TIBBY IN THE SLUSH

A play

written by Hamish Muir

Produced as an illustrated radio drama by Arctic Lion in December 2017

Available to watch on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQ9sIR5Xm7w&t=214s

The idea for Tibby in the Slush fits together in pieces. I wanted to do my own take on prestige Christmas adverts, which are built in large marketing campaigns. Tibby is a behind the scenes story of the creation of the article ‘Santa, Maybe?’, which is one such prestige Christmas advert in the fictional tabloid’s calendar. I felt there was something interesting about this because there are layers of false, pulpy, cheesy elements in Christmas articles and adverts, which mirror the traits of Santa Claus.

 

Additionally, the image of cheap, clickbait articles in a tabloid left at the door in the slush of fake news seemed relevant this year.

 

Santa Claus is a very interesting character in Western culture as he is almost part of what you could call an active contemporary mythology in that he is a character used for a specific ritualistic purpose. He also is a conglomerate of several ideas, not just Christian – he has links with paganism, in particular the elves, conifer trees, and reindeer that he can be depicted with. He also has been moulded into consumer culture, such as his usage by Coca Cola. I wanted to reinterpret the character and think realistically what it would be like if someone like that existed – what would be their psychology and how would they perceive themselves if you sat down with them and had a sober chat. I thought if Santa was alive today he would probably be a visionary CEO like Steve Jobs, but also be an isolated mystagogue protected by U.N. intelligence who works on governmental research concerning the magnetism at the North Pole (which is referred to as the South Pole throughout for discretion). This is in line with his own research expertise in mysticism, esoteric ritual, paganism and theology. Essentially Santa could be a reclusive, eccentric scientist - someone more akin to the Wizard of Oz or Merlin than a fat jolly elf. I thought this would be an interesting character to interview as he is more ambiguous and his legitimacy is questionable - someone Louis Theroux would love to meet.

 

There are many influences to the style and story, some more obvious than others. Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman is probably the most obvious as it is a beautiful tale and the artwork carries the story like illustrations in a book. Whilst tonally Tibby is very different to Briggs, I wanted the story to start in normality and then slowly journey and build up to the surreal realm at the end, only to then snap back to normality in the final scene. There is also a direct homage to The Snowman at the end of the story when Delia and the Banana man fly by. Werner Herzog’s documentary Encounters at the End of the World is also an important influence. I think this a wonderful film about polar landscape and the sci-fi, spiritual, harsh quality to it. It also has a strong ecological message. There are some Gothic influences. I wanted the drama to have the intimacy of a diary, in this case, the diary of the interviewer, which adds a layer of subjectivity. This idea comes directly from the diary of Jonathan Harker when he travels to Transylvania to meet Count Dracula and encounters his own surreal experience. Hans Christian Anderson and Scandinavian/Germanic folklore is also important. Whilst I wanted to give Santa a strong sense of 21st century reality in that he is a government researcher and CEO, I also wanted to explore a spiritual aspect to his character. A character like The Snow Queen (as shown above) is a wonderfully dark and fantastical character that links to the beauty, majesty and danger of winter. I wanted to give Santa this quality.

 

The surreal nature to the climax is influenced by Rankin/Bass Christmas films, which are absurd and esoteric. At the end of Tibby, Santa shows his true form, which is in some ways the opposite of what he is in reality. This is linked to how the surreal realm functions and how, as Santa says, ‘waste in our world is resource in this one’ – everything is balanced in equilibrium. This is where some of the inspiration from the environment comes in and how the environment is about the distribution of matter rather than what the matter is. I felt this could be a very important aspect to Santa as his main functionality is to distribute – he gives presents and transports resource around the planet.

 

Another aspect that is influenced by environmentalism and also links to paganism and mysticism is the idea of being transported to another realm by hallucination. In the story Santa gives the Interviewer a fairytale-like poison apple and it takes them into another plane of existence with the help of the gyroscope. This links with some of the work of writers such as Terence McKenna and the usage of nature to achieve some form of magic. Embrace of the Serpent is a brilliant film that explores the idea of nature being a resource for all needs: spiritual, emotional and physical. Nature is addressed in Tibby, Santa explains about the wildlife in the area, which is underpinned by mortality. He does not feel part of nature because he is immortal. The sentient trees also parody the idea of intelligent nature and kitsch Christmassy depictions of talking Christmas trees.

 

Blake, Bosch, Fuseli and Ralph Steadman influence the style of the illustrations. I also like the very geometric compositions used by Wes Anderson in his actor blocking. Indeed Anderson and Stanley Kubrick’s use of Futura is an influence on the opening and closing credits.

 

There is also a graphic novel quality to the piece. I think that a stark, cold, sci-fi tone contrasts with the more comedic moments. Particularly in the final frames, I wanted to finish like a comic book strip. We only glimpse the interviewer briefly at the end and I won’t give it away, but there is a clue about his fate in this final shot if you look closely.

 

The image in the article is of the Ladybird book cover of the Snow Queen (source: https://www.arranalexander.co.uk/the-snow-queen-a-ladybird-book-well-loved-tales-series-606d-first-edition-matte-hardback-1983-2190-p.asp)

 

Scrapbook:

Stills from production:

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