47 posts categorized "Interviews" Feed

Interview: Actor & writer Léa des Garets talks about her new play George and LGBTQ+ representation in theatre

Lea des Garets - press shot
Actor & writer Lea des Garets

Léa des Garets is a queer award-winning actor, writer and theatre-maker from France. Through her company MQT Productions, Léa aims to give more visibility to hidden voices from the past and the present, focusing particularly on international voices, female-led narratives and the LGBTQIA+ community.

Here, she talks to me about George, her new play, which opens at the Omnibus Theatre later this month, playing a writer writing a play and LGBTQ+ representation in theatre. (Scroll to the end for the video)

George is inspired by the story of queer French author George Sand. How did you discover her, and what made you want to write the play?

So I am French, and George Sand is quite well known in France, but in a very limited way. Although she sold more books than Victor Hugo and Honoré Balzac in her time, she isn't nearly as well known as they are today.

At school, I had only studied two of her works, so I wasn't drawn to her literary works. But what I did know was that she dressed as a man, she used a male pen name and allegedly had many lovers.

I had this sense that she was a free woman or expressed her gender in whatever way she wanted, and she was still really, really successful in 19th-century France.

In 2019, I was really exploring my own queerness and craving for figures, not only to study but also to potentially embody as an actor, and I re-stumbled upon her.

In spite of all the press slandering, she still fought for equality and went against the norms, not only in what she represented but also in what she was saying. She really has something to say to our time, so I needed to write about her. And how amazing would it be to play her?

You play George and wrote the play, how does being the playwright inform your performance process, particularly as George in the play is a writer?

I had this image of three circles, there was my world, Léa the writer, and her world, George Sand the writer and the work that she is writing in George the play, which is her play Gabriel.

So much of the writing process of George is included in the play itself. There was a lot of bouncing off ideas with loved ones who are in the industry and who aren't, as well as brainstorming. There was some getting up in the middle of the night to write and also not commanding inspiration but having things come at you from the outside.

But then there is also the tunnel vision for something that you end up being so incredibly passionate about. I really found and experienced that, and I know what it feels like to hold on to what you believe in.

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Interview: Camila França and Trine Garrett, co-artistic directors of Foreign Affairs theatre company

Rev Stan interview with Camila and Trine Foreign Affairs Theatre

Camila França and Trine Garrett are co-artistic directors of the Foreign Affairs theatre company, which produces translated work sometimes in unusual spaces.

Ahead of their latest production, Black Swans at the Omnibus Theatre (23 April-11 May), I asked them about the new piece, how they choose what stories to tell and the unusual places they've staged theatre in the past.  

Black Swans also sees Camila and Trine returning to acting after a 5-year break, so I asked them what they are looking forward to about being back on stage and how they'll be feeling on opening night.

You can watch the full interview on my YouTube channel here.

Your theatre company, Foreign Affairs, shares stories from afar. What is the process for finding the plays you put on, and what are you looking for from a piece?

Trine: Our focus is working with theatre in translation. And the translators are our best friends, so plays get pitched to us. We also discover them through our theatre translator mentorship, which we run every other year.

And this play [Black Swans] was discovered during one of those.

What draws us to the plays that we stage is a lot about identity and belonging. We are both not from the UK; I'm from Denmark and Camila's from Brazil.

And then plays about women. I think that has been at the forefront for the last year with this one in particular [Black Swans], and prior to that, we did a rehearsed reading of a play about a female Danish scientist.

Black Swans is about caregiving for an elderly parent in a world of increasing technological influence. Tell us a bit about the play and what drew you to this particular story.

Camila: It's a story about women, and that immediately appealed. And then there's also a personal connection to the story, both on my side and Trine's, caring for elderly family, which is something we as a society tend not to talk a lot about.

The play is about two sisters who have to care for their elderly mother, who can no longer look after herself.

In that comes all the beauty and the bickering of their relationship and what happens when decisions have to be made.

How do they deal with it, and how does it affect their personal relationships, their own lives, and their relationship with their mother?

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Interview: Actor & writer Sam McArdle on The Manny and how it helped him bounce back into acting

Rev Stan and Sam McArdle

Sam McArdle had given up acting and started writing a play for 'something to do'. He ended up performing that play, The Manny, at the King's Head Theatre last year and a successful run in Dublin followed.

Ahead of The Manny's return to London at the Pleasance Theatre this week, I jumped on a video call to ask Sam about the play, the process of creating it, getting back into acting and what his ideal role would be.

You can watch the full interview here.

How did you decide what real parts of your experiences as a male nanny to include and what to leave out when you were writing The Manny?

Just the juiciest parts. I really wanted to keep in the bits about the child who is obsessed with World War II and then the bits about going to the school gates and seeing the other mannies literally trying to muscle in on your territory.

It's like a networking event. Picking up the mums at the school gate and working out, okay, I can get more shifts by working for them. I thought that was interesting and funny.

What parts did I want to leave out? The image of the male nanny is much more salacious than actually what the job entails.

So I left out a lot of the mundane day-to-day things of picking up the kids from school, cooking them dinner, making sure they do their homework. That would be a crap play.

Were you always writing The Manny for yourself to perform? And how did that inform the process?

No one else is going to play the Manny. No way.

To be honest, I just started writing it. I'd quit acting completely, and it was just something to do, and it's almost a form of therapy.

And then, after I got the bare bones of the script, I did a play reading during COVID, those ghastly Zoom play readings.

I thought, 'Oh, this feels really nice and good'. I felt like my old self was coming back.

And then I made a decision like the guy in The Bear, Richie, in the fourth episode, something in me just flicked, and I said, 'I've got to make a change and get back to London, put the show on, and I've got to see if I can still do it'.

So from there, after the first draught, it was something I wanted to do to express how I've been feeling the last couple of years.

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Interview: Robert Softley Gale of Birds of Paradise Theatre talks disabled representation and snobbishness about musicals

Robert Softley-Gale
Robert Softley Gale, artistic director of Birds of Paradise Theatre Company

Birds of Paradise, Scotland's pre-eminent disabled-led theatre company, is celebrating its 30th anniversary with a tour of its darkly comic play Don't Make Tea.

Before the company hits the road later this month I spoke to artistic director Robert Softley Gale about how he chooses what work to produce, disabled representation in the theatre (and yes Richard III at The Globe comes up) and his favourite type of theatre to watch.

Here are the highlights from that chat, scroll down to watch the video.

Tell us a bit about the work you do as artistic director of the Birds of Paradise (BOP) theatre company and how you decide what work to produce.

The company has been going for 31 years, and I’ve been artistic director since 2012. And I think the role is best explained as putting disabled stories onto the stage.

And that sounds very simplistic and ‘what's the big deal with that’? But if you look at our culture, there's a real lack of disabled stories.

I feel like BOP has a role to play in putting those stories on stage.

The first show I produced was a sex comedy called Wendy Hoose in 2014. It was a very standard two-actor comedy where they meet online, get together, and then he comes to her apartment and discovers that she's got no legs.

So, he’s immediately having to navigate how that works.

Taking stories that are quite familiar, like a sex comedy, and then putting disability into them is something I think is very interesting.

The stories we have to tell aren't radically different, but with a different perspective, they've got something different to say. 

Then there was Purposeless Movements, which was a physical theatre piece with four disabled guys telling you about their lives and explaining what masculinity meant to them as disabled men.

Then My Left/Right Foot, which is a musical co-produced with the National Theatre of Scotland.

That took the story of Christie Brown who wrote My Left Foot and asked the question: If an amateur theatre company tried to put this on stage, how wrong could they get it, how inappropriate could you be?

It's a very in-your-face musical. It was really well received as a big scale, quite shocking but also quite endearing musical about disability.

The key is that people came for a great night at the theatre; they didn't come to be told what it's like to be disabled because that's not very exciting.

So I guess I'm telling you about those productions to explain how I pick things. It's very much about what will attract audiences.

"If you come away from a piece of theatre having laughed very hard, having cried and thinking about something a different way, then its job done"

I hate theatre that's navel-gazing and 'what I want to say'. I mean, obviously, it's about what I want to say, but it's about what audiences want to hear, what they want to find out about.

It's about being aware of where the audience is, what they're interested in, what will entertain and surprise them and what will educate them. That's not a very popular word.

If you come away from a piece of theatre having laughed very hard, having cried and thinking about something a different way, then its job done.

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Theatre in 5 questions: Mark Down & Ben Keaton, co-writers/directors, The Sex Lives of Puppets, Southwark Playhouse

Ben Keaton Mark Down interview screenshot
What inspired theatre co-writers/directors Mark Down and Ben Keaton to create The Sex Lives of Puppets? I sat down with Mark and Ben ahead of the opening night at the Southwark Playhouse to find out more about Blind Summit's latest production and their theatre work.

Here's what they had to say (edited), and you can watch the full interview on YouTube by clicking here.

1. What inspired you to write The Sex Lives of Puppets? And why puppets?

Mark Down: We were messing around, and we loved them (the puppets) doing interview-style sort of backstage interviews, and they were very good when they talked about sex. 

Ben Keaton: You had a great title for a start.

Mark: I think it was a good title. And once we had it, it was sort of irresistible.

Ben: Mark brought me in, and I've said it many times, we just have to create a show around a great title. 

2. You are co-writers and co-directors. How does the collaboration work?

Mark: It's a f*cking nightmare.

Ben: I've made sure it's difficult. It's been my job to do this.

Mark: It came about because Ben auditioned, and he said, 'I know nothing about puppets'. And I was blown away by his voice.

I looked at who'd auditioned and said to my co-director, I want Ben, and if he really can't do puppets, I will do something else. And so that's how we got together, and then the arguments started.

Ben: Mark has an immense experience. He's incredibly passionate about what he does; he has a thing in his mind that he wants. And I come from a different world.

So the combination of our two skills come together in this, but not without bumping heads, that's for darn sure. What I love is we have one agenda, which is to make a great show, and everything clears its way for that.

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Theatre in 5 questions with director Sara Joyce - "We wanted to fight for her without making her inherently likeable"

Sara Joyce  Aimée Kelly  Gill Greer  Eliza Clark (c) Rebecca Need-Menear
L-R Sara Joyce with fellow Boy Parts creatives: Aimée Kelly (actor), Gill Greer (adaptation) and Eliza Clark (novel). Photo: Rebecca Need-Menear

Theatre director Sara Joyce's previous work includes Dust by Milly Thomas and Fringe First winning The Last Return. Here she talks about her new project, Boy Parts, what drew her to working in the theatre, her favourite theatre and how she'll be feeling on press night.

Boy Parts is described as a pitch-black psychological thriller adapted by Gillian Greer from Eliza Clark's novel and is at the Soho Theatre from 19 October. 

This is an edited version of the interview; scroll down to watch the full interview.

What made you want to work in theatre?

I wanted to work in something to do with entertainment or storytelling. I was acting, and I thought: well, I'm going to be an actor, and I don't think I saw anything outside of theatre as accessible.

Maybe it was just narrow-mindedness, or I didn't really think about it. And I think luckily so because I love it.

And then there's the question of why you keep working in theatre. I enjoy the event of it. I was thinking about it this week in rehearsal, and it feels a bit like you're planning a party that's going to be on every night.

There's something both vital and redundant about it at the same time.  

I love rehearsals. I love making things from scratch and figuring things out. And I love the shared experience with a team - people coming up with ideas you'd never think of.

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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.

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Interview: Writer & director Rebecca Holbourn on her new play and what she loves about theatre

Later this week, writer, director and producer Rebecca Holbourn will be at Camden People's Theatre preparing for the opening night of her new play Violated.

I asked her about the play and her thoughts on theatre, and you can watch the interview, or there is a transcript below.

How would you describe your play Violated?

Violated is based on real-life experiences. It explores and discusses broken consent and violation in many different forms, not just sex.

Why did you want to tell this story?

This story is obviously very personal to me as it includes a lot of my past, and that gets explored, which is very tricky. But I think everyone has their own tricky memory that they don't necessarily want to face.

And everyone needs to consider if actually some of the things they're holding on to might be because they didn't say yes.

How will you be feeling on opening night?

Opening night sounds scary, but I honestly cannot wait for my actors to be in front of an audience because they're smashing it, and they deserve to be seen.

I should probably be proud of my words too, but I can't wait for people to see my actors.

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Interview: Theatre creativity during lockdown and its legacy - with Chloe Nelkin

Instagram Live chat with Chloe Nelkin

Chloe Nelkin has run theatre, arts and opera PR company, Chloe Nelkin Consulting, for 10 years, and we sat down to talk about how theatres responded during lockdown and what the legacy will be. I also asked her what we should look out for and what she's most looking forward to seeing.

You can watch the full chat with Chloe on IGTV (link below).

What was it like when lockdown was announced in March 2020?

Crikey, it was devastating. Everything that we know and loved in this industry was just torn apart. The live entertainment industry, the very nature of it is all about being out and about and suddenly we were all locked inside for our own safety.

So, it was a horrible time, especially as we didn't know how long it was going to go on for and if everybody would get through it.

At the beginning of March, we'd actually celebrated CNC 10th anniversary and brought together loads of our past clients and our current clients and friends, and it was then the most bizarre thing that a week later suddenly that was all ripped away from us.  So it was bittersweet as, of course, we just entered such a horrible 18 months.

What was the response from theatres like?

I think what was incredible was the resilience of so many theatres, particularly smaller theatres, who were suddenly working to get their programmes online, were working within the restrictions to try and film new work to still make things accessible.

Or were commissioning and coming up with new projects or fundraising initiatives.

Just thinking back to what we worked on, we worked on something called All The Web's A Stage for Shakespeare day last April. And loads of artists came together and just donated their time to raise money for those in the arts who were affected by the pandemic.

So they were amazing initiatives like that.  We also worked with High Tide, and they commissioned five new writers to create pieces in response to what was going on: Love in the time of Corona.

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NEWS: My first Instagram Live interview with Chloe Nelkin - and plans for the future

Very excited (and nervous) to be doing my first Instagram Live interview next week with theatre and opera PR and all-around lovely person Chloe Nelkin.

We're going to be chatting about theatre (naturally), including what was produced during the lockdown and how that will shape theatre in the future.

It's happening on Tuesday 7 September at 7 pm GMT on my Instagram channel.

If you've been a visitor to my theatre blog for a while, you may have seen my Q&A interviews with theatre creators.

These were always done via email, mainly for time and logistics reasons.

But it is never the same as chatting in person, which is something I've always wanted to do (I'm a professional question asker by day 🙂).

And I'm hugely curious about how theatre is made and the creative process - and all things theatre, really.

I toyed with starting a theatre podcast, but it's a big investment of time to produce and promote, and there are costs involved. I know this mainly because I'm launching a podcast for my business.

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