In Part I of my interview with the lovely Golem Theatre, they chatted to me about their upcoming show, Tomorrow Creeps, which plays at The Vaults as part of the Vault Festival from 24-28th January 2018 (link to tickets can be found below). In Part II, writer David Fairs, Director Anna Marsland and cast members Conor O’Kane and Zena Carswell talk all things theatre!
Okay so the general theatre questions are supposed to be a quickfire round… but at the same time, just to contradict that, don’t cheat us out of any details! Who or what has inspired you most in theatre today to date?
Anna: Oh my God that’s so hard! In terms of thinking about what theatre can be it’s Punchdrunk, in terms of thinking about scale, the detail, what narrative is, what the audience’s role is, and how we experience the story and all of that. In terms of theatre companies, Punchdrunk have given me the most fuel for thinking about what it can be.
David: It’s a very difficult question, isn’t it? I think as an actor, if I was to single out somebody that I think has been over the last good few years has been a touchstone in terms of always re-energising and reinventing the way I look at things, it would be an actor called Andrew Scott who is now very famous from Sherlock and Bond films but I saw him a decade ago doing things at the Royal Court. He’s really been somebody who over the last decade I have sought out and has always been that touchstone because he is constantly reinventing how how he seems to approach characters and acting. On one level it feels like it’s the most brilliantly crafted thing whatever it is but then on the other level, you feel like it’s just happening completely off-the-cuff all the time and I think that’s an incredible balance that’s incredibly rare. It always feels like it’s being reinvented.
Zena: Um, I’ll try and do this quickly! Headlong Theatre Company would probably be the company that I think of – everything I’ve seen but they’ve done has been so truthful and interesting. Also Denise Gough, who I’d seen before in Desire Under the Elms at the Lyric and I thought she was incredible. When I saw that I was like oh my God I have to up my game – she is so truthful and I saw that four times – I queued overnight once to see it. But she was different every night – always the essence of truth and an absolute inspiration.
Conor: Okay, curveball… Stephen Sondheim. I trained in musical theatre originally and as an actor I began with musical theatre. But Sondheim, I feel is really comparable to Shakespeare in terms of his use of language and mechanism for conveying ideas of form – like meter, rhythm, pitch and choice of words and stuff like that. He is also quite a revolutionary figure in terms of musical theatre – and he shares my birthday so, you know…. So Sondheim I think has been a big influence on me in terms of respecting and understanding and loving language with performance.
I didn’t expect any single one of those, I was sure someone would say Shakespeare! So Etiquette debates… Are they worthwhile or futile? Do we need to just get on with it or does something need to be done?
Anna: Just get on with it! They really annoying me because I think people get really obsessed with putting rules on people and actually we should be going to enjoy the story – and that should be about whoever wants to go and enjoy that story and whoever wants to go. I get really irritated with people saying that we should have more signs up saying shhhh! and turn up dressed like this – I just think that there should be spaces where people should be allowed to come and hear a story – I get irritated at the straight laced-ness of it.
Conor: I’ve not really been aware of it.
Anna: I can’t remember who but someone started badges – you know – being a theatre prefect. People who are going to tell other people off – I think we need to do anything we can to get people into theatre.
David: Exactly. The other thing is that it’s the job of the people who are creating the theatre to be engaging and entertaining for people. In whatever form it is, we’re supposed to be entertaining them. So if they’re distracted, that’s sort of our fault…
I’m really interested in hearing about this – I’ve seen quite a lot, the worst being a woman who literally answered her phone and started having a conversation –
Zena: – I do think phones are different but it’s when the actors get angry about there being talking, it is hard for the actors but as you say (David) it’s our job to entertain them so we’re really not doing a job then. But what’s tricky when it’s about phones is you are distracting other audience members who are engaged and are involved.
Anna: You know what’s interesting is things like different theatre experience like secret cinema, where it’s not enforced in a kind of a school-like way which feels a bit like the theatre prefect thing (laughs), but in a kind of playing along way of like, putting your
phone in a plastic sealed bag because you’re not allowed to use your phone in this world which you’re about to enter. I feel like that is a more engaging and less patronising way of encouraging people to switch off for a few hours and not worry about your phone and not feeling kind of, distracted by those external things that are going on in your life, it’s about encouraging people to get involved. I’d much rather say to people please turn your phone off because we want to take you on an adventure for couple of hours, not switch off your phone because it’s rude!
Conor: Well remember what happened with Macbeths, we had in the distance between Zena and me now – screen right in their face, bright, lighting it up, playing Tetris – but you’ve got to keep going.
Zena: But if other people are engaging with it then that is distracting.
It’s interesting from both sides I think.
Conor: I think it is a viewer’s debate to have, because it is different for us because actors and performers are used to doing things in the worst conditions so I think it is something that the audience need to establish themselves.
Do you have amongst you a best ‘The Show Must Go On Tale?’ Has anyone fallen off the stage?!
David: I’ve fallen off the stage – and my trousers have come off!
Conor: (laughs joyously) This is such a good story!
David: My trousers fell off on stage…twice! So. I love this! I was touring with As You Like It –
It’s always a Shakespeare production when people do these things!
David: I know – so I was touring and I was playing Touchstone the clown and Oliver the evil brother. So I have these dual roles and it went wrong with both roles! This is all in one show – so the reason I fell off the stage was because I was Touchstone in the wrestling scene at the start and one of the wrestlers was not wearing his contact lenses which he should’ve been wearing that day so he wasn’t as aware of where he was in terms of space on the stage. And the wrestling match got really really near to me and I was Touchstone-ing away and I just bounced backwards off the stage. So that was where I fell off, and then later on in the show, I was running on stage as Oliver-
– So you went too injured at this point?
David: – No, I was a little disgruntled though… But then I picked myself up and he’s a clown so it’s fine! As Oliver I run on and one of the seams had gone in the back of my trousers and they came off but I became aware of it, so I had to spend the entire scene standing with my legs apart in order to stop the trousers from falling down. And none of the other actors knew what I was doing because I wasn’t moving and then at the end of the scene I had to sort of edge off the stage. Then somebody tried to fix it but then after the interval I go back on but they haven’t fixed it very well and as I ran on they dropped off! (Gleeful laughter from Zena here) The girl playing Rosalind just carried on with the scene and it was this scene where we were talking about our shame being revealed… Then eventually we just completely corpsed and the audience sort of joined in. We had a slight moment of me preparing myself – and those things all happened in one show, so that’s my story!
If you could bring change in terms of opportunities in theatre right now, what those changes be? What does that need right now?
Anna: Well, I think it’s a bit of a mixed question, because part of it is one of the reasons why vault is really great. It’s hard to make work on the fringe, mainly from a financial perspective because making fringe theatre is so expensive and that has repercussions for audiences. We’re in a place where lots of tickets to see fringe shows are more than it is to go to the National because of the cost of making it. I mean it can be 18 quid to get tickets to the Finborough or the Kings Head. Obviously there are tickets that cost much more at the National but you can get a £12 ticket or a £5 ticket at The Globe. So you are competing with that – with it costing a lot and costing audiences a lot. I think the fringe is financially quite a difficult system. I think that’s why the Vaults is really exciting because for companies, they provide a really good financial deal, they’re very supportive and they do a really good box office split and it also means the audiences, as well as being able to see multiple shows on a single night because it’s a festival, like Edinburgh, but the tickets are pretty cheap. They’re half the price of other fringe venues and they’re also doing lots of two-for-one deals and that kind of thing. So more venues finding ways to do things like Vaults would be an incredible thing for both emerging companies who aren’t able to risk vast amounts of money and also for audiences as well.
Zena: The money thing does cover quite a lot of ground in that, with going to drama school – so people just cannot afford it because it’s just astronomical. Which means that the range of actors isn’t as varied as it should be and things like going to the theatre. The people who do get to go to drama school because they’ve secured funding, then when you get out – most of us, and I, have multiple jobs but if I really get into dire straights, I know that I could go to my parents, but there’s some people that don’t have that and they can’t act because they don’t have that support base. I also think that there needs to be more funding for people who might not have the basis to do it on their own.
Conor: The repertory system is something that I’d like to see come back here because, way back when, when you graduated from drama school, you’d get a place doing some repertory theatre. You’d to be there, doing every single job, learning everything about the craft – doing those jobs and then also doing multiple texts and multiple different types of things. I always think that you learn much more by doing anyway so I think that provides a lot more experience across the board between different artists and departments which is something I feel very strongly about and not everyone gets that I think.
You should start a petition!
Connor: Yes! Everyone must learn to do every job. Get some experience and know how to do that job.
So, are you ready for the final question? Who is going to sell your show show to readers in one sentence?
David: That’s just something I can’t do – not one sentence!
Anna: (…deep breath as the Golem gang hang on every word, grateful that Anna has taken the baton…) Come and see Tomorrow Creeps for some supernatural Kate Bush and Lynchian thrills… (Anna has done the team proud judging by the eruption of noises of approval from the gang who are clearly relieved that Anna took such an important task!)
Remember: Tomorrow Creeps plays at The Vaults as part of the Vault Festival from 24-28th January 2018. Tickets are £10 and can be found here. Why not also follow Golem Theatre on Twitter too? Handle: @golemtheatre.