In ETC’s latest show, ‘Door 2 Door: 1994’, playing at Create Theatre in Mansfield on 29th and 30th April, we take the audience back to the drawing of the very first National Lottery in November 1994. Set across multiple houses in the same street, the play feels more like a sketch show, with each scene loosely connected but more or less telling a fully complete story.
As such, we wanted each scene to feel very different, and really test us as actors, exploring the realms of comedy, drama, and everything in between. We searched for inspiration from our favourite TV shows, films and theatre productions. In this article, Tom Morley talks us through some of the scenes we can look forward to in ‘Door 2 Door: 1994’ and the inspiration behind them.
Robert and Pat’s Party (The Royle Family)
The first scene of the play is heavily influenced by BBC sitcom ‘The Royle Family’. Totally unlike anything that had been seen before when it first aired in 1998, ‘The Royle Family’ is a sitcom about a family watching TV. Not much happens, but the honest insight into family life meant that the audience easily related to the characters. The way the family gently teased and tormented one another felt genuine, and the characters extended to friends and neighbours who were constantly popping round and letting themselves in for a brief chat about nothing in particular.
In ‘Door 2 Door’, we meet Robert and Pat (Sam Burbage and Paula Heeley) who are planning a surprise party for their son Jamie’s return from university. The most enjoyable moments of this scene come early on, before any of the guests arrive, when Robert and Pat are sat chatting about their son, and fantasising about winning the lottery draw. The scene helps us to ground the play in reality, and make the characters feel relatable, so that when the guests begin to arrive and drama begins to unfold, the audience cares about the characters and their predicament.
Evelyn’s trip to town (Alan Bennet’s Talking Heads)
From the busy party at Number One, we then take the audience next door to Evelyn’s house. The scene is a monologue, with Evelyn (Tom Stevenson) telling us about her trip into town to buy a lottery ticket. For this scene, we were inspired heavily by Alan Bennet’s ‘Talking Heads’ series, a series of monologues involving a character talking directly to the audience and opening up about their life. These monologues usually end with some sort of twist in the tale, starting out discussing a normal event, and gradually turning into something darker or more meaningful. For Evelyn’s story, we do the same thing – but you’ll have to wait for the show to see what the twist is!
Robbers (The Three Stooges)
We wanted to explore some more physical comedy, as a lot of our script seemed to rely on situational comedy or word play. For this scene, we looked at The Three Stooges, a vaudeville comedy act who began life in the 20s and starred in films in the 60s and 70s. The Three Stooges are made up of three stock character types – the bully, the child, and the middleman.
From this standard formula, the characters of Eric (Chris Stevenson, the bully of the scene), Stan (Sam Burbage, the child of the scene) and Kenny (Tom Morley, the passive middleman) were born. The three stooges (or the three idiots as we’ve been referring to them in rehearsals) set out to steal the winnings of the National Lottery. Will they succeed?
Anthony’s Mam (Eastenders)
The majority of ‘Door 2 Door’ feels like a soap opera, set in the same community, with each family having their own storylines but also being slightly connected. However, no scene plays into this more than in Anthony’s house. Anthony (Chris Stevenson) returns home to his mam (Paula Heeley), and in the exchange that follows, secrets are revealed. Secrets that are worthy of an Eastenders closing theme.
Penny and Vince’s extraordinary evening (The Twilight Zone)
Each episode of ‘The Twilight Zone’ begins with its creator Rod Serling introducing the episode and preparing the viewer to witness the unexpected. The anthology series, which began in 1959, explored all sorts of genres, but for ‘Door 2 Door’, we look to the supernatural, with Penny (Ed Turner) and Vince (Sam Burbage) experiencing something horrific and unexplainable as they sit down to watch the National Lottery. Throughout it all, Tom Stevenson takes on the role of Rod Serling, narrating the events and guiding the audience through Penny and Vince’s macabre tale.
Derek and Jennifer (Friends)
From the macabre to the laugh-out-loud funny, we catch up with corner shop owner Derek (Ed Turner) as he returns home after his shift to his pregnant wife Jennifer (Chris Stevenson). Taking elements from our show ‘The Sitcom’ (which we wrote in 2020 but abandoned due to issues with casting), this scene, featuring witty one-liners and sitcom-esque circumstances, was heavily influenced by American sitcoms such as ‘Friends’. We just need the audience to provide the laughter track.
Jim and Annette (Breaking Bad)
One of the show’s darker scenes follows Jim (Tom Morley) and Annette (Paula Heeley) as they find themselves in a dangerous predicament. The scene explores the idea of ‘normal’ people finding themselves in a world that they don’t belong to, very much like science teacher Walter White in ‘Breaking Bad’, who finds himself navigating the world of drug cartels and money laundering. Just when all hope seems to be lost, Jim buys himself a lottery ticket… but can winning the lottery really make everything better?
This is just the tip of the iceberg of what audiences can expect from ‘Door 2 Door: 1994’. The play comprises 12 scenes in total, each with new characters, new locations and new theatrical styles. I wish I could talk about more of the play, but doing that would be spoil too much. You’ll just have to wait until the show to find out what the other five scenes involve…
‘Door 2 Door: 1994’ plays at Create Theatre in Mansfield on April 29th and 30th. The show starts at 7:30pm, and tickets can be purchased at www.seaty.co.uk/1994