Interview with actor, podcaster, and martial artist Darrel Bailey

"I don’t come from much- a struggling family growing up, but they were all very serious about me gaining an education and educating myself about the world, its history and my place in it."

Interview with actor, podcaster, and martial artist Darrel Bailey

Could you first introduce yourself to the reader? 

My name is Darrel Bailey, born and raised in Birmingham. Martial Artist and Podcaster on top of acting. Big fantasy nerd. After having worked for 11 years across stage and screen, I’m attending the Fringe for the first time! Excited and slightly nervous.

How would you describe your show? 

A light-hearted, comedic re-telling of Die Hard with an alarmingly subtle amount of poetry that doesn’t take itself too seriously... 

What is your favourite part of your show? 

Hans Gruber’s entrance. I mostly do an impression of Alan Rickman, head tilted back. The fans know what time it is as soon as I start speaking. It’s a lot of fun.

If your show had a theme song, what would it be and why? 

“Try a Little Tenderness”- Otis Reading. There’s a kind of B-plot that runs concurrently through the Die Hard story that’s the actual heart of the show and motivator for why the retelling is happening. This song quite literally speaks to the conflict of that.

What is one thing you hope audiences will take away from your show? 

On the surface, that they’ll have fun with lots of laughs at the comedic and silly side of the show. On the other hand, what I really hope they’ll take away is that there are times where you’ve really got to “shoot your shot” to get the things that you really want in life.

If you could add a surprise celebrity cameo to your show, who would it be and why? 

Thought it would be hilarious if Alan Rickman (rest his soul) were to show up and either correct the parts of the re-telling that were “inaccurate” or to show hilarious dismay at when we show how John McClane figured his way through all his traps “That’s how he did it?? Oh no!” That would be really wild, haha.

Why do you want to perform at Edinburgh Festival Fringe? 

An actor colleague of mine said recently that “an actor’s job is to continue to discover” and I reckon the Edinburgh Fringe is my opportunity to discover many things! My relationship with my art and career, and also other people’s journeys that led them there. Every interaction one can have with a person and event can serve to expand your world just that little bit more.

What differentiates it from other festivals? 

The size...? I understand it has shrunk a little lately due to Covid and whatnot, but there are so many shows that come here and for so long. Also the stakes are high for a lot of people. I hear of people literally betting their careers on something that does well here, so it speaks to how much faith they attach to opportunities panning out to be successful ventures.

What is one thing you would change about the Edinburgh Festival Fringe? 

Since I’ve never been, I’m not sure how this would come across, but maybe if I had someextraordinary power, put some measures in place in regard to accommodation. The shows can be cheap to see, but people are paying out the nose to stay in decent places- it's crazy! 

If the Fringe is to be accessible to all who want to come, then sleeping safe and sound shouldn't come at such an extortionate premium.

How has your background, upbringing and education had an impact on your artistic career? 

The short answer is that it’s made me incredibly determined to succeed. I don’t come from much- a struggling family growing up, but they were all very serious about me gaining an education and educating myself about the world, its history and my place in it. Thanks to that, it helped put in perspective my being a black person moving through a commonly perceived “white” profession that isn’t designed to allow me to thrive. When the odds are stacked against you like that, some of us can’t deny there’s a trait that inspires us to defy that fate.

What is your favourite thing about performing for a live audience? 

The unpredictability of it all. What will audiences laugh at today? How will I recover from forgetting a line or gag? How do I turn that technical glitch into a fun spectacle people will remember? Will I corpse when the audience show they’re having a good time? All of these keep me on my toes and remind me that the show lives and breathes through its audience.

What is the strangest thing that has ever happened to you while performing? 

Man, this list is long. Back in 2016, I did a promenade performance of Much Ado About Nothingat St Paul’s Church. Due to the news that summer, there was a lot of news copters about so the open air was a daily challenge. However, one of them decided to hover directly above the church near the beginning of the show for what felt like 10 minutes! The audience and cast thought it hilarious at first, but we were paying for trying to over-compensate with our voices later!

What's the most challenging or unconventional venue you've ever performed in, and how did it impact the overall experience? 

Most unconventional venue I’ve performed in was a Bike shop café in Hoxton for a “Shakespeare in Shoreditch” project. Short site-specific plays inspired by the bard around Shoreditch. The café was small and my major scene was a solo speech confessing my love to my scene partner on the street outside. Young people passing by thought it was real and that I had mad game, haha.

Is there a piece of feedback you've received from an audience member or critic after a performance that’s stuck with you? 

Nicky Diss, a director I love dearly and work with frequently said something to the effect of “There’s something vampiric about you in front of an audience”. I found it hilarious later that she said that, because it was working with her that I learned or experienced rather, that the audience, participatory or not are as much as part of the show’s experience as the actors on stage. They give you licence to acknowledge their engagement, by smiling, nodding and laughing along. I’ve somehow found a way to use it to accentuate everyone’s experience of the show. As long as I can see they’re with me, I will continue to do that.

What is your favourite thing to do in Edinburgh when you're not performing? How do you relax and look after your mental health? 

Ha, since this is my first fringe, we’re about to find out. I think I’ll try to organise trips outside the city, do some sightseeing perhaps. Just like the Rat Race in London, we all need to detach ourselves sometime to catch our breath.

Is there a show you’re excited to see when you’re up there? 

Bed- The Musical, Let The Bodies Pile, and Whiskey Wars. All shows done by good friends of mine that are coincidentally near where I’ll be performing. Can’t wait to see them do their stuff.

What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone thinking about taking a show up to Edinburgh? If you’ve never been before, what would you say has been (potentially) the most useful? 

“Remember to have fun” is what I’ve been told as advice. I expect it to be overwhelming at first, but the hard part has been in preparing the show to go on. When the time to perform comes, I’ll be in my element and can relax knowing there’s so many other things to see.

When and where can people see your show? 

Gilded Balloon at the Museum, August 3rd-27th 5:45pm everyday apart from Wednesdays.

And where can people find you online? 

Details of the show and subsequent tours can be found at www.ykylive.com. You can find me on Twitter @darrel_bailey and Insta: @darrel.bailey

Header Image Credit: Steve Ullathorne

Author

Tom Inniss

Tom Inniss Voice Team

Tom is the Editor of Voice. He is a politics graduate and holds a masters in journalism, with particular interest in youth political engagement and technology. He is also a mentor to our Voice Contributors, and champions our festivals programme, including the reporter team at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

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