Review: Octopolis, Hampstead Theatre - Academics, an octopus and David Bowie
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Interview: Theatre in 5 questions with award winning director Emily Aboud

Emily Aboud
Director and playwright Emily Aboud

Director and playwright Emily Aboud received the Evening Standard's Future Theatre award, and her latest directing project, Flip! is touring the UK in October and November. Written by Racheal Ofori and produced by Fuel Theatre, here she talks about the play, how she'll feel on opening night and why the best theatre is a gig.

Watch the video interview here.

How would you describe the play Flip!?

So Flip! is a two-hander about two best friends who want to become influencers.

And it's dystopian because it's taking where AI is now and making it worse - it's on the path already.

So it's sort of dystopian comedy about two best friends whose friendship completely gets destroyed. One of the character's relationship to herself, her sense of self is destroyed because it's all for the fans and nothing for herself.

How do you choose what projects to work on, and what drew you to Flip!?

Oh, I'm really good at rejecting offers, which is bad because it's not financially smart. But yeah, I'm really interested in plays that are playful or, inherently theatrical or political.

That sounds boring if I say it like that, but that's what clown is, that is what drag is. That's what a lot of my past work utilises, those very direct political theatrical forms.

So, I wouldn't particularly say I'm very interested in naturalism, but that's not true because I'm dying to do Chekhov. But I'm drawn to fearless and political shows, which is what Flip! is.

I think I was really lucky because I didn't interview for it. It was that Racheal [Ofori], the writer, had seen some of my work and wants me to be myself with her work, which is really great.

I'm really excited about the play and the collaboration between me and the writer because there are no hurdles. She's like: I know what you do, can you do it for me? And I'm like: I would love to do it for you. Let's go even harder. Let's fucking go.

Racheal Ofori  Jadesola Odunjo  Anna Robinson  Eliyana Evans  KJ  Stella Kailides  Leah St Luce  Emily Aboud. Photo Quason Matthews (2)
The Flip! creative team: Racheal Ofori, Jadesola Odunjo, Anna Robinson, Eliyana Evans, KJ, Stella Kailides, Leah St Luce and Emily Aboud. Photo Quason Matthews

How will you be feeling on press night?

I'm actually quite chronically chill on the night. I just think so much of my process is trying to mitigate all the problems before they can happen.

This is gonna sound really wanky, unless it's something props-wise that can break or can go wrong, I have complete faith in the actors, the stage management and the team. 

By the time we're at press, I'm: You guys rock. I just don't care if the critics don't like it because I have great taste. So maybe I've been just really, really quite cocky about that.

And on press night, I'm like, let's have a drink, man, this show's good. Let's go.

For those who've never been in the rehearsal room, what might surprise them about the process?

I'm very collaborative in the rehearsal room. And that's great because it means we have as many ideas as possible from the actors, designers, and stage management.

But what I think is surprising is how long it takes me to make a decision because I'm very, very pro: We've not locked this in yet. Let's try it this way. And let's try it this way.

I feel like a lot of people who don't know theatre think that it's like film where this genius auteur comes in and: 'you're gonna sit like this, and you're gonna twitch that eyebrow, and it's gonna be close up'. 

Whereas theatre, it's like a playground for me. Obviously, I do make decisions, and I'm good at my job. But in theatre, I'm: right, what's the funniest thing? What's the silliest thing you can do? This isn't naturalism, we can get inflatable boobs. What's funny? Let's try it.

What's your favourite theatre to watch?

If that wasn't evident, probably clown and cabaret. I'm a drag king, so I'm super in the cabaret world. I don't drag as much as I used to, which is a shame, but I would say the theatre I'm interested in has a lot of clown aspects and a lot of light cabaret themes.

But then also, frankly, I think the best theatre ever is always going to be a gig. I saw David Byrne of the Talking Heads, and that was the best theatre I've ever seen.

And ironically, that went on to do a Broadway run, so it is theatre. I think I just really like theatre that's aware of the audience and encourages the audience to become a part of it, which is what theatre should be, in my opinion.

Like this interview? Check out another I did with the playwright and director Rebecca Holbourn ahead of her play Violated.