Curtain up 'pon a stage dressed to be a fashionable drawing room. A man enters stage right, with much crows. There is uproar and a to do until the crows settle. The man strides around the stage flapping his coattails. He stops and makes a face, so that his aspect is not unlike the aspect of a gorilla, at the audience. The audience, expecting this with much anticipation, break out into a chorus of shrieking and hooting, as a troupe of chimps.
AUDIENCE: The apes! The apes! Tell us of the apes, Mr. Crowley!
Mr. Crowley winks, as if to say the audience must stand upon his pleasure for but a little while longer, and hushes them so the play may continue. The fourth wall thus restored for now, the orchestra presses to their work and the violins buzz in a most diabolical fashion. The crows shuffle their wings in alarum as, stage left, a woman with the head of a cheetah appears from the wings; surely a demon. She has many frogs on small leashes. There is much hopping.
Mr. Crowley flaps his coattails once more and takes his ease on a chaise longue.
MR. CROWLEY: Izaak Walton's The Compleat Angler, you ever see that? Honestly the most entertaining 17th century fishing manual you could hope you get your hands on. It's a fishing manual to teach you how to get better at catching various river fish, but it's written as a really charming dialogue between an old geezer and the person he's teaching.
THE DEMON: I shall look into that.
MR. CROWLEY: That's your homework, okay?
THE DEMON: Okay.
The audience hoots and throws balled up notepaper at the Demon.
AUDIENCE: Homework! Homework!
Half of the audience begins hushing the other half in anticipation of Mr. Crowley's next line, so that they now sound like a far off rainstorm, and with much spittle flying onto the back of the head of the man in front.
MR. CROWLEY: Last time we spoke about a rebellion against the increasing sportification of games, and of finding new ways to play games that eschew any competitive purpose and make a statement, right?
THE DEMON: Yes. And I loved that, and I loved going back and looking at the things you'd done.
MR. CROWLEY: I've been thinking ‘bout unorthodox ways of experiencing things. Obviously games is ripe territory for that because it's interactive and thus it sort of demands the player to provide a certain quantity of narrative. So games I think invite you to do that, but what about non-interactive media, so films and books? Can you find ways to do weird challenge playthroughs of non-interactive media?
The audience begins humming The Lord of the Rings theme song, gradually increasing in volume. Mr. Crowley pauses to conduct it as if it were an orchestra and he its maestro. The theatre orchestra does not join in.
AUDIENCE: DUNNNN DUH-DURRRR DUH-DUHDURRRRR
MR. CROWLEY: So me and my partner Ashley, who is Glitter_brawl on Twitter, we were doing a thing yesterday. It'd been a year since my dad died and we were looking for a way to commemorate that in a way that wasn't sort of maudlin or too inward looking. We thought, well, dad really loved the Lord of the Rings films, and he did cooking as well. So why don't we watch all three Lord of the Rings films in their extended editions…
THE DEMON: The extended editions?
The audience, having brought its rendition of The Lord of the Rings theme to a crescendo, ceases humming and gasps.
AUDIENCE: (in mock horror) The extended editions!
MR. CROWLEY: All three, back to back, and, get this Demon, try to eat everything that gets eaten on screen. And we did it. We started at 6am and – it was 15 hours – we finished just before 9 o'clock at night. And we had a 22 course meal.
THE DEMON: 22 courses!
AUDIENCE: (in mock horror) 22 courses!
MR. CROWLEY: I think you can tell a lot about someone by what they think Tolkien was talking about when he talked about Lembas bread.
THE DEMON: I imagine it as being like pita bread.
MR. CROWLEY: Interesting. That was actually nearly what we went for. In the end we went for Jacob's Butter Puffs.
The audience shrieks and flings a number of pita breads and Butter Puffs at the stage. The crows caw mightily and alight upon the breadstuffs, and begin to feast.
MR. CROWLEY: There was someone who got really upset because I said 'Looks like meat's back on the menu!' was the best line in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which I think I obviously said with my tongue slightly in my cheek. But he replied with ‘UM NO’ and then listed what the best line was. And you know, I do think 'Looks like meat's back on the menu!' is the best line in The Lord of the Rings trilogy because it implies that orcs have a conception of a menu.
AUDIENCE: Would you like a cheese board or some coffee, Gorbag?
THE DEMON: I'd not thought of that.
MR. CROWLEY: Wasn't there some Russian writer who wrote a really interesting satirical fantasy in the wake of Tolkien which was written as if the War of the Ring, as told by Tolkien, was like propaganda written by men after they'd won the war?
THE DEMON: Oooooh!
AUDIENCE: The usurper Buonaparte!
The audience rises to its feet and engages in much stamping and hollering and toasting Lord Wellington. Mr. Crowley is forced to rise in turn and calm them.
MR. CROWLEY: So I love the idea that this is like history as told by the victors, and that orcs were a completely reasonable people and have just been presented as sort of beasts by these sort of – whoever's the descendants of Aragorn's lot are. I dunno, I quite like that idea. Because there's just that hint that orcs know what a menu is.
Mr. Crowley leads an appreciative applause for menus all across Middle-earth, before composing himself and attempting to return to discussing his studies. The audience, excited, breaks out in another round of chimp imitation. It takes some time to quiet them.
MR. CROWLEY: So yeah – what can you do to play strange meta games with non-interactive fiction. I did quite a lot of research to see what had been done before. What I got was basically a load of American cinemas where they'd done a trilogy marathon and served, like, a seven course gourmet thing 'inspired by' Lord of the Rings.
THE DEMON: Oh that doesn't count does it?
AUDIENCE: No it doesn't, Mr. Crowley!
MR. CROWLEY: 'Sam's Delicious Fish and Chips', because Sam talks about fish and chips at one point and they know it would be nice in a restaurant. Okay fine, but what that is is just a normal hipster meal vaguely themed around Lord of the Rings. I wanted with this challenge to really get into the life of what was happening on the screen a bit more by genuinely eating the same things. So when Denethor has his big upsetting dinner while his son’s riding to certain death, we were really sort of ripping at a cold chicken with our hands and aggressively bursting cherry tomatoes. It added a bleak relish to the whole spectacle.
AUDIENCE: You'll never be as good as Boromir!
THE DEMON: When I was a kid I was well into them. Every one of my birthdays from 11 - 13 was going to the cinema to see The Lord of the Rings with my little friends. My aunt is a makeup artist and she put little ears on me so I had little elf ears.
The audience holds its fingers to its own ears as if pretending they're pointy, and makes prolonged little chirping noises as of baby birds. This alarms the crows. The frogs take to hopping once more. Chaos reigns for a matter of minutes.
MR. CROWLEY: When they're riding to Helm's Deep with all of the horse squad and Eowyn makes this shitty stew for Aragorn, and he has one mouthful and is like, 'Mmm!' and then goes to tip it away. We thought, okay, no, we're really going to be hardcore about this so, I made this terrible broth out of one of those pots of Shippams sardine paste and rye bread crumbs and some butter. And that was what really differentiated this from some of the themed dinners I'd seen around it, because we wanted to have the taste of rancid fish in our mouths, you know, so we could really feel how it is to be a son of Númenor.
The audience mimes spitting out a loathsome fish broth, with much cries of 'Eurgh!' and 'Yuck!'
THE DEMON: Did you feel like it did bring you closer to Aragorn's experience?
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. I probably wouldn't have batted two eyelids at the scene after that otherwise, but we paid special attention this time because what happens after he's had the soup is, it does a smash cut to him sitting in the dark staring into the middle distance, really huffing on his pipe, and he does that until he passes out and has a dream about Arwen. This soup was so bad he just had to get absolutely blitzed and pass out in the open air. And I could really see why. I could really see why.
The audience mimes falling into a fainting fit, with hands pressed dramatically to foreheads, 'kerchiefs flapping wildly in the air, and bodies lying in the very aisles.
MR. CROWLEY: D'you reckon we have some content for today?
THE DEMON: I think we have content, yeah.
The players exeunt at their respective sides of the stage as the audience applauds. Mr. Crowley returns to several curtain calls and standing ovations.
This interview has been presented in a format that allows you to perform and participate in it. This interview has been edited for clarity. This interview is the first time Nate Crowley has spoken to the Demon.