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    Interview: Let’s Go Once More Unto The Breach

    James Cooney on performing in Henry V at Shakespeare’s Globe

    Shakespeare’s Henry V is the play launching the winter season in the fabulously candlelit Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare’s Globe. It’s the first time this work has been put on there, so we were excited to get a chance to talk to actor James Cooney, who will be playing Thomas of Lancaster along with other roles in the production.

    Wow, James! This is exciting stuff. Henry V is a real powerhouse of a play to be staged in such an intimate venue. And it’s being directed by Holly Race Roughan from Headlong. How do you feel about being a part of it all?

    It was a no brainer for me when I was asked to be a part of this production. All of Shakespeare’s plays have an uncanny ability to speak to our time. Henry V however might be one of the most soul-shakingly (I might have made this phrase up!) relevant plays for an English audience in 2022/23. You can’t help but ask what it means to be English when you read it and how this play resonates for us now.

    Can you tell us about the different characters you will be playing? Which is your favourite?

    I play Thomas, brother to King Henry V; Orleans, a friend and lover to Prince Louis of France; and Gower, a captain in the English army. The beauty of playing multiple roles is they all have their own quirks that I enjoy exploring. But Thomas is the most interesting to me from a psychological perspective. It’s interesting to consider what it is like to be so close to the throne but knowing you will probably never become king. The complexity of family dynamics is something we have explored in detail in our production .

    The Globe is renowned for their ensemble productions. What’s it like working with this particular company?

    Ensemble is definitely the word! Holly has set up a space where collaboration is encouraged and it is supported by all the staff at the Globe. Entering a rehearsal space can be a daunting prospect whatever your experience level. But from day one the Globe welcomed us all with open arms. Most theatres do a meet and greet on day one, but this was the first time I had experienced EVERYONE in the building coming together to introduce themselves. It makes such a difference to start off on an equal footing and feeling like I belonged in the room.

    You really will be acting in very close proximity to the audience in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse: are you ready for going to full scale battle in a Jacobean theatre?

    Thankfully, Shakespeare recognised the power of the imagination! Devoid of CGI Shakespeare calls upon the audience to “work your thoughts” and imagine the war happening on stage. It’s what theatre does better than other media – asking the audience to create the story with the people on stage. In the Playhouse you really can see every single audience member’s face and that complicity of imagination and play between the audience and the actors can be electrifying!

    You’ve had some experience of drama that makes contemporary political commentary, having been in The 47th at the Old Vic, last year – a play about Donald Trump.  How do you think this production reflects on today’s Britain?

    I am a massive football fan and with the World Cup starting I am waiting to hear some of those famous Henry V speeches used in a motivational video before England play an important game! I think this play is a part of the fabric of England whether you like it or not! It asks so many questions about nationalism, patriotism, Englishness, Britishness, the relationship between those in power to those subject to power. The list goes on. Whether we accept or reject the ideas Shakespeare presents is up to the individual, but there’s no doubting its relevancy in a country which finds itself questioning its identity.

    What do you think the audiences are going to take away from this Henry V?

    I am always wary of telling an audience what they SHOULD take away. We are sharing a story and not a lecture. However, as a company I think there was a recognition that we had to re-interrogate Henry V in 2022. Is Henry an English hero? Or was he a “foolish youth” as mentioned by his own father and the French nobility? Was Agincourt some divine miracle? Or did the English get lucky in the face of overwhelming odds? And how does all of this relate to an English identity in 2022? I guess what I am trying to say is I hope audience leave with more questions. And that most importantly it was two hours well spent!

    We’d like to thank James very much for taking the time to chat with us, and wish him well for the coming season.  Henry V plays at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse from Thursday 10 November to Saturday 4 February. Get your tickets now because, to quote the Bard himself:

    “… gentlemen in England now-a-bedShall think themselves accurs’d they were not here”

    Henry V is a Shakespeare’s Globe and Headlong Production with Leeds Playhouse and Royal & Derngate Northampton. It is on now in the indoor, candlelit Sam Wanamaker Playhouse through to 4 February. Tickets and information available here. More

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    Interview: The many languages of Europe

    Francesco Baj & Flavio Marigliani on Teatro Multilingue and Goodbye Papà

    Teatro Multilingue are a new European based theatre company presenting plays in multiple languages. We caught their last play, Mrs Green, when it stopped off at Camden Fringe in August, whilst their latest work, Goodbye Papà will be making a visit to Bristol’s Alma Theatre (8 Dec) before reaching London and The Hope Theatre (11 & 12 Dec). We think they are doing some fascinating work and bringing us a taste of continental Europe, so were thrilled to chat with co-founders Francesco Baj and Flavio Marigliani about all things Teatro Multilingue and Goodbye Papà.

    Before we dive into asking you about Goodbye Papà, first tell us a little about Teatro Multilingue and your presentation of shows in several languages?

    Teatro Multilingue is a Pan-European project born in 2020 out of the idea of combining several languages within the same story; organically, in a way that makes sense. You watch one play and you “hear” it in more than one way. Why? First, our world is increasingly multilingual but our stages aren’t; and second, if we look at recent years, we find that a lot of the struggle inside and outside Europe is presented as a clash of cultures whereas if you just take one step and go beyond the opposition “mine”/“yours” or, in language, between “native” and “foreign”, lots of barriers simply collapse and new worlds of understanding open up right away. This is what we aim to explore, and that’s why our theatre has no subtitles. Thanks to a carefully devised multilingual script, we believe that theatre is a powerful enough medium to make that connection happen, to have audiences go beyond the barrier of language and, therefore, meaning. In a way, it’s nothing new: multilingual scripts were part of the commedia dell’arte and have sometimes been used in cinema and plays; what we do is, however, a little different: we don’t take language, whatever language, for granted and build layers of story telling and meaning based on this.

    Goodbye Papà plays at The Alma Theatre in Bristol and then The Hope Theatre in December, what can audiences expect?

    A full immersion into our work! We invite them all to come and be surprised at how easy it is to follow the story even though you don’t speak all the languages! Compared to Mrs Green, our first UK product which focused on the implications of Brexit, Goodbye Papà works on a more intimate and personal note. It all starts with a rather bizarre family story and grows into a quest for meaning through language and music. It is, we guess, the work which best represents the philosophy behind our multilingual project. It’s a monologue in English, Italian and Modern Greek, and the people that have seen it when it played in Rome and in Kingston upon Thames have told us of how easy it is to just embrace the story and “forget” the language the actor is using. Goodbye Papà may work on the personal level but it’s nonetheless an all-encompassing journey, real and imaginary, through borders, cultures and languages.

    What’s the writing process within Teatro Multilingue? Does a show get written in one language and then translated for another…? We assume, but please do correct us if we are wrong, that this lends itself to a collaborative approach?

    FRANCESCO: It is a collaborative approach, but no, there’s no translation involved. Once we have an idea, we either already have in mind which languages we’re going to use, or these get sorted out shortly afterwards, so that by the time I actually sit down and start working on the first draft, the script is in those languages. The balance between them is so important (for the story and for the audience) that it wouldn’t work in translation. And that’s why, when we start rehearsing, some things inevitably end up not working or needing readjusting as the actors “speak” because that’s when you really “hear” the languages at work. I don’t mean readjusting as in grammatically correct or incorrect – this depends on the story – but in how naturally the balance flows throughout the script. Also, I tend to write multilingually but I’m no expert in all of them, so a little helps is always needed!

    Goodbye Papà is in English, Italian and Modern Greek – do you speak all three? 😉 Are there extra challenges as an actor when acting or reacting to multiple languages?

    FLAVIO: Being born in Italy, I guess I can say that I speak Italian 😉 I’ve studied and worked with English, and as for Greek, I studied Ancient Greek in school so Modern Greek has been a fun and interesting challenge for me! I know the language, though, and actually Francesco and I met while we were both in Athens! Personal note aside, yes, using several languages may be a challenge particularly within the structure of a monologue where it’s all on you on stage, but I think of it more as a chance. As an actor, it has allowed me to focus on what real theatrical communication is and how far that can go beyond speech itself. The gestures, emotions and body language that accompany a word very often carry more meaning than the meaning of the word itself, and this helps to blend and unite what you’re saying in whatever language that is. An actor’s body, and voice, also change according to the language and this is important to notice and embrace as it broadens the spectrum of your expressive possibilities: there isn’t only one way to say one thing.

    How do you find the casting process? Do you look specifically for multilingual speakers or do you work with a cast to learn the lines in a language they don’t know?

    It depends, to be honest; each project is different. If we need a “native” speaker, we look for one; otherwise we much prefer to go for the actor and what they can bring to the story with their own personal background. Sometimes, it’s just a question of how they “sound.” Apart from the balance of languages, one piece of feedback we often get is how beautiful it is to hear a particular accent or intonation and how that alone gives more meaning to the story being told. And this can be “native” or “foreign”, we don’t really pay too much attention on that, unless the story demands it. We don’t aim at purity, rather at clarity and how organically each sound blends into the story. As for the actors being multilingual, you know, the secret is not so much in how many languages they can speak, as in how in sync with the multilingual project they are or can grow to be. Exactly what Flavio was saying about being an actor in a multilingual project.

    Just before Goodbye Papà plays theatres in the UK, you have a new short film called Making My Day coming out. What can you tell us about that and where can people see it?

    Making My Day is a short film we’re co-producing and it’s part of the Film/On Demand sector of Teatro Multilingue. When we started back in 2020 in Rome theatres were all closed so we created the trilogy #Europe21, a hybrid of theatre and cinema. We found the medium of film so interesting that we decided to explore it even further. The creative process is a bit different, as in films you have to have subtitles so the work we do with languages is a bit less rigid than when we’re live on stage. The spirit, however, is exactly the same. Making My Day is also an example of commissioned work, i.e. the writer of the screenplay asked us if we wanted to turn it into a film and rework it multilingually. And that’s how it all started. Making My Day will be available online as of 27 November – if anyone’s interested they can get the details at our website.

    Normally, we’d like to ask what you have coming up next but here, you are taking Goodbye Papà to Italy and Greece, tell us about that and anything else you have planned for 2023?

    Yes, Goodbye Papà will go (back) to Italy and will also travel to Greece, and we couldn’t be happier about all this. We are also working on a new batch of short films, on another commissioned project (this time from the Balkans!); we have a few exciting ideas planned for Madrid, and then our brand new full multilingual show: La Reine de marbre, a modern revisitation of the commedia dell’arte with a strong social and political message. It’ll debut in Rome in March and will then start travelling around Europe. This will also be the first show in which we don’t tell the audience which languages are spoken in the play. It’ll really be: come and be surprised by the multilingue effect!

    Finally, as a bit of a fun question, if you count up, how many languages do you think are spoken within the Teatro Multilingue Company?

    Hmh… we’ve never really counted them! So far we’ve worked with five: Italian, English, French, Spanish and Greek. But the list is expanding. One of our actresses, originally from Colombia, is also mastering Quechua which, sooner or later, we will have to include in one of our plays! 🙂

    Go raibh maith agat (that’s thank you in Irish!) to Francesco and Flavio for taking the time to talk with us. You can visit Teatro Multilingue’s website here and follow them on Twitter here.

    Goodbye Papà plays Alma Tavern & Theatre in Bristol on December 8 and then plays The Hope Theatre on December 11 and 12. More

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    Interview: Shining A Light(house) on Wickies

    Graeme Dalling on Wickies: The Vanishing Men of Eilean Mor

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    We all love a good ghost story, and better yet, one that has a foot firmly in true life events. Which is just what Wickies: The Vanishing Men of Eilean Mor promises us. It’s based on the the disappearance of three lighthouse keepers stationed on a deserted island in the Outer Hebrides in 1900. No trace of any of the men was ever found, which has lead to a century of speculation and folklore.

    And now the story is coming to Park Theatre this December. Billed as a haunting ghost story, which does suggest which way writer Paul Morrissey is taking his twist on the tale. Wanting to know more, we grabbed some time with one of its stars, Graeme Dalling, who we will soon be seeing as one of the lighthouse keepers, Donald MacArthur.

    What can you tell us about Wickies then?

    The play explores one of Scotland’s most enduring mysteries… what on earth happened to three men stationed on a lighthouse in the Outer Hebrides who seem to vanish without a trace?? I think that’s all I’ll say. The less you know the better!

    The play is based on true events, were you aware of the story before you auditioned?

    Yes, absolutely, and its weirdly so present in the public psyche. So many books, songs and films have been inspired by these events. It’s captured people’s imaginations for over 120 years!

    Have you done much background research into the story and your character? Or is it best not to delve too deep into such things in case it clouds how your director wants you to present the character?

    I like to do a bit of reading, yes. I gathered quite a few books on lighthouses and lighthouse keepers to get into the world of the play. I also tried to get out to a lighthouse, but they are very hard to get to! I try and not get too bogged down in research and instead spend a lot of time with the script. All the answers tend to be in there!

    How much of the play is based on what’s really known about the men and the events surrounding their disappearance, and how much is based on the folklore that has evolved over the years?

    I would say it’s a bit of both. There are lots of written documentation from the time from the inquest and initial interviews into the disappearance, so quite a bit of the script is word for word what those people actually said. And obviously we will never know truly what happened on that lighthouse in December 1900, so Paul Morrissey does draw on folklore and superstition and ghost stories to fill in the gaps!

    You’re playing Donald MacArthur, what do we need to know about him then?

    That a lighthouse is the perfect place for him. He’s a stoic, brooding, quiet man who just wants to put his head down and do the work. Initially the isolation and loneliness fit him perfectly but ultimately becomes his undoing. There is an unpredictability to him, a lot of repressed rage and pent-up aggression which one character seems to unlock, unluckily for him….!  

    And we need to ask, will you be growing (or gluing on) a nice big bushy beard for the play because surely all lighthouse keepers should have wonderfully unkempt beards? And a pipe permanently in the corner of your mouth maybe?

    It’s all about moustaches in 1900! And I’m steadily cultivating a beautiful one.

    Is there a different approach when playing a true-life character, do you feel a need to be honest to whatever you may know about them?

    I haven’t thought too much about it to be honest, it’s so long ago, and not a lot is known about these men. Like I said before, when a script is this good, everything you need is there on the page.

    The show opens 30 November, so still a couple of weeks away, but have you had the opportunity to see the set yet – how are you bringing the feel of a remote lighthouse on a deserted Outer Hebrides Island to Finsbury Park?

    We’ve seen the model box and the set looks incredible, Zoe Hurwitz has really captured the essence of being in a lighthouse, it’s almost like we’ll be performing in the round, which kind of makes sense! There’s going to be a lot done with sound and lighting and costume which will hopefully make the audience feel like they are on the lighthouse with us!

    Why do you feel ghost stories seem to be part of Christmas theatre tradition then? And is there much difference to acting in a ghost story like this as opposed to more normal dramas? Do you have to bring a different attitude to the rehearsal room to get into the right mood?

    It’s about the night’s drawing in, the cold and the dark and us all gathering in together to tell stories of the past, which inevitably become ghost stories. I think A Christmas Carol has a lot to do with it also. It’s a time for reflection and looking back at the past and perhaps trying to make sense of things that don’t make sense! And we’ve just tried to keep the truth of each moment and scene. We can’t over play the scariness of moments because it then becomes too knowing. The characters don’t know they are in a ghost story, so you have to play it straight!

    And now you’ve some time to delve into the story and your character, have you developed any of your own theories as to what happened to the three men? Or are we to believe they just vanished into the thin air on that cold night?

    My mind keeps changing. My logical side of my brain accepts the most obvious answer, which is that they all got taken out by a storm, but my imagination wants it to be something else. Ask me again at the end of the run!

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    Our thanks to Graeme for his time out from rehearsals to chat with us.

    Wickies: The Vanishing Men of Eilean Mor plays at Park Theatre 30 November – 31 December. Further information and bookings can be found here. More

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    Interview: The Card-Bard Returneth

    Sam Wilde on bringing The Fir Tree to Shakespeare’s Globe

    Sam Wilde is an amazing designer, renowned for creating incredible, imaginative theatre designs and puppets out of simple bits of cardboard. From achieving a global internet sensation with his puppet show of Jon Klassen’s Hat Back books in lockdown, to a run of sellout live shows making the same stories bigger and better, he has been involved in some very exciting projects in the last couple of years. This winter he’s elevating his work still further, now gracing the boards of Shakespeare’s Globe in their festive family fairy tale The Fir Tree.  We asked The Card-Bard about what he’ll be unboxing for us this Christmas in the glorious wooden O.

    Sam, it really has been a great few years for you (give or take a global pandemic): your online productions of the Hat Back books went viral, then the live show was a complete sell out at the Little Angel Theatre. What does it feel like to now have your cardboard craft starring at the world famous Shakespeare’s Globe?

    It certainly looks impressive when you give me an introduction like that! If you ask my daughter what I do for a living though she’ll tell you that her daddy “plays with cardboard”: that feels a little closer to the truth to me!

    But I have certainly been very lucky, and there are a lot of fantastic collaborators who are as responsible for that as I am, fantastic creatives like Ian Nicholson (who directed The Hat Trilogy) and Jim Whitcher (who did the music) just to start with. I always say that there are no talented people in theatre, just talented teams, and I’ve been very fortunate with the teams I’ve been in! The Fir Tree is another great example of that, it’s a world-beating group of creatives that I’m just happy to be in the same room as!

    None of that prepares you, though, for when you somehow find yourself in a position where you are suggesting to the Globe’s Artistic Director Michelle Terry (!!!) that you want to cut up some delivery boxes and put them on the Christmas stage of what is undoubtedly the world’s most important theatre! If the idea of that doesn’t terrify you then I want a little of what you have!

    This version of The Fir Tree is an adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen classic, by the incredible Hannah Khalil, writer in residence at the Globe. How has it been working with her and all those Shakespearean types? Is it very highbrow?

    Hannah is great! I’ve been lucky enough to work with her on a couple of projects (and even luckier to have a couple more hopefully in the works) and I’d be hard pressed to think of a better, more generous collaborator. The scariest thing about working with Hannah is how astute and intuitive her daughter is! She’ll come into rehearsals or a dress rehearsal sometimes and that’s when I really get nervous, she’ll instantly see into the core of whatever the piece is! It’s uncanny!

    As for highbrow, I don’t really know about that, it’s certainly a piece with artistic integrity, but it doesn’t lack for warmth or joy either. I remember my first meeting with Michelle (Terry) where she said she wanted to make a show that felt like a hug: that really stuck with me (especially as it was a time where good hugs were in short supply). This year it feels slightly different, still a hug, but with more… truth… and hope… and kindness in it. It’s an incredible team at the Globe and the creative team on the production is an absolute dream. I can’t imagine this show could be made in a different theatre, without the staff of the Globe, without Props or Wardrobe or Production Management, without Hannah or Michelle. Each and every one of them are incredibly rich in those noblest of qualities, of truth, of hope and above all of kindness.

    I’m a very lucky designer to get to work alongside them!

    What kind of things have you created for the production? And are they all made of vellum and parchment, it being an Elizabethan-style theatre?

    Ha, I’m afraid not, I have just come off doing the puppetry design for The Book Thief Musical with The Octagon in Bolton, and that was much more of a parchment-focused job!

    With The Fir Tree though the story and the theatre might be old, but what Hannah and Michelle have done with it couldn’t be further from the past! It’s a very modern story that is really relevant and apt for our times!

    In terms of the design, I’ve tried to focus on how sustainably it can be made, but also as a real celebration of wood! Whether that be the forest of trees that were used to make the Globe itself or the actual potted fir trees that are ever present in the show. There are also a lot of lovely costumes and puppets, many of them I made myself, but it’s been a real team effort (shout out to the wonderful Emma Hughes at the Globe!). There’s a whole range of cardboard makes; large bird wings, rabbit ears, birds, vans, Beatrice and Benedict the mice, Ophelia the cat and Iago the rat…  and Death who makes a small appearance! All taking place under a starry cardboard sky and advertised with a poster which is developed from hand cut cardboard shapes!

    It must be a fairly risky business using cardboard props in an outdoor theatre. Is there waterproofing involved?

    Cardboard is a lot hardier than folk give it credit for! That being said, water is obviously a bit of an issue, so we do take steps in preparation.

    The main focus for me, and the entire reason I like to work with cardboard, is that it’s all destined for the recycling bin in the end. Some people get upset when I tell them that, but I really revel in it, so many puppets or set or materials are made for a specific show, and when that show is over, they’re never used again, but as they’re made of foam or plastic they just sit on a shelf, unused, forever. Yes, cardboard puppets have an expiration date, but so do I, and that is a wonderful, wonderful thing!

    But to answer your question, yes, there is waterproofing (and fireproofing) involved, which makes the material less recyclable in the end, so what we actually do is make the puppet from cardboard and then put another layer of cardboard on top, it’s this that is treated, which can then be removed when the time comes.

    Tell us a bit more about how you’ve worked sustainability and recycling into the production.

    Sustainability and recycling have been at the real core of this shows design, when you see it and what Hannah Khalil has written you can see that it really had to be that way. But even if it wasn’t a central theme it’s how all theatre should be made: it’s how everything should be made going forward. The Globe and the team there really get that and everything it means for a production.

    The simplest way to look at it is that every single thing in this show is considered: do we already have that? is that something that the Globe already has in storage?  And if not, do they have something similar or something we can make work (which is yes for most of the set, props, costume in the show)? If we need to get something new, why? And can we borrow it from somewhere? Can we source it locally second hand? How are we going to get it? Will we reuse it? Can we recycle it? What happens to it after the show? Is it really necessary to tell the story?

    It’s a lengthy process, but in the end we have made a show that has a really minimal environmental impact, that is a celebration of what sustainable theatre can be, and of all the other shows that came before us and allowed us to use a chair or a chest or the fabric to make a dress or whatever. It’s probably what I’m most proud of in this production.

    That, and cardboard: an awful lot of boxes get another life on the stage!

    One of the signature things about your work in the past is that the audience has been encouraged to join in and get creative themselves, even – if not especially! – with your online show. Will there be opportunities for that at the Globe? What activities might we expect?

    I am so happy you’ve said this! More than cardboard or sustainability or anything else that has changed in my work in the last few years, it’s this that I feel has defined my attitude and work as an artist! It’s absolutely at the core of what I want to do, opening the world of design and construction, of craft and of making, to the public.

    And yes, there is plenty to get involved with in this show. The Globe themselves are running puppetry-making and crafting workshops that I’ve had a hand in developing, and there will be plenty of other things that you can access digitally and make at home. I’d love to bring particular attention to The Sparrows; we’d would love it if you can access the online video (featuring me!) that shows you how to make the sparrow puppets and bring them along to the show. They are all made of cardboard and everyday household materials, and we need your help to fill the forest with as many more creatures than humans as we can muster, so if you don’t fancy a sparrow then why not make a pair of rabbit ears, or deer antlers or a squirrel tail or whatever you fancy! It’s your creativity that will make this show great!

    Many thanks to Sam for finding time to chat with us about this exciting project. Here’s hoping for not too much snow this season!

    The Fir Tree is a family show and runs from 15-31 December at Shakespeare’s Globe You can book tickets or learn how to make your own woodland creatures to bring to the show at the Globe website here. More

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    Interview: Making A Show of our Politics

    Emma Burnell on Triggered

    Earlier this year, Emma Burnell‘s Triggered sold out its run in the lovely Lion & Unicorn Theatre. It’s now about to start a second run in the equally delightful White Bear Theatre from 22 November. Although it might be too late to get tickets as this has now sold out too! (We recommend checking with the venue for returns.) But sold out or not, we still grabbed the chance to chat with Emma about the show, reviewing herself and selling out.

    Diving straight in, tell us what audiences can expect from Triggered?

    Triggered is about the fictional deselection of a Labour MP. So first and foremost, it’s a play about political processes and the people to whom they matter.

    But in truth, it’s about the real human beings that get involved in politics. I tried to look at the question of deselections from every angle – without taking a view. When we showed it the first time in the summer, we had the head of Momentum (the pro-Corbyn organisation) in and the head of Labour to Win (the pro-Starmer group) who both enjoyed it and both thought it made their case!

    We get a laugh out of the byzantine nature of the rulebook, but what I wanted to show is that people in politics at all levels are trying to do their best. There aren’t any bad guys in Triggered – just good people with different perspectives.

    Triggered played a short run earlier this year in Lion & Unicorn, how did you feel went? Have you changed or revisited anything in the play for this second run?

    It went really well. We had incredibly responsive audiences who seemed to really love it. It was so interesting talking to them afterward and hearing their responses to it. Everyone has a different theory about it! It is so funny when people tell me that I wrote it with one aim or another in mind – and they all contradict each other. But the joy is – they do want to talk about it afterwards. That makes me feel like we’ve really achieved something.

    I believe you had some Labour MPs attend, did they have any feedback on how the play reflected life in the Labour party?

    They said it was almost too real! One night we even had a Labour whip in at the same time as an MP who was in trouble with leadership and whips. Luckily none of them was Gavin Williamson and everything was fine. The Whip was laughing a lot at the scenes about the discipline so that was good.

    They were actually kind enough to make a video of their reactions.

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    It must be a fantastic feeling to have sold out your second run but does it also bring any additional nerves or pressure with it?

    In some ways I think it makes it easier. Audiences are lovely and responsive and give the actors so much energy. So, when we play to a full house, I think it just helps us all bring just a little something extra. However, we do need to make sure that whatever size of audience we’re playing for, we give it everything. The cast are so brilliant, I know they could and would deliver to one man and a dog.

    However many people are there though, the thing is that they have paid us their money to be there. That’s not something I take lightly in these times. As someone who has (and still does) reviewed, I know that an audience’s time is precious and valuable. We owe them the best show we can give them.

    During a recent round of chaos in British politics, there was a tweet from James Graham which said Don’t any of you buggers call anything political I ever write again ‘implausible’. It made me wonder, how do you approach presenting a play that audiences can believe and respect in a time when we have such unprecedented political chaos?

    It’s interesting with this play. My first play – No Cure For Love – was set in a world I know nothing about. And yet both characters are me. They’re an extension of an argument I have in my head about love and sex all the time.

    Here this is totally my world. I have worked in politics for 20 years. But none of the characters are me at all. In fact, at times I disagree with all of them.

    But I knew that we would have a lot of people coming who would be really really bothered by us getting details wrong. So I learned the rulebook backwards. I got someone who does sit on an NEC panel to look over the script to make sure we wouldn’t be jarring people out of the action with something unrealistic.

    This is your second play, plus you’re also a journalist and theatre reviewer. How have you found this new role as playwright and director? Has it affected how you approach your own reviews now that you have had a full view behind the stage curtain?

    I learned so much about directing from reviewing. So many night watching plays that either entranced me or left me cold or were even just a bit middling, I wasn’t just responding in the moment, but thinking deeply about why that was. And making sure I understood that well enough for myself that I could articulate it in a way that others could find helpful.

    It is so much harder reviewing now. Because I know so much how it feels to be critiqued in that way. But I also know that I am not – eventually – doing anyone any favours if I am not honest. If I give a play a low score, then I always make sure that I say why in the review. What it was that didn’t work for me and why so that – if they want to – they can address it. I hate reviews that are just about the reviewer showing off and being catty and arch or even about them celebrating the theme of the piece rather than the theatre of it.

    For me reviews serve two purposes: firstly helping a hard pressed audience find something that they might want to go and watch; secondly, championing a piece that has really moved me (to laughter, tears or thoughtfulness) and that I think deserves shouting about.

    If something is not great, I feel a duty to that first audience to say so, but to the second to justify why I think so.

    Will we see more of Triggered, two sold out runs would suggest there might be a bright future for this particular play? Do you have anything else in the pipeline at the moment that you can tell us about?
    I mean obviously if a much larger theatre wanted to develop Triggered that would be great. I am extremely proud of it as a piece (*awaits reviews – GULP*). A lot of people on Twitter have also mentioned that they would love to see it in their town, and I think political theatre like Triggered is having a real moment so I think there’s an audience there. What I don’t have is a budget to tour a four actor show or a producer with the know how! I’m open to conversation though – as that would be the dream.
    I am also already working on my next piece of theatre – a one-woman cabaret show loosely based on the Medusa myth. And if I don’t chicken out, the one woman is going to be me. On stage for real, acting and even bloody singing!
    I am also – somewhat bizarrely – potentially working on a Hollywood film with a guy who used to be my music teacher and is now an Emmy nominated composer. As Ferris Bueller says – life comes at you pretty fast sometimes.

    Finally, for a bit of fun as we touched on your journalism and reviewing background above. What question should we have asked you here but managed to miss out and if you’d kindly answer it for us too 😉

    These have been great questions. I suppose the question I am asking myself as I type these answers late on Sunday night is how I fit it all in. Which I don’t really know the answer to yet.

    I know that the question I get a lot from theatre friends is whether I want to be an MP. My political friends know from the state of my Twitter (I am exceptionally indiscreet about myself) that I never would.

    The truth is I would be a terrible MP. I know lots of people who do it brilliantly and they are so dedicated – I hope that respect shows in the piece. But I like to flit from theatre to politics to journalism. I like to write about sex and love and my past and potentially my future and all of those things would make me very unlikely to get through a selection process or to put up with doing the same job for years and years.

    Thanks so much to Emma for taking time to chat with us, you can follow her on Twitter and visit her website here.

    Triggered plays at White Bear Theatre 22 – 26 November and has sold out it’s run. Look for our Everything Theatre review to follow. More

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    Interview: Mum’s The Word

    Psychonaut Theatre on bring Mums to Lion and Unicorn Theatre

    There’s a reason we love the Lion and Unicorn Theatre so much, and why it is the venue that perhaps comes up fairly regularly in our interviews. It certainly isn’t because of their comfy seats! No, it’s because they provide a place for emerging artists to hone their skill and their shows.

    Which is why when we heard about Psychonaut Theatre and their show Mums which will play at the venue in December, we didn’t hesitate to find some time to chat about the show and their company.

    So we sat down (on comfy chairs) with company founder and Artistic Director Arielle Zilkha, and Mums directors, Lavinia Grippa and Karola Kosecka, to hear more about the play and why venues such as this are so vital to young emerging artists.

    Let’s kick straight off with Mums and what’s it all about then?

    KK: Mums is a collective meditation on the process of grieving. During the performance we try to create a safe space for both audience and performers to draw on their internal landscapes of connotations with this state, through the story of one family who suffered a tragedy which pushed them into a permanent cycle of grief.

    An impulse that had led me to start thinking about the topic was a line that I found in one of my old diaries. It was saying: “I am grieving after my brother’s wellbeing” but the key point here is that my brother was never fully healthy, he has always suffered. How can I grieve over something that was never real? Something that had never happened? We try to unpack those questions but our performance is not at all an answer given to the audience. It’s rather an invitation to go through those questions individually but in connection with others.

    Mums is inspired by a 1994 play by Jean-Luc Lagarce – not a name that is probably known to that many of us, what brought you to this play?

    KK: At the beginning of our creative process, I proposed a few general topics to the other performers to see which one resonated with all of us. I wanted to observe if there was any subject that could be thrown into the room and wake up people’s imaginations, memories, dreams. I started the discussion with giving them four broad terms: longing, grieving, sex, exclusion. We started unpacking those words and each member of our group had a possibility to share. After a short time, it became clear that we were all strongly interested in exploring a state of grieving. I started to collect all the things that can bring a person to grieving. I believe that you can reach this state not only after going through somebody’s death but also after a break-up, losing mental stability, after a job that you no longer have, youth, friendship and many more.

    I started looking for texts that are very much rooted in this weird, ghosted sense of living with grief but I kept in mind to search for a piece that would still have elements of non-fiction storytelling. And that is when I first thought of Jean-Luc Lagarce – French director, actor and theatre maker from the second half of the twentieth century.

    And you say inspired by as opposed to based on, how much is the original text and how much is your original for this play?

    KK: Yes, I never say that we are basing our performance on Lagarce’s play. What I believe we did is that we took his text as a base to build on. After I translated the French script and cut out some bits from it, we ended up using less than one quarter of the original drama. Moreover, we added plenty of multiform content that we created in the process of workshopping. Our piece is immersed in music written by Arielle, which she based on a Polish folk song that I sang at one of our first sessions, during an exercise of creating a soundscape to situations that happened in our lives and that are somehow connected to grief. Later I also added the Parable of the Prodigal Son which became an ending to our story – a confession of the Mother to her kids, her subtle but unbearably honest way of telling her children what a mother is going through when she loses a son. There is also a monologue that Eva’s character gives– it was written by her and it came from her own process of building a relationship with the character she is playing.

    The common thread is one of grief and how we deal with it, have you or the performers brought personal experiences to the performance as a way of making it more personal?

    LG: The subject of grief was decided as the base of our play from the beginning of our process, mainly because we have all experienced grief in some way. It was very clear from the beginning that we didn’t want to restrict the concept of grief to death: we wanted to see it more as the loss of something or the longing that will never be fulfilled, something which is heavily explored in Mums.

    Our process for the play started by exploring this concept further, through workshops and exercises, finding what grief meant for each performer and what their bigger object of grief was. As a company when devising work, we begin our process from the ‘outside’, exploring themes broadly through diving into our personal experiences, and then moving ‘inside’- finding a frame to apply our findings to. The text of Jean-Luc Lagarce was a great fit for our work: a common subject of grief and yet five very clear, personal and different approaches towards it.

    This is Psychonaut Theatre’s first production, is this a sign of what you intend to do with future works? Will we be seeing more European inspired works?

    AZ: Definitely! Because we’re such an international group, it’s really important to us that our work authentically represents the diversity of our ensemble. And through that, we love to discover less well-known international texts that we can translate and adapt as a springboard for our own material. Text has never been the driving force of our work as a group or as individuals, but that’s not to say that it hasn’t underpinned our devising process, like in Mums. Our work tends to be less narrative focussed, and perhaps less of what British theatre audiences are used to. Part of our mission as a company is to introduce these audiences to a more experimental style of theatre, and challenge them to take risks with the theatre they choose to watch- like we take risks with the theatre we make.

    Additionally, because we operate as a collective of artists, the style of our group work will change on a project-to-project basis, representative of the directing member’s practice: a piece led by me would have a different focus and style to one led by Karola. But, we are all part of Psychonaut, and therefore we are driven by the same core principles.

    What was the thought process behind that company name, it certainly stands out!

    AZ: Thank you! Well, a psychonaut is someone who uses hallucinogenic substances to explore their subconscious. And that’s basically the experience we want to give to audiences who come to our shows. As performance-makers in the 21st century, we place a lot of focus on theatre as a live art form, and how that liveness can create new and perhaps unexpected events for the audience. Our aim for Mums is for it to take the audience to a place of meditation around grieving, where they can totally immerse themselves in the thoughts, feelings and experiences that come with it.

    How did you get involved with The Lion and Unicorn Theatre?

    AZ: Mums is a piece we developed during our final term at university, in preparation for our graduate showcase. We’d built the company during our time on the course so everything would be ready for us to launch into the industry once we graduated. Mums received really positive feedback from all different age groups, so I didn’t hesitate to take the plunge and get it out there! The Lion and Unicorn Theatre really stood out for me as a venue for emerging artists and companies, where the work doesn’t have to tick a specific box, but rather artists are free to take risks and experiment however they wish to. I’m really thankful that they saw something in our company and invited us to be part of their curated programme!

    With the play called Mums, we have to ask, are you inviting your mums along to see it in December?

    LG: With our mums all from different countries, it will be tricky- but we’ll definitely film it for them! However, there are a few different reasons why we chose this title. The first one is because of the more common name for the flower Chrysanthemum that is usually put on the graves of loved ones.

    Grief, and the burden of pain sometimes distances us from all of the characteristics that usually represent motherhood, such as looking out for others, putting oneself as second and putting others as a priority. When grief comes along, especially grief for one’s child, all of this can fail. For our mother in the play this is exactly what happened: to nurture her pain and her grief she stopped nurturing her children, which led to them all trying to nurture themselves. We started to see them all as possible motherly figures, especially my character, the Oldest, who takes on the duty to do what her mother, destroyed by her own grief, is no longer able to do.

    What do you have planned for 2023 after this then?

    AZ: Our main goal for 2023 is to focus on taking Mums to more audiences and build more relationships with venues, perhaps also exploring non-theatrical spaces where it can be performed. We’d love to secure a longer run in London and maybe even take it out of the capital. In addition to that I’m also producing the UK premiere of a piece by collective member Juraj Benko, made in collaboration with Nordisk Teater Laboratorium-Odin Teatret in Denmark. And I’m going to start thinking about our next project which we’ll likely start working on in 2024. So, a lot to look forward to.

    Our thanks to the team at Psychonaut Theatre for chatting with us. Mums will play at Lion and Unicorn Theatre 6 – 10 December 2022. Further information and bookings can be found here.

    (Photo credits: Christina Sarkisian, Sanna Hofker and Alex Forey) More

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    Interview: Tellling The Truth for Pinocchio

    Justin Audibert and Eve Leigh on Unicorn Theatre’s Pinocchio

    This Christmas at the Unicorn Theatre there’s not just one, not two, but three shows for families to choose from, both live and streamed. We were delighted to have the opportunity to chat with Artistic Director Justin Audibert and Playwright Eve Leigh about one of them, Pinocchio, and ask them about what they are getting up to with this classic family favourite.

    Hi Justin, Hi Eve! It’s fabulous to get a chance to chat with you about Pinocchio – the Play at the Unicorn this season. I was going to start very rudely with “Duh, why Pinocchio AGAIN? Everyone does that!”, but having seen the incredible Gulliver‘s Travels you guys came up with earlier this year I now know better than to doubt you. What prompted you to choose this play?

    EL: We’re in a moment that many people describe as “post-truth.” In a post-truth world, what is the value of telling the truth? Why teach our children to tell the truth? What kind of behaviour is encouraged in a world where your word is assumed to essentially be worthless?

    I wanted to make a version of Pinocchio that was incredibly joyous and satisfying as a seasonal play, that also, quietly but persistently, asked these questions. How are we in relation to each other?

    JA: Eve spoke with such a clarity of vision about how she felt the story sang to her that I was compelled to commission, and she duly delivered with her first draft. But what additionally surprised and moved me so much was how rich and true to life the relationship between Pinocchio and Gepetto was. In this version you see Gepetto struggling to be a good parent just as much as Pinocchio is struggling to be a good boy, and that is where the heart of the story lies.

    The story originated in Italy way back in 1883, in Carlo Collodi’s brilliant book: are you going for a traditional style of Christmas show reflecting its heritage, or can we expect some twists and tech?

    EL: Justin will talk more about this, I’m sure, but this is a playful, theatrical production that makes great use of puppetry and a very physical ensemble!

    JA: We have all the festive bells and whistles that you could possibly want; sparkles, dances, live music, a set so delicious that you want to eat it right up, but we also have not shied away from the danger, darkness and surrealism of the original. Collodi mixes light and shade up so powerfully in the novel and we have been inspired to do that with this production. Any moment you find yourself belly laughing you are probably in for a nasty shock thirty seconds later…

    I see there are puppets in the show, designed and made by the amazing Chris Pirie, and you have the fantastic Laura Cubitt directing puppetry and movement – both top talent! Can you tell us a bit about this?

    EL: Chris taught Jean Chan, our wonderful designer, when she trained at Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama so she was the first person she thought of when we realised we wanted to play with scale and puppetry in the production. Chris works with such love, care and attention to detail, but he also has a very funny sense of humour. I think the children will be scared of his hulking dogfish and I think the parents will be chortling away at his interpretation.

    Laura has been someone I have wanted to work with for ages because I have followed the shows she has made and her work as a performer. It’s been a dream collaboration. She has such a wide range of skills and influences that have fed into the show. Special mention of course has to go to the delicate work she has done with Peyvand Sadeghian, our Pinocchio, in slowly turning the character from a marionette puppet into a real boy. Also, she has done some wonderful work with Susan Harrison in creating Marmalade the Cat and in giving us a Blue Fairy in Eleanor Wyld with a whole heap of world weariness, but also true magic. It’s been such a lovely experience.

    What about the rest of the cast? I’m presuming there are also some humans onstage?

    EL: For me, something that’s given the production a lot of richness is that Peyvand, playing a puppet, is also a professional puppeteer. I feel like you can really see that in what they bring to Pinocchio –  there’s just a specificity and delicacy in their performance that helps the production language between puppets and actors come together.,

    JA: Tom Kanji as Gepetto likewise brings such a tenderness to his portrayal and yet such a vulnerability and humanity. He isn’t the doddery old man in the Disney film; he is so much more rounded and flawed. And then Tom gets to absolutely let his comic chops rip in portraying the raffish and dastardly Fratello who leads Pinocchio astray. Additional shout outs to Pinocchio’s sticky fingered, studious best friend Polpetta (Eleanor Wyld), who is maybe the pinkest thing on the planet and to Sam Pay’s utterly terrifying bully Mommo, part giant manbaby part arsonist. My personal favorite character though is Eleanor as the toy obsessed Duchess, with a golden wig from the heavens. It has to be seen to be believed.

    Using puppetry as part of the production, I’m guessing it will be taking us on adventures to places we wouldn’t normally get to go. What can you tell us?

    EL: Did you ever wonder if there were glow-in-the-dark fish skeletons inside a shark’s belly? WONDER NO MORE (and spoiler alert).

    JA: Ha ha ha! Eve, I can’t believe you’ve spilled those beans! We also do some very fun and magical flying too – well, it is Christmas after all.

    Many of the audience will know the story from the Disney movie, which has some fabulous songs in it. Will you be having music too?

    EL: Yes we do! Our brilliant music is by Barnaby Race, played mostly on the accordion by Sam Pay and sung by the cast.

    The original story is about Pinocchio’s moral development, which sounds a bit heavy going on paper. Will there be themes that are fun and relevant to today’s audiences at Christmas?

    EL: Absolutely. I’m tempted to list some of the more obviously fun and ridiculous things the production has – con artists! A murderous ginger cat! The Blue Fairy as played by Carol Kane from Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt! – but really, what the production is about is the ways in which we are real to each other. We can’t understand that we’re real until we understand that other people are real, that the impact we have on other people is real. Being reminded that we’re real, that other people are real, and that our actions matter, could not be more important going into this winter.

    JA: Amen to that. We want to spread joy, laughter and hope with this beautiful show this festive season.

    Many thanks to Justin Audibert and Eve Leigh for taking the time out of their busy schedules to talk with us. Pinocchio runs at the Unicorn Theatre from 6 November – 31 December 2022 and is aimed at ages 7+. Check the website here for full dates plus a range of access performances. More

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    Interview: Diving into The Drought

    Playwright Nina Atesh and Director Chloe Cattin talk about The Drought

    A psychological horror in an original setting with a tight, smart script and performances to match.

    That’s how we described The Drought in our review when it played at King’s Head Theatre. With the play now returning to Old Red Lion Theatre as part of Grimfest, we caught up with its writer Nina Atesh and director Chloe Cattin to talk about life on the seabed.

    Tell us a little about The Drought, what can audiences expect?

    Nina: The Drought is a story set on a Victorian British Navy ship, several months into an unexpected disaster where all the ocean all over the world has disappeared. The crew have left their ship, and the only two people remaining aboard are the Captain and his steward. I would say don’t expect your typical horror story. There are no jump scares – not a lot of graphic gore. What I tried to create with this play is a sense of desperation, a chilling dread in the wake of something terrible and unimaginable happening… and what that does to the human mind. Essentially it is a story about madness – but there are other major themes in there of colonialism, hierarchy and servitude. 

    Chloe: Nina has written a beautiful play – even on the second run of it, it still brings up questions and interpretations in the rehearsal room. I think audiences can be expected to be confronted with their own humanity. The pandemic is still quite recent – our lives were disrupted for a time and we entered into our own modes of survival. That’s where we meet the Captain and his Steward – in survival mode. They cling and claw onto what is familiar in the midst of this unspeakable happening.

    How did you feel the run at King’s Head theatre last month went? Reviews, including ours, were quite positive, you must have been pleased? Have you made (m)any changes for this second run?

    Nina: This is my first ever play – so to have it debut at the King’s Head was just an incredible experience! It’s a really hard time for Fringe theatre at the moment, so the support I had from the theatre and the audiences was so great. The feedback was really positive, I was certainly surprised considering we didn’t have the chance for previews or any R&D’s in the lead up. I just kind of threw the production in at the deep end! But I had faith in the story, and a lot of faith in the performers, who are all incredible – so I think it worked out well for us. As a writer, you’re always thinking of tweaks, or what could be done differently. I watched the show every night, and I knew we had another run coming up in November so I came away sort of buzzing to get back into the script again. There hasn’t been a great deal of time to make too many drastic changes, and you’re always limited by what you can do on a Fringe stage(!) but there are certainly some things I took away from that first run that we’re trying to inject into the upcoming one. 

    Chloe: Alex McCarthy and Nina did such a wonderful job for the run at the King’s Head. Alex – for his beautiful direction and sound design and Nina for her incredible script. It’s exciting to have another chance to work on the play in a different space because every performance is site specific in a way. It’s not a question of transposing the play from one venue to another but looking at what challenges and opportunities the space yields. So whilst the script has had a few tweaks, the staging has changed quite a bit.
    The King’s Head Theatre was laid out in the traverse so the actors could be seen by the audience from all angles – there was nowhere to hide! The two sides of the audience were seeing two sides of the story. We performed on the set of another show as well so had a few elements we had to work with at the last minute.
    In the Old Red Lion, there is a more traditional, end on, configuration and the space is ours for our entire run so we can really settle in! It feels more intimate and confrontational, almost claustrophobic. Walking up the stairs up to the theatre feels like a ship. It feels a bit more immersive.

    Chloe, you are taking over as director in Old Red Lion, have the cast been welcoming or have you had to stamp your authority down immediately? Tell us a little about first working on the show in King’s Head and now moving to directing it in ORL? 

    They’re such a great group, it’s lovely to be working together again after the first run!

    The creative team made it clear early on that I shouldn’t have a carbon copy of the show at the Old Red Lion but to use the second run as an opportunity to take on the feedback from the first run, and have another iteration of the show. Alex said he wasn’t ‘precious’ about the work but just to make it even better. Which is quite a unique position to be in as an associate director because usually the originating artist is very specific about what they want. 

    As the stage manager for the King’s Head run, I got to know the production on a technical level – doing pre-show checks, writing lists, giving the actors calls, operating sound and lights and generally holding the space for the cast and creative team. Whilst operating the sound and lights, you get a feel for how the piece breathes and moves with the performers. As a director I’ve still got all those elements in my head but I’m now in a position to influence the piece with feedback from the first iteration and my own understanding of the play.

    Nina, take us a step further back in the development of the show: how did Andrew Callaghan, Jack Flammiger and Caleb O’Brien come together to become your naval trio?

    We did group auditions and funnily enough, Andrew, Jack and Caleb all auditioned together. For me it was a thing of just seeing these performers instantly gel, and thinking to myself almost as soon as they walked through the door – oh my god. This is our cast. These are my characters! There was an instant dynamic there, and they brought things to the characters I hadn’t even thought of whilst writing it. I think that’s what you look for in a performer – someone who can see things between the lines. It was a fascinating process for me, someone who’s come from a performance background myself and being on the other side of it was just so thrilling. I remember loving that day – it was such a rewarding part of the process. 

    Listening to our recent podcast where we chatted with Nina and a couple of the cast, it sounded like The Drought became a very collaborative process once the script met the rehearsal room, can you expand a little on that?

    Nina: Yes, it really was. Again it’s that thing of the actors finding so much in these characters, that you don’t want, or even need, to push them back and say – no he wouldn’t do that, or say that – because they understand the story and their characters so well, that it’s easy to make those edits in the rehearsal room because you know they work and make sense. I remember Andrew (who plays the Captain) coming in on one of our first rehearsals with this whole fleshed out background for the character, with a family and a career history and everything! And I just thought wow… this guy knows the character even better than I do!
    What was great about the creative process too, is that the team weren’t afraid to question things in the script, maybe even things about the characters or their intentions that I had overlooked. So it was a really fun process. I think writers can have a tendency to be quite insular – can get stuck away in their own little world and then just shield themselves from the rehearsal room. I’m the complete opposite of that – I want to see it grow and take a shape. I think it makes you realise things about your own writing that you never would’ve thought of before. The Drought is one of those stories with lots of unreliable narrators… there’s a lot of deception – who is telling the truth? So it’s really important for a play like this to be worked through in a way that is collaborative.

    Chloe: And it’s still a very collaborative process going into the Old Red Lion! It’s my favourite way to work as a theatre maker! Everyone takes an active part in the making of the work, the work is never done. The actors know these characters so well and are constantly interrogating the work. Nina’s encyclopaedic knowledge of the Navy is indispensable in staging the work too. It really is a very collaborative process. 

    You are back in rehearsals this week; we imagine it’s a somewhat different process when everyone knows each other already and has at least some familiarity with the script. How has it been going?

    Nina: Honestly I couldn’t wait to get back into rehearsals, not just to get stuck into the play again, but also because I genuinely just enjoy everyone’s company! It sounds cliche – but they really are just a lovely bunch to work with. I think there’s been enough time since the first run that it feels a bit fresh, but not too long that it’s been easy to get back into the swing of it and immerse ourselves back into this world. It’s a different space so it’s interesting to think of the set up of the cabin (which is where the whole play takes place) and think about new things we can do with the set with the extra time we have.
    Chloe: There’s a shorthand not only with the group but with the play itself so we have been able to dive right back in! It’s so rare to get the opportunity to work on a play again, to look at it with all the experience of the first run but with the novelty of a new space. 

    Moving on from The Drought, what is next for you both and for Pither Productions? Is there anything coming up you can tell us about?

    Nina: The British Navy and Victorian expeditions really are enveloping my life at the moment! There’s some very very brief and early stage discussions about possibly adapting The Drought for TV but that really is dependent on some higher up the food chain powers that be! For now I’m just really enjoying it being on stage, and would love to take the show on tour next year if we can get the funding for it. But away from dried out earth and hairy sea captains… I’d love to bring more horror on to the stage. I’m really keen to promote more of these chilling, atmospheric tales that can have such an impact in small intimate venues like fringe theatres – and not just for the Halloween season(!) So I plan on spending this winter putting pen to paper again and maybe writing something new. So watch this space… 😉 

    Chloe: I’ve got a busy and varied season of work coming up! After The Drought, I am directing a rehearsed reading of The Prophet of Monto by JP Murphy which we have just cast. Then I’m directing a Christmas show Deck the Stalls, an anti-panto written by Lydia Brickland, for a mini London tour in December. I’m also prepping for Dead Positive by Hannah Kennedy which has a run in February next year. We’ve also just finished casting it so it’s wonderful to have it slowly come together.

    Our thanks to Nina and Chloe for taking a break from rehearsals to chat with us. All photo credits: Bethany Monk-Lane 

    The Drought plays at Old Red Lion Theatre from 1 – 4 November . Tickets and further information can be found here. More