35 posts categorized "Interviews" Feed

Interview: Writer Kieran Hurley on bringing Fringe hit Mouthpiece to London and how theatre needs to change

I think that some of the people running theatres need to really ask who they’re making work for, and why, and what kinds of work they value.

Kieran Hurley

Following a 5 star run at the Traverse Theatre, Fringe First winner Kieran Hurley brings Mouthpiece to Soho Theatre next month.  Here he talks about the play, the point of theatre and making it more inclusive.

How would you describe Mouthpiece?

It’s a two-person play about a teenage artist with a traumatic home life, and a jaded middle-aged writer who meets him and turns his story into a play.

Performed by two wonderful actors in Lorn Macdonald and Neve McIntosh it also has a cracking original score by Kim Moore. It is funny and sad and angry, it’s a bit sexy and a bit weird, and it’s all done and dusted in about 90 minutes or so.

The play questions the purpose of art and theatre, what do you think the point of theatre is?

For all my continual frustrations with it, theatre is still where we come together to be present with each other and present with stories that help us understand how we live and how we might live better.

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Interview: Kristine Landon-Smith on directing the 'understated' and 'pricelessly funny' The Orchestra, Omnibus Theatre

Kristine Landon-Smith headshot
Director Kristine Landon-Smith

Jean Anouilh’s play The Orchestra tells the story of a third-rate orchestra in France just after the second world war and it is a play that made a big impression on director Kristine Landon-Smith.

"I had never seen anything quite like it: a play set in France just after the war where the musicians between arrangements try to work out who had "collaborated".

"Understated yet pricelessly funny, I knew I wanted to direct this classic gem," she says.

Landon-Smith, who was founder member and artistic director of Tamasha for 22 years and a senior lecturer in acting at The National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) Australia, got her wish 10 years later. 

However, she's now been drawn back to the play a second time.

I asked her what has changed and whether she thinks the landscape is changing for the better for women theatre-makers.

The Orchestra obviously had a big impact when you first saw it but watching is different from directing - what did you want to explore in directing it?

I was a young actress when I first saw it and just making a foray into directing.

There was this beautiful mix of understated throw away comic delivery and then these heightened moments where the actors mime the musical numbers.

I could see it required great skill and precision to play well and I was very drawn to this aspect of it.

And now you are revisiting it a second time, what has changed?

Everything has changed. I have changed and the world has changed so you do come to things with that experience behind you and also with a sensibility of how you are feeling at the moment.

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Interview: Playwright Jennifer Cerys on queer history and 3D lesbian characters

Playwright Jennifer Cerys' new play Dandelion at the King's Head Theatre explores queer history through a lesbian relationship in the time of Clause 28. Here she talks about why queer history is important and the need to diversify queer narratives in mainstream theatre.

Dandelion Show ImageIt’s 30 years since Clause 28 why is it important for queer history to be on the stage?

Though it may be 30 years since Clause 28 was introduced, and 15 years since it was repealed, the effects of it can still be seen in our education system today.

The School Report by Cambridge University last year found that 40% of lesbian, gay, bi and trans young people are never taught anything about LGBT issues at school.

Though schools should obviously be the place where queer history is taught, showing it on stage will hopefully be a step in the right direction.

I know a young, queer me would’ve loved to have learnt about my community’s history at school, as it would have given me a greater sense of belonging and identity.

Some of the biggest plays of the past few years have centred on gay characters - Angels in America, The Inheritance, My Night With Reg (to name just three) which is fabulous to see but stories which feature lesbian narratives still feel like the preserve of fringe theatre. Is there a queer glass ceiling that needs smashing?

Definitely! It’s great to see any queer characters on stage, but lesbian narratives do seem to be forgotten.

I saw the brilliant Grotty by Damsel Productions earlier this year and that show was the first time I had seen lesbian characters on stage.

When I was growing up, lesbians and bisexual women were presented through a male gaze in an overly-sexualised way and I saw a lesbian for the first time over the shoulder of a boy at school who was watching porn on his phone.

Shows like Grotty (and hopefully Dandelion) show lesbians as much more 3D and complex than simply someone’s sexual fetish.

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Interview: writer Lisa Carroll on not festishising Ireland and laughing at her own jokes

Lisa Carroll's play Cuckoo opens at the Soho Theatre next week and follows two teenagers escaping bullies and seeking a new identity in another country. Here she talks about the inspiration behind the play, determining what is funny and how she got started as a playwright. 

Lisa Carroll

Cuckoo’s two central characters want to leave Dublin for London and you are an Irish playwright living in London - how much is the play based on your own experiences?

I came up with the idea for Cuckoo shortly after I made the decision to move from Dublin to London. Emigration has always been a pertinent part of the Irish experience and I wanted to explore ideas of home and what it means to leave.

Particularly after the financial crash, there was an exodus of young people from Ireland, and I knew the play could speak to that.

I used to live near Crumlin, where the play is set, and had close friends from the area.

Crumlin sits outside Dublin city centre and is full of vibrant, sparky, fascinating people, and I wanted to try and capture that unique energy on the page.

The Crumlin dialect is fast, ferocious and nuanced. I feel strongly about writing Ireland as I see it, today, rather than the wistful, nostalgic and often fetishised version Ireland we often see represented on stage.

While the idea of what it means to leave Ireland is inspired by my own experience of doing so, beyond that the play is entirely fictional, from the heightened world to the characters and events.

All I knew when I started writing Cuckoo was that I wanted to create two compelling central characters: Iona, a boisterous, larger-than-life young woman, full of spark and potential, but who was seen as simply ‘too much’ by the people around her.

Cuckoo  Soho Theatre (Courtesy of David Gill) (3)
Cuckoo, Soho Theatre. Photo by David Gill.

And Pingu, who steadfastly identifies as non-binary in a highly gendered world. Pingu has made the decision not to speak, in order not to have to constantly advocate for their right just to be themselves.

It was around these two characters and their desire to find their tribe in London that I built the play.

The play explores themes of gender identity and a sense of belonging, do you think social media makes it harder for teenagers growing up?

Being a teenager has always been a trying time and I think it always will be.

I think in general social media hasn’t changed us as a species, so much as drawn out and exacerbated our already deeply flawed nature, only in new ways.

Being a teenager has always been a phase of uncertainty trying to carve out your identity.

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Interview: Producer Katy Danbury on what spooky fun awaits at this year's London Horror Festival

In its 8th ghoulish and gory year, the London Horror Festival opens on 7 Oct at the Old Red Lion Theatre and I sat down with producer Katy Danbury to get the low down on what to expect.

A5 Final PosterWhat can we expect from the London Horror Festival?

First and foremost, enjoyment. The festival gives you a chance to escape from and purge yourself of the real-life horrors happening outside of the theatre.

You are united with your fellow audience members in an intimate space and together you enter an imaginary world where you can shiver, scream, laugh or spew (please don’t!) out your fears.

I like to think that the festival acts as a gateway for those who don’t often (or never) go to the theatre but want a spooky, fun Halloween experience.

Grand Guignol was popular in the early 20th Century but horror isn’t a genre that is often seen on stage these days, why do you think that is? 

To be honest, it is a tricky genre to perform well. People don’t want to see the actor clumsily place the blood capsule in their mouth or accidentally expose the vomit hose or see the string that’s pulling the floating chair.

You break the illusion, you break the suspense and it all unravels quickly from there as the audience lose interest.

Sadly, I have seen large-scale productions on the West End stage get it very wrong – this can do a lot of damage to the reputation of the genre within the theatre world.

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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.

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Interview: Writer Ed Edwards on humour and politics in The Political History of Smack and Crack

Fresh from Edinburgh Fringe: The Political History of Smack and Crack draws on writer Ed Edwards' own experience of narcotics dependency to examine how the politics of the 80s trapped people in poverty and addiction.

Ed Edwards
Ed Edwards

Here the former circus performer talks about the importance of entertainment in theatre ahead of the play's London run at Soho Theatre.

Why is this an important story to tell?

In the political sense, I think it's a question for the progressive movement of knowing your enemy, of course, the enemy changes its face, but its heart remains the same. This is what they did then, what lengths will they go to now? It's a question too of spreading ideas, keeping the truth alive - it's part of what Fidel Castro called for before he died: a battle of ideas.

How important is humour when exploring serious topics such as drug addiction and what part does it play in the narrative?

I think entertainment is the most important thing, humour is a big part of that, but it doesn't mean you can't make people cry too.

You’ve written novels, for radio and TV as well as the stage but you used to be a circus performer - how does it compare?

It's a lot safer writing plays than juggling fire on a slack rope while talking to an audience - but probably not as much fun. Seriously, it's part of what I was saying before, about entertaining an audience.

If you're doing a circus show in Huyton Liverpool and you don't entertain the audience, the kids'll come and take your gear, so I've kind of grown up thinking that was important.

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Interview: Former child actor Hatty Jones talks about her first play That Girl, Old Red Lion

Hatty Jones draws on her own experience as a child actor, plucked from obscurity to star in a big budget film, for her debut play That Girl which explores growing up and female friendships.

Hatty JonesYou’ve made short films before, what made you choose theatre as a medium for this particular story?

I had wanted to write a play for a while, and this story felt like the best fit.

I wanted the audience to be in the room with the characters, to understand their motives and watch the action play out in real time. It felt necessary to this particular narrative.

And I love that the audience might feel differently about it every night.

That Girl is based on your own personal experiences, did that make it hard to write or was it a cathartic exercise?

It felt like a natural step to write about something that was such a big part of my childhood, especially as it was such an unusual situation. 

The story centres on two periods of big life changes, one of which most will be familiar, the other very few will have experienced - what are you hoping audiences take away?

I hope the audience can relate to all the characters - including Hatty. Not everyone will have experienced being a child actor, but they may have similar feelings about growing up.

The play is about the reality of adult life, the loss of innocence which everyone goes through. 

What's the process from stage to page been like? 

I play Hatty, in the play so I'm very involved and we are currently in the middle of the rehearsal process.

Continue reading "Interview: Former child actor Hatty Jones talks about her first play That Girl, Old Red Lion" »

Edinburgh Fringe interview: Writer Kat Woods on frustration with theatre elitism and breaking working class stereotypes

Award-winning writer/director Kat Woods returns to the Edinburgh Fringe with Killymuck, here she talks about breaking working-class stereotypes - and why you should always perform like its press night. 

What inspired you to write Killymuck?

Kat woods photo
Kat Woods

Killymuck is a piece of theatre inspired by my own council estate, benefit upbringing. I have become increasingly frustrated with the elitism that exists within the realm of theatre and the constant portrayal of the benefit class stereotype which is perpetuated in the media. This constant negative ideology that becomes almost biblical rhetoric needs to be rewritten. 

Why is it important this story is told?

If we don't start to tell stories from all classes and all minorities then we are not representing society as a whole. How do we open up the doors of the theatre to the underclasses or the working classes if they are not reflected in the narratives that are being told?

You won an award for a previous fringe piece - Belfast Boy - does that make it easier or harder coming back?

I've actually had two pieces on since Belfast Boy - Wasted and Mule. I found it incredibly difficult coming back after having a success.

My follow-up play was Wasted, a piece about consent. That was in 2015 and I think we may have been a year or two too early with it. It has had more success now and is returning to America this year. 

I wasn't really mentally prepared for how tough I would find it. The scrutiny can be so overwhelming and it’s very easy to slip mentally when reading reviews and comments on the piece of work that you have worked so hard on. 


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Edinburgh Fringe interview: 'We don’t go to the theatre to watch sane people talking about normal things' - Simon Evans and David Aula

Not content with performing one play at the Edinburgh Fringe director/performers Simon Evans and David Aula are performing two - back to back. The two plays - The Vanishing Man and The Extinction Event - are described as a 'marriage of poignant theatre and spellbinding close-up magic'.

Two plays back to back, are you mad?

The Vanishing Man (Simon Evans and David Aula) - courtesy of Michael Wharley_3
The Vanishing Man and The Extinction Event (Simon Evans and David Aula). Photo: Michael Wharley

Probably, but we don’t go to the theatre to watch sane people talking about normal things. We’re actually very lucky: both these shows are very audience-centred. We don’t like to throw “audience involvement” around much, as it tends to induce feelings of horror and fear of embarrassment, but we do ask a thing or two of the very kind people who’ve chosen to see us (and not just “Pick a card”). 

The audience is our uncredited third character, and that means the show takes on an energy and momentum that you just don’t get from more there’s-a-fourth-wall pieces. The energy is infectious, so we tend to come out the other end more elated than fatigued.

That said, David is also the recipient of a brand new baby boy. It’s possible that the added pressure of looking after a one-month-old might be the straw breaking our camel’s back. Also, Simon tends to get very sleepy around 3 pm and that’s far from ideal in a 2.10pm-4.40pm slot.

Honestly (and I’m aware these words may come back to haunt me) it’s two 60 minute shows separated by a generous 30-minute interval, so we’ve got it better than a lot of other actors currently treading the boards. I’m optimistic. What I mean is, you certainly won’t see two tired performers up there.

How are you preparing?

That’s a good question when you consider that there are two separate elements in the shows we’re presenting. The more standard elements (dialogue/staging/storytelling) are handled in a fairly standard way.

Both of us are established theatre directors (Simon currently has Killer Joe on in the West End with a Donmar show coming up, and David’s production of The Cement Garden recently headlined the Vault Festival) so we enjoy the process of building the show up physically.

We’ve spent a lot of time in each other’s company as we've written the script, re-written it, shown it, learned from it, re-written it, tried it again, cut it, cut more of it, re-written it, learned it, worked out where to stand while we say it.

On the other hand, our plays are also magic shows of a kind. There are individual tricks and a more arching idea that an entire show can be an effect in-and-of-itself if handled right.

Magic is entirely audience led; you can see a play that refuses to acknowledge an audience and still think “That was a good play”, but a magic trick which fails to amaze/delight/confound an audience, is a dead thing.

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