WORLD PREMIERE - ASSEMBLY FESTIVAL, EDINBURGH FRINGE - AUGUST 2019
Now booking tour of ireland through APRIL-MAY 2023 please call 07979 757490 or Email for availability
This show can play in any venue from small to large theatres.
PROVISION TOUR OF IRELAND - 2023
(Tour dates to be announced)
THE SCOTSMAN - 15/08/19 - bit.ly/SDReviewScotsman
Imagine a short, super-witty version of Waiting For Godot, in which the two men waiting for a third party who never quite appears are most definitely a Welshman and a Northern Irishman, and the centre of the stage is occupied not by a withered tree but by a coffin and you'll begin to have some idea of the wit and wisdom of Owen O'Neill's new 70-minute play Shaving The Dead, a pitch-perfect study of two middle-aged men on the edge of eternity or maybe, for all they know, already plunged into it.
Connor and Eurig are a pair of lugubrious undertakers who have worked together for more than a decade, and are used to waiting around together, in this case for the arrival of the man who commissioned them to pick up the coffin in question. Their banter therefore involves a wonderful combination of familiarity, revelation and invention, as they indulge in the odd silence, then continue their chat, about everything from Eurig's relationship with his ex-wife to the value of a good mint humbug. The play also boasts a bit of a story, with a pretty powerful revelation about halfway through. However, the main purpose of the plot-twist is to give the conversation a new turn, exploring how the two men might cope with the possibility of real change. And the end result beautifully directed by Guy Masterson is one of the most humane and satisfying theatre shows on the Fringe, as well as what must be one of the funniest, with a powerful belly-laugh in almost every other line. Alan McKee and Simon Nehan are magnificent as Connor and Eurig, capturing the earthy yet slightly surreal mood of O'Neill's writing to perfection; and when the play soars to an unexpected musical conclusion, the audience may well find themselves also shedding the odd tear over the sheer human absurdity and grace of it all. (Joyce McMillan - The Scotsman 15/08/19)
EDINBURGHGUIDE - 15/08/19 - bit.ly/SDReviewEdGuide
Shaving the Dead is an outstanding piece of comedy writing and a masterclass in comic timing.
Centre-stage throughout the proceedings is an over-sized coffin, flanked by two undertakers. On one side sits Eurig, a lugubrious Celt. On the other is Connor, a gruff Ulsterman. They are waiting for someone to arrive for the burial, but it is all a bit dodgy; they have been paid an extra £5,000 to pick up the coffin from an empty and deserted house.
The plot itself is of no great significance. But while they wait, they have the time to reflect on the past and to ponder on the present. They remind each other of all the bizarre funerals they have had to organise in the past. They casually reminisce about violent deaths. There are revelations about troubled family histories and present-day marital difficulties, which are shocking and hilarious in equal measure. Their profession deprived them long ago of the ability to smile, so every line gets a dry, deadpan delivery and an equally impassive reaction from the other person. The contrasting accents make a huge contribution to the humour. When silence briefly falls, it is just a springboard for the next flight of idiotic musings and inane speculations, which are normally about sex.
Shaving the Dead is a glorious mash-up of Waiting for Godot and Men Behaving Badly. And Joe Orton would have loved it. (Jon Cross - EdinburghGuide 15/08/19)
ONE4REVIEW - 17/08/19 - bit.ly/SDReviewOne4Review
LAUGH OUT LOUD DRAMA AT ITS VERY BEST With a champagne combination of the writing of Owen O'Neill and the direction of Guy Masterson, Shaving the Dead already looked incredibly promising. If you add in the sublime casting of Simon Nehan as Eurig and Alan McKee as Connor, you are in for an hour of entertaining drama.
A play about undertaking may not be everyone's idea of a fun topic, but the gallows humour and deadpan delivery of Welsh Eurig and Northern Irish Connor had the audience in stitches. Sitting either side of a coffin, Connor mourns the state of his marriage, his unhappy relationship with his recently departed mother and his hatred of his job. Eurig, on the other hand, mourns his relationship with his father, his lack of a love life and the lack of a suitable alternative to humbugs! All the while they are waiting for someone to pick up the coffin they are guarding and their suspicions of foul play mount as the time passes on. Then temptation gets the better of them….
This is laugh out loud drama at its very best. Simon Nehan and Alan McKee are fantastic in their roles I have no idea how they keep a straight face every day. The dialogue is so sharp, and the Northern Irish and Welsh accents add a perfectly nuanced dourness to the proceedings. The well-deserved applause rang out at the end of the play and will do so for the rest of the fringe. (Rona - one4review 17/08/19)
THE SCOTTISH PLAY - 08/08/19 - bit.ly/SDReviewScottishPlay
An Irish undertaker and a Welsh undertaker agree to collect the body of Charles Sterling from an abandoned building. The money's good, but the coffin's heavy. Back at the parlour, they await the arrival of the bereaved client, so that the coffin can be buried.
If this sounds, vaguely, like the set up to a joke, then Shaving the Dead, is a minor masterpiece of a theatrical punch-line.
Now, given the show's pedigree, written by multi-award winner Owen O'Neill, and directed by Fringe hit-maker, Guy Masterson, quality might be the expectation. Nevertheless, creating excellence consistently throughout such extensive careers, is far, far from a mean achievement.
The writing, slick as it is, never sands the rough edges from our protagonists' personas. The dialogue weaves between the banal, the ludicrous, and points sexual, familial, inspirational and hilarious in between. Despite, or, perhaps, because the two men are such flawed, imperfect human beings, it's impossible, in my mind, not to care for their ultimate fates. The result is a delightfully human comedy, painted with shades of tragedy and mystery.
The two actors, Simon Nehan (Eurig) and Alan McKee (Connor) occupy the skins of their misanthropes-in- black with ease, their characters rendered in many splendid hues. Without giving anything away, both have cause to exhibit delightful showmanship, beyond expectations.
The central story, well the coffin in the room, generates mounting anxiety to drive some hilariously escalating conversation, but, in a master stroke, is never fully explored (or exploded?) until the characters have been fully fleshed out. The subsequent drama is far weightier for having invited personal investment in the two curiously fascinating 'heroes' first.
There's really nothing left to say but that I urge you, with my first five-star review this year, to seriously consider picking up a ticket to this terrific show, and at your soonest convenience. (Harriett Wilson - Scottish Field Magazine 08/08/19)
BRITISH THEATRE GUIDE - 16/08/19 - bit.ly/SDReviewBTG
Undertakers Eurig and Connor are waiting to bury a mysterious Charles Sterling. They await the arrival of what turns out to be Connor's half-brother. (Half of Ireland is probably cousins.)
This waiting is filled with the exchanges common and easy between these two, friends of 10 years. Who could imagine these two would have anything new to discover about each other. Some of the exchanges are profound as when they talk about fathers. Some border on fall-off-the-chair as when Conner admits his wife is having an affair with a man and a woman; but it's what keeps their life together spontaneous.
And so these two wait. And talk. And wonder. And more. (No spoiler alerts here.)
Seasoned playwright Owen O'Neill has a secure handle on his characters and their relationship. These two, just shy of being a little creepy, play not quite to the extremes of shock or conflict or disbelief, but easily enough that it all seems new(s). O'Neill leads us slowly and gently, meandering, to the pair's surprising discovery.
Simon Nehan is the Welsh Eurig and Alan McKee is the Irish Connor. Smartly suited and sitting next to a coffin… waiting. They handle the macabre humour with knack. Director Guy Masterson has, with the lightest touch, allowed the stillness in these actors. When broken, it catches your breath.
Delightful storytelling by these four: playwright (O'Neill), director (Masterson), and two actors (Nehan and McKee), who tenderly coax the event along. (Catherine Lamm - British Theatre Guide - 16/08/19)
BROADWAY BABY 20/08/19 - bit.ly/SDReviewBroadwayB
Shaving the Dead starts with two undertakers waiting at a coffin. One (the welshman) very bluntly tells the other (the irishman) how he brained his own father with a rock. As they continue to wait, they share more twisted but intriguing stories and habits with each other. It's like Godot: they're forever waiting for the party to arrive. Shaving the Dead is wry, boils along slowly but is also strangely compulsive.
A well thought out depiction of a world made absurd... While I definitely enjoyed the comedy (which was dark and well done) what makes it a success is the strange, grotesque but sweet pair onstage. Alan McKee as Connor and Simon Nehan as Eurig are both very watchable, and the actors capture every detail of their relationship onstage. The script keeps us going with small revelations that piece together these two men and all of the subtleties in between them. Mckee and Nehan were able to capture the humorous, absurd, and slightly surreal atmosphere brilliantly.
This is helped by the production itself. The set is minimalist and striking with a bright red curtain and a coffin between them, wisely focussing the attention on the two leads. I did feel some moments of the play (usually the ones set to music) came across as not just absurd but bizarre, overdone and a little bit off beat. Personally I enjoyed this as it added to the strange charm Shaving the Dead has, but it's understandable that it isn't for everyone.
I enjoyed the kind of comfort this pair had in each other. I enjoyed the constant suspense. The script was able to be funny but still take these characters seriously. Shaving the Dead is a well thought out depiction of a world made absurd by too close a proximity to death. (George Lea - Broadway Baby 21/08/19)
PUNTERS REVIEWS Ed19
Steven Nicol - 21/08/19: Wow, what a play. Dark, funny, superbly acted. The highlight of my Fringe. Guy Masterson continues to give amazing shows. Not for the faint hearted or easily offended (very mild swearing and content) but fits in with darkness of funerals.
Nick Hunn - 16/08/19: If you're commissioning a new TV series, sign this one up, as I want to see more. It's a masterclass in black comedy and timing.
Kierna Corr - 15/08/19: Absolutely brilliant show - the two actors were amazing in their deadpan delivery. I found myself gasping and laughing in equal measure. Catch this one if you can.
Simon Southwell - 14/08/19: A hidden gem of a show. Superb writing and two great performances. Comic, surreal and unexpected. A must see.
ALAN MCKEE - Actor
Alan is from Coleraine and lives in Belfast with his wife and four children. He made his professional debut at the Lyric Theatre Belfast in 1991 and has appeared in many productions there including; The Nativity - What the Donkey Saw, Bah Humbug, Paradise, Civilisation Game, The Merchant of Venice, The Crucible, Saint Joan, A Life, Sinners. Other theatre includes; St. Mungo's Luganulk, The Umpire Strikes Back (Grimes & McKee) The History of the Troubles (Accordin' to my Da) (Mac Productions), The History of the Peace (Accordin' to my Ma) (GBL), Caught Red Handed, Language Roulette, Convictions, The Duke of Hope, Lally the Scut (all for Tinderbox Theatre Company), Over the Bridge (Green Shoot), Metamorphosis (Big Telly), Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme (Dundee Rep). Directorial credits include; Handbag Positive, I'll Tell My Ma, Is That Too Hot? all for Joseph Rea Productions. Film and TV work includes; The Craic, The Tractor Show, Game of Thrones, The Secret, Jack Taylor, Divorcing Jack, Motormouth, Eureka Street. Alan is the Northern Ireland councillor on the Equity council. He has travelled to Kosovo and South Africa as an associate artist with The Global Arts Corps; an international company of theatre practitioners committed to giving a voice to people from conflict/post conflict societies.
SIMON NEHAN - Actor (Original Production - Edinburgh 2019)
Simon is from Llanelli and trained at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. He is an Associate Artist of Theatr Clwyd where his credits include Under Milk Wood, Bruised, Macbeth, Noises Off and Memory. Recent theatre credits include:- The Seagull and Kebab Shags (Bristol Old Vic), We're Still Here (National Theatre of Wales), Cardboard Dadand Deluge (Sherman Theatre) and Blasted! (The Other Room). TV credits include:- Merlin (BBC), Atlantis (BBC), The Crown (Netflix) , Casualty (BBC), Holby City (BBC), The Windsors (Channel4), Cuffs (BBC), Talking to the Dead (SKY Living) and Birdsong (Working Title/BBC). Film credits include:Me and Orson Welles (CinemaNX), Made in Dagenham (Working Title), Svengali and The Cleansing (Tornado Studios).
OWEN O'NEILL - Author
Owen is also an, actor of stage and screen and a Perrier Award nominated stand-up comedian. He has written eight one-man plays, winning two Scotsman Fringe Firsts. In 1997, he won the Edinburgh Festival Critics Award for Best Comedy and the LWT Award for Best Play for Off My Face. With Guy Masterson: 12 Angry Men (2003) One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (2004); The Odd Couple (2005); Absolution (2016). In 2009 he co-adapted The Shawshank Redemption for the stage which ran at the Gaiety in Dublin and then the Wyndhams Theatre in London. In September 2010 Owen won a Best Actor award for his off Broadway performance of Absolution at 59E59 Theatre (directed by Rachel O'Riordan) for the First Irish Festival of New York. He has appeared in five feature films including Michael Collins directed by Neil Jordan and The General, directed by John Boorman. As a screenwriter, his debut feature film Arise And Go Now, a dark comedy about priests, pigeons and the IRA was directed by Danny Boyle and screened as part of the BBC Film on 2 series. He wrote and starred in Shooting To Stardom - a short film directed by Kieron J Walsh which won Best Short at the Cork Film Festival in 1999. He wrote and directed The Basket Case - a short film adapted from his short story of the same name which was published in 2004 by Random House. It won Best Short Film at the 2008 Boston Film Festival and Best Film at the Fantasia Film Festival in Brazil. TV writing includes the sitcom The Fitz, which aired on BBC2 in 1999. His latest book of poetry, Licking The Matchbox was published in 2015. 2019 marked his 20th Edinburgh Fringe over 30 years.
|GUY MASTERSON - Director & Performer
(click for additional biographical material)
After obtaining a Joint Honours degree in Biochemistry and Chemistry from Cardiff University in 1982, Guy studied drama at UCLA's School of Drama and started as an actor in 1985 in Hollywood. He returned to the UK in 1989 to study further at LAMDA.
Following a conventional start in plays, film and television, Guy began solo performing in 1991 with The Boy's Own Story
and thence Under Milk Wood
in 1994 and Animal Farm
in 1995. He first produced/directed in 1993 with Playing Burton
and participated at the Edinburgh Festival for the first time in 1994. The following 25 seasons saw his association with many of Edinburgh's most celebrated hits, and his company has become the Fringe's most awarded independent theatre producer - garnering 8 Scotsman Fringe Firsts, 3 Herald Angels, 25 Stage Award nominations (including 4 wins) together with numerous lesser awards. Guy was the force behind Edinburgh's 3 biggest grossing dramatic hits 12 Angry Men
, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
(2004) and The Odd Couple
(2005). His 2009 production of Morecambe
transferred to London's West End and won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Entertainment
- plus another nomination for the actor playing Eric). At Edinburgh 2014, his epic 30 actor production of Animal Farm
with Tumanishvili Film Actors Theatre of Tbilisi, Georgia, won the Stage Award for Best Ensemble.
As a performer, he was nominated for The Stage Award for Best Actor for A Soldier's Song
(1998). He won The Stage Best Actor
in 2001 for Fern Hill & Other Dylan Thomas
. He was nominated for Best Solo Performance for Under Milk Wood
in 2003 and again for Shylock
in 2011. In 2003, he also received Edinburgh's most prestigious accolade, The Jack Tinker Spirit of the Fringe Award
. At Edinburgh 2016 he created his first overtly stand-up comic piece, Barking Mad!
which then toured to Perth and Adelaide. At Edinburgh 2017, he directed Hollywood star, Michael Brandon in his debut stand-up piece Off Ramps
. At Edinburgh 2018, along with performing A Christmas Carol
, he co-wrote, produced and directedThe Marilyn Conspiracy
. At Edinburgh 2019, he directed Owen O'Neill's brilliant black comedy, Shaving The Dead
along with the smash hit of the Fringe The Shark Is Broken
- the back story of the making of Jaws
, starring Ian Shaw, Rober Shaw's son. This was due to transfer to London's West End in May 2020, however, due to Covid-19, it finally opened in October 2022 to great acclaim and another Olivier Award nomination!
His theatrical commitments have largely kept him out of mainstream film and television, however, he has made the obligatory appearance on Casualty
(Christmas Special 2004) and has been the Franziskaner Monk - the main character of the premium German beer - since 2007. He also writes plays, screenplays and poetry.
His passion is to bring great ideas to life and new talent to the stage.
He is married to Brigitta and father to Indigo and Tallulah...
This play started life four years ago. I had an idea about two men waking up in a locked morgue trying to figure out if they were dead or not. I struggled to find an ending that I was happy with and eventually decided to scrap the whole thing. Two years later I hit on the idea of two bored, fairly unhinged undertakers, Eurig and Connor, who are waiting patiently to bury the body of the mysterious Charles Sterling.
Eurig is Welsh and Connor is from Northern Ireland. I picked these regions for the accents and also for the sensibilities and cultural reference points of these two places which I know and love.
Shaving the Dead is primarily a black comedy about two dysfunctional men both of whom have deep rooted emotional issues concerning their fathers. It's also a play about Time and how we can waste our lives dreaming about a better life
Connor and Eurig spend a lot of their time waiting. I'ts in these quiet moments that they air their souls with each other. No subject is out of bounds the topics are sometimes ridiculous and, whilst they can be crude and shocking, they can also be poignant and heartfelt. These conversations help to keep them on the right side of sane. I wanted to play with the idea that men do'nt talk about their feelings. Eurig and Connor certainly do.
Then, when a weird and serious situation arises pitching them against each other, not only does it threaten their friendship, it forces them to confront the very nature of who and what they are.
The two actors - Alan McKee (Connor) and Simon Nehan (Eurig) - have brought these characters to life in a way that has gone beyond anything that I could have hoped for. We hope you will enjoy their dark tales. Owen O'Neill
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||To View or Download Specifications click here for Lighting states
(NB: This is a PDF file. You will require ACROBAT READER to read this document)
- Programmable lighting facilities are preferable although the lighting can work manually with a minimal rig.
- Minimum playing area of 4.5 x 4.5m
- The set consists of an area rug, two chairs, a coffin and two coffin stands.
- It can play auditoria ranging from the intimate (90 seats) to the mid-scale (800 seats).
- Good sound amplification is important.
- Sound is provided on Apple Mac Laptop running Qlab (11 Cues)
- Theatre (in house) technician to operate sound and lights.
- Lighting Cues: 12
- Lighting diagram supplied by download.
- Post programing rehearsal time with technician - 30 mins
- Cue script provided on day or can be provided in advance upon request.