The Version Interview... Julia Davis on her new Sky Atlantic comedy, Camping.
Pack your tent, grab your sleeping bag and brace yourself for a holiday to remember as Julia Davis’ new six-part comedy Camping (formerly known as Robin's Test) pitches up on Sky Atlantic. Premiering on Tuesday 5th April at 10pm the entire 6 part series will also be available to download on Sky Box Sets from transmission.
Julia Davis tells us more...
So what’s Camping all about?
It’s about a group of couples going away for someone’s 50th birthday, and one guy unexpectedly arrives with his new girlfriend, which sort of messes up the whole holiday and it kind of descends into a bit of a nightmare by the end.
And what inspired you to write it? Have you been on any horrendous camping trips in the past?
No, that’s what’s weird. I went on a really nice one, but I think while I was there I kept thinking of all the things that could go wrong.
Who do you play in the series?
She’s called Fay and she’s very flaky. She just wants to have a good time, really, with whoever. She turns up with one guy, but if that’s not working out she’ll just kind of move on. She’s, I suppose, not horrendous, but not particularly moral.
What’s it like directing scenes you’re appearing in and have also written?
That was sort of hard. I mean, I loved directing as a whole and it was much easier when I was directing other people, but me in it was quite weird – to be in the middle of a sex scene with Rufus Jones and then say: “Cut!”. It’s also quite hard because you can’t see what you’re doing yourself, obviously.
What was it like snogging Rufus Jones’s face off all day?
Luckily it was OK, because he’s a friend of mine and I know his family. If it was someone I didn’t know, or that I had a massive crush on, I think that would be a bit more tricky. But it was actually fine and we just laughed a lot doing those characters, because they were, sexually, quite ridiculous.
You often seem to find humour in awkward situations in your work. Do you find that angle particularly appealing, and do you ever use humour to defuse awkward situations in real life?
I’m sure I do in real life. I have to say, it feels like a slightly different direction for me, this series. Some of it’s a bit more grown-up, apparently, and I’m quite pleased with that. I sometimes think I’d like to move into things where the humour’s less extreme, which some of this is. It’s a bit less stylised than some of my other things.
In the likes of Nighty Night and Hunderby you play characters who are fairly terrible people. What’s it like playing those sorts of roles and do you ever worry about likeability?
No I don’t. I sort of hope that as long as the character’s funny then the likeability aspect doesn’t matter, which is weird, because I know in America, in particular, that’s a big note that people always get. But I think if you look at Fawlty Towers or Alan Partridge – not necessarily comparing myself to those great shows – but those characters are not that likeable. Also, I sometimes think you can find things to like in those extreme people. So that doesn’t really worry me and it’s certainly fun to play those sorts of people.
One trademark of your work is the distinctive and hilarious turns of phrase. How do you go about crafting that dialogue?
With Hunderby it took ages. Camping, I would say less so. There was also more potential for improvising on the day [with Camping], which I think can create even weirder phrases.
How did you feel about that improvisation?
I enjoyed it, with the actors who like doing that. Some people love doing it and some people don’t, so you kind of vary it based on what the actor’s into. It’s a bit of a nightmare to edit, though, because you’re trying to piece together all these different bits. But having done Hunderby, that was so strictly on the script, it was fun to play around a bit more.
And do you think the series says anything about the English middle class and their holiday habits?
Possibly – I think that it particularly will connect with some people. Especially the character Vicki Pepperdine plays [Fiona] – who’s addicted to keeping everything on schedule at the expense of actually enjoying the holiday – I think that is quite a British thing.
What was it like shooting the series? Did you have to contend with any terrible weather?
No, I was honestly so lucky, because we went down to do the recce and it was absolutely pissing down in the week leading up to it. And I just thought, “Oh my God, why couldn’t we shoot this abroad? This is going to be a nightmare.” Then literally, it was six weeks of sun, so that was really lucky. Then, also, for me, as a first-time director, I was just very lucky with the crew. They were just sort of nonmacho, really nice blokes, who kind of helped the whole thing. This makes it all sound like a love-in, but it was really good being with actors who are friends. It was not a horrifically daunting thing to do and I imagine if your debut directing thing was with some huge stars, it would be quite scary.
The name of the series has changed from Robin’s Test. How did you land on Camping in the end?
I went through lots of thinking – originally it was going to be Camping, then we thought about centring it around one of the characters. And then ultimately it felt as though Camping, simple as it is, was the right title. As we’re on the subject, what item would be your one camping essential? I was going to say make-up, but I don’t know if that’s really me. I don’t know, something warm probably. And your tip for surviving the camping trip from hell? Humour.
Camping starts Tuesday 5th April on Sky Atlantic.