In our previous blogpost we introduced you to the brilliant cast and director of Beached, the first play to be created by The Marlowe – premiering at The Marlowe Studio next week before a transfer to Soho Theatre.
We managed to sneak in during a break from rehearsals to find out more from director Justin Audibert.
What did you first think when reading the script?
The first thing that struck me on reading Beached was just how funny the script was. Mel writes some absolutely fantastic lines but what is so unusual about the piece from an emerging writer is that the humour shines through because it comes from a place of truth. You completely believe that the characters are fully rounded people inhabiting a real, if highly eccentric, world and you empathise with them in all their various dilemmas.
Mel sent me the script after seeing a play that I directed and from the moment I read the opening page I had that itch that made me really want to tackle it and bring this world to life.
Beached explores some sensitive issues in a darkly comic way – do you feel any pressures around that?
Beached is a big play – in many senses of the word. It explores obesity, addiction, dependency, pathology, voyeurism and manipulation by the media but above all else it is a play about love and loneliness. Everyone can relate to being lonely and most people can relate to what it feels like to love and be loved both in a romantic and familial manner.
I absolutely relish research so finding out about the various psychological conditions within the play was fascinating. I have a friend who is a psychiatrist, Dr Norman, and he talked me through the cycle of change which is the label that psychiatrists use for the circular nature of addiction – that was really interesting.
I also got to watch lots of reality TV documentaries about obesity, which was revealing if at times very hard watching, and really made me think about just what our fixation with these documentaries means as a society.
In rehearsals we spent a lot of time working out the back stories of all the characters so we felt that we could justify the choices that they have made in the play. It soon became clear to us that all of the characters believe that they have Arty’s best interests at heart and are motivated predominantly from a belief that they are doing him good. We hope that this leaves the audience in a position to make their own judgements and not to feel as though we are telling them what to think.
The nature of addiction and the way we view and treat the obese, the lonely and the marginalised as a society seems to me to be an increasingly urgent question. Humour is actually a wonderful tool in asking questions about this because people don’t feel preached at and are often more receptive to thinking about bigger themes when they are presented in an entertaining way.
I would say that as a theatre maker I am interested in stories that portray the complexity of life’s choices. And I would also say that I am predominantly fascinated by ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. This brings with it a huge responsibility to portray those characters as accurately as possible and to try to create nuance in that depiction.
How has it been working with the cast been so far?
On this show I was extremely lucky in that although the casting process took quite a long time every actor that I offered a part to accepted and so I have the four actors I most wanted to work with which is a real privilege.
We started the process with Melissa [Bubnic] in the room, sat around a table, exploring the script together and we were fortunate in having Mel there to help answer questions about the character’s motivations. Then after a few days Mel left us and we started standing the play on its feet. We finished a rough sketch of the whole piece in about five days and are now adding detail, refining the scenes and deepening the work.
The company worked incredibly hard to get themselves ‘off book’ (ie learning all their lines) quickly, which always makes the work richer because only when you know your lines are you able to act with your whole body which adds so much to the storytelling.
We also have a wide range of accents in this play so the company have been assiduously mastering those – particularly Robin who is learning James’ native Lancastrian burr in order to play JoJo.
Now we are at the stage where we’ve arrived in Canterbury, ready to get on the set designed by the brilliant Lily Arnold, so that we can work out the various challenges that will present. We are all very excited about this even though we know that with such a particular design we will have new challenges to overcome and will have to alter some of the choices we have already made.
What would you like people to take away from the play?
I think if the audience come away with a sense of empathy for all the characters in the piece, get provoked into thinking about the themes it explores, admire the multi-faceted performances of the cast, celebrate Mel as an exciting new writer, admire the design team’s work and have a really good evening full of belly laughs in the process, then I will be a very happy director.
Who would enjoy Beached?
Rather wonderfully I think that anyone over the age of 12* who has a sense of humour will enjoy the piece – it’s one of those plays to which you can invite all your friends and family as it’s humorous, clever, theatrical and only 75 minutes long. It’s a bit of a short, sharp, very funny shock!
*The production contains adult themes and language.