allowed, we are a part of that process all the way through. And I think what would be frustrating is if you just filmed your scenes and then you just tuned in to see it on the TV and went that’s not what I meant…We do it all together as a group, from page to final edit.
JJ: We’ve not got a huge amount of time. There’s one over here…
Audience question: You’ve briefly breached outside of TV with the online episode ‘The Inventors’ and the ‘Inside No. 9’ episodes are often compared to stage plays. Have you ever thought of writing an extended episode or a couple of extended episodes for the stage for ‘Inside No.9’?
RS: We haven’t thought of doing one specifically. They sort of…some of them could…would be suited to do that with cos they are often, a lot them, are real time so you could do it with a great cast on stage. Half talked about it, haven’t we? We get a lot of requests from people saying can we have the rights to the script who want to do it as an amateur dramatic. We had ‘Sardines’ didn’t we, someone wanted to do that, and ‘The Bill’ and ‘La Couchette’.
JJ: Have they been done?
RS: We’ve never allowed it (audience laughter) Absolutely not (audience laughter)
SP: It’s a good idea.
RS: It’s a good idea and it’s something…
SP: Would anyone pay to see that? (people in the audience say ‘yes’) There’s no way we’re doing that then.
JJ: We have got enough time certainly for one, maybe two…There’s one over there…
Audience question: I really enjoyed both the episodes, can’t wait to see the rest. Seeing as you’ve done a silent movie style episode and now a Shakespeare episode, I wondered if you ever consider doing a musical?
SP: Yes that’s on our list. I mean we thought that ‘Empty Orchestra’ was sort of our musical episode in that it was mainly sung through, through the medium of karaoke. But it was a bit like doing the silent episode, we didn’t want to make a ‘silent comedy’ in inverted commas. We wanted it to be silent for a reason…And similarly when we were doing that episode we wanted it to be a musical for the reason that they are genuinely singing karaoke. But I think something that’s something we could have a think about.
RS: Yeah, we can do that.
SP: Get Andrew Lloyd Webber (audience laughter)
JJ: We have got time for another question. Can we…move a bit further forward. Anyone in the…You found somebody? Go there and then we’ll go to that back row…there’ll be two more.
Audience question: Number one. Reece, well done for the angriest Hokey Cokey I have ever heard (audience laughter) And secondly, who decides what order they air in and would you change it?
RS: That’s a good question.
AT: Yeah okay. That’s sort of where I come in at the end and I write all of the titles on little bits of card and then I take them to everybody and I say so what order do you think they should be in? And normally I’ve got a fairly good idea and normally everybody sort of agrees. I think we were…It was hard this series because I don’t want to blow my own trumpet here or indeed the trumpet of the boys, but actually I think this is probably the strongest series to date and any of the episodes we’ve got this year could have started the series I think.
JJ: These are episodes one and two aren’t they?
AT: These are going to be episodes one and two at the moment. But we shuffle it around and the only real thing to bear in mind is that you don’t want to put two episodes that tonally even remotely similar next to each other in the running order. For the first three series we usually had three that had really downbeat endings and three that were slightly less downbeat (audience laughter) The twist was sometimes a happy one and you could interleave them, but that hasn’t happened this year, not going to say which way. Um, so it was a little bit of a harder thing, but I think we all…
SP: We often have a slot and go that’s a sort of scary slot, it could be that one or it could be that one. But we…it’s the differences in tone is what we go for.
JJ: I’d forgotten actually. I played that game with you, in terms of you had the cards, I hadn’t seen the episodes and I had to go ordering them, but I can tell you that’s how he does it. He’s got his pack of cards. And I’ve no idea how it ended up…there. Just one more question, at the very, very back there.
Audience question: Hi guys, I really enjoyed those two episodes. ‘Once, Removed’ like ‘Rellik’ tells a story backwards, tells a murder story backwards and I wondered what particular challenge was it making a comedy like this and also what do you think the makers of ‘Rellik’ will think of your kind of souped-up and speeded up version?
AT: Well we made ours first even though they managed to get theirs out first.
RS: Well happily its shit so… (audience laughter and applause) I’ve not seen it.
AT: It was a little bit like ‘A Quiet Night In’. We had to…we did that thing that you did with ‘A Quiet Night In’ was we took, I don’t know who went down, was it you Steve…went down to the location…yeah, you went down to the house…Jim took you down, you again…Reece again, went down to the house and plotted it through to make sure all of the business would work forwards so…we could then shoot it backwards…
RS: Yeah, we had to know where we’d be at the end of scenes…
AT: So there was quite a lot of work to make sure that that played, including the gags like the mop and the bucket and the gun and the rolled up carpet, because obviously there’s quite a lot of punchlines which are visual reveals in that episode, so they all have to be in exactly the right place to land. I bet ‘Rellik’ didn’t have that problem.
SP: Also we were doing a half hour which is continuous. We weren’t playing with going backwards a few months or backwards a few days. We were going literally 10 minutes back so that the beginning of one scene joined up with the end of the previous scene…it was a nightmare. I mean the good thing about it is that within the half hour episode you get the whole picture and I think that’s the challenge of doing a six or eight part series, is, you know, you can’t do that.
JJ: There’s four episodes still to be seen in the new year. Can you just remind us of some of the names of some of the cast you’ve got coming up in those episodes?
RS: We’ve done one…Nicola Walker.
SP: Zoe Wanamaker.
RS: Ken Cranham.
AT: Noel Clarke.
RS: There’s really…both of Graeme’s are great. We’ve got one that’s…We’ve never done (a) two-hander where it’s just me and Steve, so we thought it would be nice to do that, so that’s a nice one and it is, it’s not a joke, it is actually about a double act that are coming together to do something.
JJ: Steve…I know one of the problems with Graeme is…his ability to laugh constantly on set. You managed to contain him this time?
SP: No we didn’t (audience laughter)
AT: That one is less of a problem. The other one he did laugh a lot, didn’t he?
RS: Yes he did…We’ve done one since…
SP: Well if he’s doing this…he’ll make the sound stop (audience laughter)
JJ: A few months before we’re going to see those. Nearer, we’ll see ‘The League of Gentlemen’. But congratulations and a huge, huge thank you to David Kerr, Adam Tandy, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith (audience applause)