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Interview: Director Jimmy Walters on fun and musicality in his revival of WWI-set Square Rounds, Finborough Theatre

"Having these six munitionettes tell the story adds a theatrical quality to the play in a play that provides a lot of fun."

Getting its first staging for three decades, Tony Harrison's World War I-set play Square Rounds is based on true events and explores the devastating impact of chemical warfare and weapons of mass destruction.

Square Rounds (Rehearsal Images) - Cast_2  courtesy of Samuel Taylor
Jimmy Walters in rehearsal with the cast of Square Rounds. Photo: Samuel Taylor

Director Jimmy Walters talks about its relevance today and paring the play down for an intimate performance space.

Square Rounds was last performed 30 years ago at the National Theatre, why is it ripe for revival?

It feels more relevant now than it was in 1992 in some ways. It tackles gun control, the power of trigger-happy populist rhetoric and addresses the ongoing conflict between the ideologies of Christianity and Islam.

It has an all-female cast, what dynamic does that add to the play and storytelling?

We open with six munitionettes in a factory. At the very same time, these women were taking on the roles of men they go one step further and play the men with a bit of magic involved.

Having these six munitionettes tell the story adds a theatrical quality to the play in a play that provides a lot of fun.

Square Rounds COMPANY BRANDThe play is performed in verse, what challenges does that present and what does it add?

The hardest challenge is for the actors learning all the lines as each line has a different number of beats but it is a joy to listen to.

Like all great poetry it adds musicality to each scene and when some of those monologues take off, you feel swept along by it.

The Finborough is an intimate performance space, what challenges does that present when directing…

I think you learn to scale the production down. It has to be adapted to that space. Some of our earlier work we’ve tried to squeeze elephants into telephone boxes and sitting in the front row has been quite stressful for audience members.

You need to adapt the play to make it suit the space and at its heart “Square Rounds” has an intimacy and a personal touch.

...and what does it add to the audience experience?

It makes you feel involved and you feel part of it. You are taken on the journey in a magical way.

Square Rounds is at the Finborough Theatre until 29 September and Terri Paddock will be chairing a post-show Q&A with Jimmy and the cast on 18 September.

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