The Killing Times Dispatches: Twin Peaks UK Festival

Twin Peaks: The Return has been one of the television events of the year, no question. Its dizzying, surreal, visceral, infuriating, terrifying, stunning brilliance not only confirmed that David Lynch is still one of the most creative and notable auteurs of both the 20th and 21st centuries but also… there’s still nothing out there like Twin Peaks. During the weekend, the eighth annual Twin Peaks UK Festival took place at the resplendent, Modernist Hornsey Town Hall Arts Centre in north London, complete with cabaret, film screenings and Q&As with cast members old and new. It was quite the weekend.

With some stunning cosplay on show – which meant plenty of Audrey Hornes, Dale Coopers, Laura Palmers, Diane Evans, Shelley Briggs (nee Johnson) running around, as well as a human manifestation of the Run Silent Run drape shop (there was also a prize-winning turn from a young woman dressed as the eye-less Naido, which was fantastic) – and some brilliant burlesque and cabaret, courtesy of The Double R Club troupe, the weekend was a Twin Peaks fan’s red neon dream. Angelo Badalamenti’s score wafted throughout the spaces, making you feel fully immersed in the world, while twangy rockabilly, doo-wop and kitschy fuzz pop bands played in the downstairs bar, renamed The Roadhouse for the weekend. There was also a mock-up of The Black Lodge and an immersive, experiential re-staging of the death of Laura Palmer (featuring a ‘Laura’, a ‘BOB’ and a ‘Ronette Pulaski’) in a blacked-out trailer car.

In all it was a fun, friendly and intoxicating weekend.

Crucially there were also some heavyweight cast members in attendance, too. Sherilyn Fenn (Audrey Horne herself), Michael Horse (Hawk), James Marshall (James Hurley), Amy Shiels (Candie), Jake Wardle (Freddie Sykes) and Sean Bolger (Chris) were the guests for the weekend, while Sabrina Sutherland (executive producer) and Debbie Zoller (make-up and prosthetics designer) made up the behind-the-camera talent in attendance.

In fact, it was Sutherland – who had worked with Lynch since series two of Twin Peaks – who was guest in the festival’s first big Q&A. It was fascinating stuff, not least because she provided a producer’s view of the whole Twin Peaks experience, something we’ve not really heard before. In the Q&A she explained that Lynch is a warm, funny, private man, who takes time to warm and trust new people, but is incredibly loyal to those in his inner circles – both private and work. Sutherland also explained that Lynch is also uncompromising in his vision, and expects hard work to realise it from those around him.

Sutherland went on to give some examples of the logistical challenges she faced getting Twin Peaks up and running again. She explained that she and Lynch went back up to Washington State in 2014 to revisit original locations in North Bend and Snoqualmie, and found that the police station was now a race track and business, and the Double R diner had changed beyond recognition. The challenge, after experiencing mostly enthusiastic locals, was to revert them back to their original look with the original fittings.

Another story that Sutherland recounted concerned the late, beloved actress, Catherine Coulson, who played Margaret ‘Log Lady’ Lanterman and sadly passed away during the shoot. Sutherland told the crowd that Coulson had wanted to be part of the new series despite ill health, and she was ready to fly up to Washington State to join the rest of the crew. But the day before she was due to fly up with her daughter from LA, Sutherland received a call that Coulson was too ill to travel. Sutherland then had to arrange to shoot Coulson’s scenes in LA with a secondary, mobile crew.

Her scenes were completed but, tragically, Coulson passed away four days later.

It was these little insights into the life of a producer that made Sutherland’s talk to so fascinating.

Elsewhere, I had a private conversation with make-up artist and prosthetics designer, Debbie Zoller, who was very much enjoying the weekend, marvelling at the time and effort fans to over their outfits. Zoller told me that the greatest challenge in Twin Peaks: The Return for her was Nadio, the eye-less woman who came from The Purple Sea and was the vehicle in which the real Diane Evans resided (or something). Zoller explained that she felt extremely protective over actress Nae Yuuki, who not only had to act her scenes with latex over her eyes (rendering her completely blind) but also naked for her scenes in Glastonbury Grove. Zoller told me that she took it upon herself to wheel her to and from the set and look out for her – after all, acting without clothes and sight must have been extraordinarily disorientating and make one feel vulnerable. Zoller also expressed doubt that there would be another Twin Peaks.

The end-of-festival Q&A – featuring the whole cast – was interesting, too, not least because it gave us an insight into how David Lynch works. Sherilyn Fenn, Amy Shiels and Jake Wardle – who all had key scenes in both original series and The Return – explained that Lynch likes to get in an actor’s face while explaining a scene, almost live the emotion with them and then let them get on with it, shouting at them through a megaphone as the scene progresses. Shiels and Wardle told us that during their scenes in particular, Lynch was shouting ‘look there! look down here! look to the right!’ or, in Wardle’s case, ‘punch here! punch there! bam, punch to the right!’. (Both Fenn and Wardle did excellent impressions of Lynch’s reedy rasp.) It sounds as though working with Lynch is, as Fenn explained, an abstract experience and you have to trust him and just go with it. For Fenn, Audrey Horne’s dance was not planned – it was a case of ‘I want Audrey to do a dance, off you go’ – and for Wardle, who had the honour of vanquishing BOB (in fact, he was wearing his green gloves throughout the whole weekend) it was a case of being told he was going to be in a very important scene tomorrow and showing up and being told that he has to punch an SFX bowling bowl with BOB’s face in it.

For Fenn, Audrey Horne’s dance was not planned – it was a case of ‘I want Audrey to do a dance, off you go’ – and for Wardle, who had the honour of vanquishing BOB (in fact, he was wearing his green gloves throughout the whole weekend) it was a case of being told he was going to be in a very important scene tomorrow and showing up and being told to punch an SFX bowling bowl with BOB’s face in it. Welcome to Twin Peaks!

There were tales of how the cast first heard about The Return (for Fenn it was bumping into co-creator and writer in the chiropractor’s office, and the chiropractor telling her himself that Frost was beginning to write with Lynch again), their own paranormal experiences (Horse told us that he knows of stories involving ‘little people’ in the forests of Washington State), how James Marshall used to jam with the late, great Miguel Ferrer, and much love for a woman in the crowd who explained that Twin Peaks was much-needed escapism and emotional fortification during times of war in her home country of Serbia.

There also time for a few extra bits and pieces at the end, which piqued interest: there might be some extra bits and pieces on the DVD release in December (as you would expect in this day and age), while Sutherland said she was still ‘working on Twin Peaks’. This statement – whatever it meant – gave me hope that there might be something else, somewhere down the line Twin Peaks-related. Maybe. Sutherland was brilliant at keeping herself and the rest of the cast members in check when it came to revealing too much information. Could her caution be a sign in itself that there might be more Twin Peaks in the pipeline? Who knows? Maybe it’s just wishful thinking on my part.

Paul Hirons

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