City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

An Actor's Eye on Direction - Touring The Last Laugh


By Lindsay Corr - Posted on 28 March 2016

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Shauna MacDonald is an experienced actor across a range of productions, from Hollywood film (The Descent, The Mutant Chronicles) to major television drama (Taggart, State of Play, Spooks, Sea of Souls), as well as plenty of stage work, including the National Theatre of Scotland.

We asked Shauna about directing The Last Laugh which stops off in Edinburgh at the Scottish Storytelling Centre this Thursday evening, followed by a Q&A with the cast and creatives. The Last Laugh is a fantastically witty script that questions whether being funny is more important to a comedian than being happy, exploring feminism and the differences between men and women, which Shauna can relate to through her various experiences in performance:

'Some would say that being a working stage and screen actress since the age of 16 has left me somewhat bitter, twisted and pathetically soaked with self-doubt. I might be inclined to agree with “them” if only I could be given the chance to jump off this acting wagon for one glorious second to take a good hard look at myself.

'I could sit crossed legged on the long prairie grass and stare and my botox free, freckled, red, creased face and let my wrinkles tell me (loudly) the story of my career. They could remind me of what an emotional and psychological rollercoaster this journey has been and point out the toll this crazy world of show business has taken on my body and mind. However, I get bored very quickly, especially when I have to listen to a woman telling me how difficult it is in this industry, so I wouldn’t stay too long on the prairie grass, I’d probably scramble back on pretty quick.

'It is hard being an actress, very hard. Interesting female characters aren’t easy to come by and if your profile has plateaued due to a child rearing absence then forget even being seen for it. And don’t mention your kids, because nobody cares.

'So I don’t get off the wagon, ever, I stay on holding the reins with Bouddica strength, whilst flicking rejection off my back like Sensei Uma and laughing through the Sophie’s Choice pain of paying my mortgage or buying a train ticket to a casting like an Oscar winning Meryl. So, when the opportunity of getting off that blasted wagon to direct The Last Laugh appeared I jumped at the chance!

'I knew I would have the luxurious position of sitting back and watching. The play tells the story of Eddie Butler (a dysfunctional misogynist comic) and his quest from mediocre funny man to comic notoriety. I came in to the rehearsal process fairly late on. The brilliant cast (Larah Bross and actor/writer Keir McAllister) were off book and already inhabiting their character’s worlds. All that was left for me to do was nip and tuck their performances, make their words specific and not general, raise the stakes and infuse them with a bucket full of confidence.

'The script is one of the funniest I have had the pleasure of reading. It’s one of those gifts of a play that screams at an actor like David Mamet trying to stop a kid from going to drama college. The words just need to be SAID. Of course, said with intent and always with something to be gained or lost by the end of the scene, but really just SAID because that’s how good the writing is. My role as director was simply to support, encourage and challenge Larah and Keir. They both stood on that stage at The Assembly Rooms and shone. I beamed like a proud mother and then left... to get back on my wagon.' Shauna MacDonald – actress and director

The Last Laugh is at the Scottish Storytelling Centre on the Thu 31 Mar at 8pm. Book on 0131 556 9579 or online at www.scottishstorytellingcentre.co.uk

Join Shauna and the rest of the cast and crew after the performance for a Q&A about developing theatre for festivals.