Fake book covers

Zachariah Chamberlaine tells us a little bit about the props for Happy Hour – four short comedies.

Brief Encounter book website“This production consists of four short plays that were written to be staged with minimal requirements – and even in non-theatre spaces. The sets are therefore just tables and chairs, and the props are likewise simple, everyday items and small in number.

Yet there was one prop that left room for creativity. In Brief Encounter, a man is sitting on a train reading a book when he sees the author of that book sitting across from him. As both the author’s name and the title of the book are given, I thought it would add that little extra touch if we covered another book with a custom-made dust jacket.

I googled ‘relationship self-help books’ to see what the covers looked like, and to my delight discovered that, yes, they are indeed generally the kind of bog-standard thing you can whack together using in-built elements from Pages 😅

Not so much to my delight, the internet’s advertising algorithms are now offering me couples therapy and a barrage of naval-contemplation literature.... However, I’m happy enough with the result to take that hit for the team.”

Photo: Anni Taponen


Zachariah Chamberlaine is the author of Going Viral, one of the short plays in Happy Hour – four short comedies. He tells us a little bit about the theme of the play:

Buy buy Buy crop“Somewhat ironically, I’m writing this post to advertise my play on the topic of how I hate advertising. Maybe I should clarify that statement a little – how I hate annoyingly aggressive advertising. I don’t mind being made subtly aware of things that may interest me in a way that I can easily choose to ignore. But I detest telemarketing, pop-ups, and the seemingly endless commercials that gatekeep content.

I remember when an online news site announced that they would stop forcing people to watch commercials before being allowed to access news about the Ukraine war, because it had been deemed ‘somewhat insensitive’. Too bloody right! But to be honest, I think forcing people to watch adverts before they can access all kinds of other information is pretty deplorable, too. For me, the question we should be asking ourselves is, when does advertising go from being ‘a useful piece of info for the ordinary person’ to ‘an irritating imposition on our daily lives’? And also, what should be done to halt its insidious march into our devices and minds?

When I was writing ‘Going Viral’, I asked myself the question ‘what next?’ with regard to overly in-your-face advertising. I could envisage various hideous scenarios, but as this was planned to be only a twenty-minute play, I picked one and ran with it. Which one, you may ask. Well, in traditional ‘loot box’ style, you’ll have to come to the show to find out 😉”

Feelings on fame

Brief Encounter Miriam websiteJessica Calonius plays Miriam in Brief Encounter, one of the short plays in Happy Hour – four short comedies. Miriam is a celebrity author, but Jessica's own feelings about fame are a bit different:

"In my free time I like to feel inconspicuous. Yet Helsinki is SO small that anyone and everyone becomes famous with time. At least in your own neighbourhood. Once on the local train, a total stranger informed me I look exactly like my brother.

Miriam is renowned for her pop-psych literary works, and on the train journey in Brief Encounter she's accosted by an avid admirer. The consequences? Come see!!

By luck and coincidence I became a performer in my fifties - a drama teacher saw the performer on the stage frightened me. I did three years of drama studies at Snellman Korkeakoulu and three years of poetry performance studies with maestro Martti Mäkelä. I've mainly done half-hour poetry solos, but have also acted in numerous Finnish and English plays and sung in various musical ensembles. Participating in the Finn-Brit Players' Poetry & Jazz show is my long-time favourite, and last October was great doing Orange Alert!"

Photo: Anni Taponen

Freedom for interpretation

Zachariah Chamberlaine is the author of Please Do Take Offence, one of the short plays in Happy Hour – four short comedies. He tells us a little bit about his approach to playwriting:

Caller website“When I write plays – and short plays or sketches in particular – I usually place very few limitations on casting. For example, the dramatis personae will usually read something like ‘CALLER – any age, any gender’. I also tend to include very few specific stage directions or character notes in the script, other than things that are vital to the plot. This is because I prefer to develop the details in rehearsal with the actors on the basis of the lines themselves. As in, what kind of characters are naturally born and raised from the lines as we start reading through the scenes.

I do have some kind of basic vision of the piece and characters when we start, but I’m also interested to see the direction in which an actor will take a character within the framework of my vision. And also inspired by the slightly different versions of the play that this will give rise to. This will, of course, happen with any play to an extent, but fewer limitations will leave room for more varied interpretations.

In Please Do Take Offence, I play the customer service rep, which is essentially the bland straight man role that is largely a foil to the Caller, who is the real ‘character’ of the play. Which means that I have a fairly easy time of it in terms of character, as anyone who has worked with customer complaints knows that your job is primarily to listen: to remain calm and polite, and largely put your own personality on hold for the duration of the call.

But when it came to the Caller, I let Solomon Marttila go to town, and gave him pretty much free rein to decide what this weirdo was going to look and sound like. Come and see where our journey took us….”

Photo: Anni Taponen

Meeting your heroes

Brief Encounter bloke websiteBranislav Đaković plays the Man from Brief Encounter, one of the short plays in Happy Hour – four short comedies. He tells us a little bit about how he and his character differ:

"Did you ever want to meet your favourite artist? The MAN from the play was thrilled when he met his favourite writer, but came to realise that it was not the best idea that he’d had in his life. I am completely juxtaposed with him, and although I’ve met some of my favourite musicians, writers and other kind of artists, I never had the courage (or curiosity) to bother them or to openly admire and praise them, because I was maybe afraid that I would be disappointed... (Although my children love it when they meet their favourite famous persons, and they take photos with them and show their excitement)... Or maybe I’m just jealous because I’m not famous?

I finished drama academy in Belgrade for theater and radio directing, directed several radio and theater plays and performances in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and also played in several... and once, when some unknown child approached me on the street and said that I was great in the children’s play, I felt like I‘d won the prestigious actors award...

I was raised on good English humor (Ealing comedies, Monty Python, Only Fools and Horses, Blackadder)… and for me the opportunity to act in English in a good English play is more than a reward. But if you like it and meet me on the street, feel free to bother me, I hope I will not disappoint you."

Photo: Anni Taponen

From film to theatre

Abel Parada plays Ralph in Play the Game, one of the short comedies in Happy Hour – four short comedies. He tells us a little bit about his experience of transitioning from film to theatre:

Abel.1"Despite the merciless pace of time, I think of myself as a young actor. A few years ago, I discovered the beauty of filmmaking and learned how to act through independent short films. Although I’ve got experience in front of the camera, Play the Game constitutes my theater debut. And I cannot wait!

'Meaningful things are created through struggle'

I believe proper timing plays a crucial role in every single aspect of our lives. My engagement with acting came at a time when nothing else made sense: the outbreak of the pandemic.

Acting was more than just a way of coping. It was sustenance! A journey of self-rediscovery where I allowed myself to be creative, to be whoever I wanted to be, to rediscover and express myself without caring about the prying eye of shame or fault. In no time, performing became more than just a hobby.

Soon after I started in the theater, I realized that performing in front of the camera differs greatly from being on the stage. In theater, building character happens progressively and chronologically, as opposed to film, where scenes are shot and performed in a non-chronological basis. Not to mention the importance of vocalization!

As a non-native English speaker, proper enunciation is a constant battle, and one better win that battle in the theater on the first try!

My performances on camera include the crime/drama short Impulse Response and the horror short Ouija Board."

Introducing ... Going Viral

Introducing the fourth of the plays in Happy Hour: Going Viral written and directed by Zachariah Chamberlaine.

What controls us? What are we slaves to? One of the first things that springs to mind is advertising. And when you live in a society that constantly stimulates fear and desire in order to make you a better consumer, you’re gonna get a bit messed up.

Going Viral websiteThe Powers That Be have always toyed with our fears and desires to keep people in their place, whether through religion, propaganda or commercial advertising. As increasing volumes of data are being collected to provide us with ‘more relevant adverts’, we seem to be fast approaching a strange and frightening world in which all the adverts are true and all the news is fake....

Sometimes it feels as if there’s no escape from advertising. But if you think things are bad now, you’d better watch out for the next megatrend. Because in "Going Viral", the future of advertising is here and now there really is no escape. At least not for Marshall (Zach Chamberlaine), whose (albeit accidental) commitment to the latest form of advertising is making it very difficult for him to get through a job intervew with Mr Fitzroy (Salomon Marttila), a top executive at a major marketing agency.

But does Marshall end up getting the job or not? You'll just have to come to the show to find out!

Read more about Happy Hour – four short comedies

Photo: Anni Taponen