A Walk in the Woods with…
After cycling up what felt like the longest and steepest hill of my adult life, I met Swedish actor and Edinburgh Fringe star Linus Karp in Highgate for a stroll and chat in Queen’s Wood. Linus (pronounced “LEE-NUS”, which I kept forgetting) is the star of Rob Hayes’ one-man tragi-comedy “Awkward Conversations with Animals I’ve F*cked”, returning to London for a run at the King’s Head Theatre this month.
Considering this is the second time Karp has brought this show to London, and after surviving a long and successful Edinburgh run, I was curious why he keeps returning to this play. “I just love the script, that’s the main thing,” he told me. “Even after the run in Edinburgh I hadn’t fallen out of love with it.” For those yet to see the show, Karp described it as “dark and sad and weird – all those things that I love.” Intrigued? I was too.
And that’s the thing with great shows and great scripts: audiences will keep coming back. Although the new venue brings with it different, and indeed higher, expectations, Karp is returning to a role he really understands and is comfortable in – and for one person shows, this commitment to character is essential. And just like any story with twists and comedic suspense, seeing ‘Awkward Conversations…’ again means audiences’ can look out for the hints littered throughout the script. “You can notice things from the beginning of the scene, notice which animal is being talking about, and not wait for the line to reveal it.” Kind of like what ‘The Sixth Sense’ would be if Bruce Willis was an animal.
I wondered, considering the King’s Head Theatre’s standing as a queer venue (in my eyes at least), whether the show spoke to a queer audience. Karp and his show have received “quite a lot of coverage from gay media – which might have a lot to do with me being gay myself. But I think a queer audience is more open minded.” Hayes’ script invites audience to think and talk about sex in new ways: “without saying sex with animals is right, you have to be quite open minded to see a show like this.” And playing at the King’s Head Theatre means a lot to him. “I was always impressed when someone had done a show there.” Joe Dipietro’s ‘Fucking Men’ was one of first shows he saw there, and it made a big impression. “It was dark and funny and about sex, so a little like ‘Awkward Conversations…’” he went on, “But a very different type of sex.”
Karp moved to Highgate in January, and I asked him why he wanted us to meet in this quiet, secluded, and leafy wood in north London. “I grew up in Sweden, basically in a forest, so I love forests and walking in them,” he said, noticing at an inconvenient moment that he’d stepped in dog poo. “It almost feels like home.” This brought us onto something I know I was keen to press Linus about: differences between Sweden and Britain. Sweden was number seven on the Forbes’ recent list of the top ten happiest countries in the world, and that sounded fairly accurate to Karp. “You get school meals, education is good, university is free, standard of living is higher, rent is cheaper, wages are higher… (the list went on). Coming to the UK was quite surprising.” Linus moved in 2013 and noticed some differences straight away. “London is especially bad in term of renting… but [in Sweden] single glazing isn’t a thing, you wouldn’t have carpet indoors, mould just isn’t something that’s a problem.” It’s little things that make a big difference and speaking as someone who’s also spent time living in continental Europe, London housing has a long way to go.
But putting Swedish cuisine and Billy the Bookcase aside, Linus came across as eloquent and charming – making him perfect casting for this show. Our conversation was the opposite of awkward, and I saw in Linus the drive and commitment actors need to survive the cruel world of London fringe theatre. I’m almost sure this won’t be the last we see of this show in London, or of Linus Karp.
Linus Karp was talking to Joseph Prestwich
Awkward Conversations With Animals I’ve F*cked is at the King’s Head Theatre April 12th to 27th