In Conversation Questions and Answers

1) What was it about Security as a theatrical piece that appealed to your Director’s eye?

At the showing I was invited to by Zena at BAC last Christmas I saw some very exciting characterisation and theatrical set pieces but the piece was bogged down in a surfeit of setting. The original setting of a quirky café, meant that Zena was overly pre-occupied with the stage space and imaginary characters within that, to the detriment of her relationship to the audience. Zena expressed an interest in working with me to ‘strip’ the piece down and in so doing I felt that every opportunity had to be taken to maximise the relationship with the audience. They/we as far as possible must become the person talked to by the characters. Stripping the piece down to the barest details of chair and table with every prop coming out of the bag necessitates such a direct engagement with the audience but also provides interesting directorial challenges in the potential of the bare stage.

2) What are some of the challenges of working on the show?

The fact that Zena is not a trained actor meant that the minutiae of physical detail was at times exposed and it took a while for her to master this. For example, sometimes, as Mahmoud, his heavy step would become too light. Also, the show was an established entity when we began working on it so everything was already in place. This meant Zena had to constantly undo things and then do them up again with a different focus or perspective on the action. Initially, it was therefore very hard to cut things. In fact we had to add them before being able to cut existing material. Notably, the character of the boy Elijah, progressively grew through rehearsal and then impacted upon other characters.

3) What has it been like collaborating with a poet?

Fascinating. At times inspiring and at times frustrating. The longevity of our process has meant a delightfully detailed engagement with the dramatic lives of the characters and their back stories, the conversations about these ongoing and wide ranging. Zena as author and performer has to be at ease with the decisions made concerning the piece. The one necessarily lives through the life of the other, so if she isn’t the cracks show. As director, my job has been to make sure they don’t.

4) You’re a former Artistic Director of the Drayton Court Theatre, How does Security differ to some of the other productions you’ve worked on?

Security is not a play as such and thus doesn’t have the same dramatic DNA so to speak. It shares characteristics but the feeling and essence of it is somehow different. It’s a performance poem in effect.

5) What have you enjoyed most about working on the show?

Working with Zena has been a pleasure. Over the time I’ve seen Zena’s performance grow and grow as her confidence has increased and her skill base has improved. She sees the work itself as the most important thing and I fundamentally agree with her.

6) Are you looking forward to the tour?

Of course, I think it’s so important that this work is seen and engaged with. The tour means this happens on a national scale and who knows where from there?

7) Why did you want to be a Theatre Director?

To give a detailed answer here would take too long I’m afraid.

8) You seem to have your hands in several pies. What’s the secret to your success?

What constitutes success these days?


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