Lights Down Productions join forces with Starbound Theatre to bring Zoë Guzy- Sprague’s THE NET to the Camden Fringe this August. Making the personal political and the political thoughtful, the creatives hope to have audiences engaged, entertained and perhaps even enraged. The Net plays the Tristan Bates Theatre 13 – 17 August (tickets here) so I caught up with with Guzy-Sprague and co-producers Marta da Silva and Caley Powell to talk all things The Net…
Zoë Guzy-Sprague’s The Net is the first co-production of Starbound Theatre and Lights Down Productions – how did the collaboration come about?
Marta:Zoë submitted the script to Starbound Theatre and out of over 70 scripts received, it immediately became a top contender for production. It felt both timely and important & was beautifully written and in line with the work Starbound Theatre produces. As I am also an actress I needed a co-producer to work with me on the project so during rehearsals and the run of the show I could focus on acting. I put out a call for co-producers online and Caley luckily replied.
Caley:I saw Marta’s post about needing a co-producer and the play, being a female led new play, sounded like the type of play I like to produce. I met with Marta and Zoë and we all just clicked and then when I read the script I loved it and couldn’t wait to get started with our collaboration!
The production is an all-female ensemble story – for you, what does this approach bring to a story about borders and conflicts?
Caley:So often we see stories of war depicted through men so what we wanted to do with this story is give a new dimension to the age old story of war by putting these 4 women’s stories at the forefront. In stories of war we hear about men on the battlefield, in the fray of the action, but we want to explore the toll war has on women, on wives whose husbands are away fighting, to women who have lost people due to war and to women who are given a task to stop people from coming through a barrier that has been built on this border.
The Net follows the story of two women tasked with closing a gap in a net who come face to face with two women on the other side seeking entry.
This feels like something from the front pages of BBC news – is it a conscious decision to depict a story very much in line with current political frictions?
Zoë: Absolutely. Theatres are unique places that allow audiences to experience other people. How can we truly understand the headlines if we don’t hear the human stories behind them? Hopefully this play helps people unpick the stories they read every morning and take an hour to see things from a new perspective.
This is a production seeking to turn the tables on war narratives by placing women at the core of the dispute – why do think women are so often marginalised in tales of conflict and why do you feel it is important to bring them to the fore in this narrative?
Marta:I think women have been an under-represented voice on stage period. But when it comes to telling the stories of women who aren’t caucasian, for example, women who live in underdeveloped or marginalised parts of the world and society, women whose stories don’t fit into the traditional patriarchal narrative etc, these are even harder to find. I think it’s all part of the same issue, and one of the main reasons we want to ensure there’s good representation both on stage and off in all of our productions.
We tend to associate war and strife with men, but the truth is that ordinary people, including women, are just as linked to and as affected by armed/violent conflicts. Women can be warriors, they can be cruel, they can be heroic, they can be dangerous. We just don’t frequently see them being portrayed truthfully as such in any medium. Things are changing, slowly, and we hope to contribute to that.
Caley:Both myself and Marta, as female producers are passionate about choosing projects that put women’s stories front and centre and there are so many stories out there of men in war that we wanted to opportunity to level the playing field and share womens stories so we both responded to this play and the idea of introducing an audience to these four women in conflict.
You aim to represent a range of women across ages and belief systems, is this an effort to encourage acceptance of difference as much as it is about finding equalisers between all of the women as individuals?
Marta:Exactly. And though it sounds straightforward it’s actually extremely challenging! I am by no means an expert, but it feels like in many ways “humans” are programmed to identify and highlight their differences. And yet, if we want to move forward, solve many of our global issues, and start mending some very old wounds, the only way is to make use of our ability to feel empathy. To put ourselves in the shoes of others, with kindness, and an open mind, and try to reach a compromise. I struggle with this myself on a daily basis, so I think it’ll be an interesting challenge for us as performers and for the audience to juggle accepting the differences amongst these women and acknowledging their similarities.
Considering its deeply political roots, how would you describe The Net in terms of genre and style?
Marta:No frills, says-it-like-it-is, female-led-political, magical-realism-inspired, new writing. That about covers it.
What does it mean to you to bring this collaboration to the Camden Fringe?
Marta:It’s a wonderful opportunity to be part of a festival that I think rivals even the Edinburgh Fringe in terms of quality of theatre being produced. And it gives us the chance to share our work with and incredibly large and varied audience, which is a dream come true for any theatre company or actor.
Caley:It’s brilliant to be able to be part of The Camden Fringe, it is all of our first time being part of the festival and its great to be part of such an eclectic festival. It really feels like a community as the organisers and the teams on other shows are so supportive of each other and being part of a festival is a great way to see other amazing shows too and reach a big audience with our show.
Zoë:It’s the first time I’ve had a full production on in London, and to have The Net at Camden Fringe, amongst other brilliant shows, feels like a phenomenal opportunity. I hope this play can reach as many people as possible.
If audiences take just one thing away from seeing The Net, what would you like that to be?
Marta:A new perspective on border conflicts and a desire to discuss these issues from a kinder, more empathetic place.
And finally, to close – in one sentence only, why should people come to see The Net?
Marta:To be moved, enraged, and entertained.
So there you have it! Remember, The Net plays the Tristan Bates Theatre 13 – 17 August and you can find tickets here.