Interview with director David Loumgair – Tiny Dynamite @ the Old Red Lion

Director David Loumgair on Tiny Dynamite by Abi Morgan.
9 January – 3 February, 2018
Old Red Lion Theatre

Read our review of the show here: https://wp.me/p93PYe-Bd

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What originally attracted you to work on Tiny Dynamite?

When I first read Tiny Dynamite, which was almost seven years ago now, I completely fell in love with the play and couldn’t quite get my head around why nobody had revived it since the original staging. What kept bringing me back to it was the countless layers of meaning that Abi has woven throughout it, and the complex relationship that she builds between the three characters.

In many of the plays I read, most of the questions that are asked throughout are answered by the end, and all the uncertainties are explained. But Abi does something incredibly brave with Tiny Dynamite, and leaves so much unanswered and so much unspoken. What isn’t written into the dialogue is equally as important as what is written, and there is a clear layer of subtext which allows an audience to read into the silences what they choose.

 

Niall Bishop and Eva-Jane Willis in Tiny Dynamite, by Richard Davenport (2)

Photography (c) by Richard Davenport


Abi Morgan’s writing is often compared to Caryl Churchill’s, how do you find working on a piece that can be so ambiguous? What were the challenges?

One of the main challenges I found as a director was allowing myself to not need to answer all these questions that the text raises. There is huge amount of magic, mystery and miracle throughout the play which you can either try to rationalise or just accept and believe in.

At the beginning of rehearsals, and as we were gaining a stronger sense of the characters, we were attempting to answer some of the questions the play throws up. But when we opened the door to believing in the magic there was so much more to explore, and it’s brilliant that the text allows each audience member to interpret different meanings through those unanswered questions.

I think that was part of Abi’s intention, and why she is so often compared to Caryl Churchill, because she describes Tiny Dynamite as a play about knowing when to take responsibility for your life, and those moments when you have to just step back and let a miracle happen. It’s a gesture that extends both to an audience, but also to us as a company, that we just sometimes just have to step back and leave some things unanswered.

 

Tanya Fear and Eva-Jane Willis in Tiny Dynamite, by Richard Davenport (2)

What are you most excited about audiences experiencing when watching the show?

Well there’s so much I’m excited about audiences seeing, but I’m particularly excited about the breath-taking set our designer, Anna Reid, has created. The core of the play is the immensely traumatic event that the two childhood friends experience, which seeps into every crack and every silence between the characters, so Anna and I spent a long time discussing how we could physically represent this through the design.

We quickly realised that water is the key element of this trauma, and there is a very clear relationship between water and electricity that runs throughout the rest of the play, so it instinctively felt like the right language to use.

This relationship creates an innate sense of risk and danger for the characters, which Anna and I wanted to extend the feeling of to the audience. It’s an exciting but daunting challenge, because you so rarely see vast amounts of water used in fringe theatre, but it’s a challenge which Anna has thrown herself at and created something absolutely astounding from.

 

Niall Bishop, Tanya Fear and Eva-Jane Willis in Tiny Dynamite, by Richard Davenport (4)

The play was originally performed very physically with Frantic Assembly, is that something you’ve aimed to rediscover in your staging of it?

There’s definitely an innate sense of movement that runs throughout the play, and my understanding is that Frantic Assembly worked closely with Abi to develop the text during its original staging, so it’s clear that physicality was a key element of their production in 2001-3.

That physicality is something I’ve aimed towards re-discovering, but have been very conscious of not trying to re-create. I wanted our revival to have its own style of movement, and I have an astounding Movement Director on board, Natasha Harrison, who has worked closely and collaboratively with the actors to build a language that we’ve then woven throughout the production.

The very subtle but emotionally-connected movement we’ve developed has elevated the scenes so much more than I expected, and there’s a lot the actors have been able to discover about their characters through this movement.

Niall Bishop, Tanya Fear and Eva-Jane Willis in Tiny Dynamite, by Richard Davenport (3)

 

Has your background as a dramaturg effected how you approach plays? How do you use dramaturgy when you’re working?

Absolutely. You might have noticed I use the word ‘language’ quite a lot, which the actors will not let me live down during rehearsals…

Dramaturgy in British theatre has always been a minefield, as there as so many different interpretations of the role, and many creatives don’t actually fully understand what a dramaturg does. I could spend hours talking about it, and I often run workshops that explore the craft, but essentially my approach as a dramaturg is production-based rather than text-based, where a lot of British dramaturgy focuses.

Essentially the way I use dramaturgy, specifically on Tiny Dynamite, is by maintaining a consistency of visual, metaphorical and stylistic languages. As an example, the language of our movement is drawn from the ebb-and-flow of the ocean, and I would describe it as being akin to tidal, so that is something I need to consistently maintain as a gesture throughout the whole production or the framework crumbles.

I’d recommend keeping an eye out for my workshops on dramaturgy if anyone’s interested in developing a career as a dramaturg!

 

Niall Bishop, Tanya Fear and Eva-Jane Willis in Tiny Dynamite, by Richard Davenport

Any advice for aspiring theatre professionals?

Without hopefully sounding morose, it is getting harder and harder to work in the arts because of continual funding cuts, rising rents in London where a lot of opportunities are concentrated (although this is rapidly changing), and the ever-increasing cost of staging even the most stripped-back of work.

My advice would be to find your allies, and not to be afraid of collaboration. Supporting others is what opens doors to be supported yourself, and because of all the pressures I mention above it can often feel like a race or a competition to ‘make it’.

There are a lot of deeply-rooted barriers for artists from a range of disadvantaged and under-represented backgrounds, and I think we are already starting to see positive change, but finding support amongst your peers will allow you to keep more stable and in more positive mental health, and will enable you to seek advice when it is needed.

 

Eva-Jane Willis in Tiny Dynamite, by Richard Davenport.JPG

It’s a bit of a tradition for my blog to ask this in interviews, but aside from Tiny Dynamite what’s a book/production/piece of art/film you think more people should see?

I hope that almost everybody has already seen it, but the film ‘Moonlight’ released last year, written and directed by Barry Jenkins, was an absolute game-changer for me.

It’s not only a breath-taking film and piece of art that explores such an under-exposed relationship between sexuality, masculinity and race, but it has had such an impact on the types of films that we’re now seeing being commissioned and developed. I think it’s something that everyone should see.

 


Read our review of the show here: https://wp.me/p93PYe-Bd

Tiny Dynamite by Abi Morgan
9 January – 3 February, 2018
Old Red Lion Theatre

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@davidloumgair

 

Tiny Dynamite, Time Productions @ the Old Red Lion

9 January – 3 February, 2018

by Abi Morgan
Directed by David Loumgair

Read our interview with director David Loumgair – https://wp.me/p93PYe-ARtheatrebox.blog

Niall Bishop and Eva-Jane Willis in Tiny Dynamite, by Richard Davenport

Photography (c) by Richard Davenport

Two childhood friends are away on a holiday, bound together by a shared and tragic past. While away, they meet an alluring stranger that threatens to expose everything.

Ambiguous in its meaning and plot, it’s an odd show that explores the difference between miracles and accidents. A beautiful drama that unfolds in snatches between transitions of rumbling static and synth music, often veering off into stories of freak accidents told by the characters. Morgan’s language (wistfully talked about by Loumgair in our interview)  is poetic, and lovingly breathed by the actors.

Niall Bishop’s performance as the erratic Anthony is engaging and animated. He has a similar wide-eyed vulnerability to that which Mark Rylance pulls off so well on occasion. Eva-Jane Willis (Luce) is strong contrast, would up so tight you expect something to snap. Balancing the dynamic is the grounded and nuanced performance of Tanya Fear, whose composure and stillness is striking.

The design is stunning, creatively used and wonderfully constructed. It places you into the scene and brings the world alive while simultaneously providing a inspired and dynamic space for the actors to use. In-built swimming pool included.

Though not for everyone, it has some great moments. I’m not sure I understood it all, but like Loumgair said, I’m not sure that we need to.

Well worth the trip for a thought provoking evening of theatre.

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East, Atticist @ King’s Head Theatre

10 January – 3 February, 2018

by Steven Berkoff
Directed by Jessica Lazar

(c) Alex Brenner

(c): Photography by Alex Brenner

Steven Berkoff’s East is a play that you can just imagine knocking people’s socks off during its debut in 1975, and still has a powerful relevance to today. It’s a riotous and profanity fuelled comedy, and a brutal take on growing up and living in London’s East End.

It’s a roar of cockney working-class dissatisfaction. Everything is heightened. The language, the characters, the emotion, the comedy. Written in a Shakespearean-like verse, Berkoff’s writing is often beautiful, often moving, and sometimes occasionally incomprehensible (in the best traditions of verse), but deftly brought to life by an exceptionally talented cast.

Jack Condon (Les) gives an exceptionally expressive and empathetic performance to an otherwise often distasteful character, while his brother Mike (James Craze) and Dad (Russell Barnett) ooze presence and hyper-masculinity.

The highlights of the show are the wonderful monologues. Hilarious, human, and often disturbing. Particularly moving was Boadicea Ricketts’ (Sylv) diatribe against patriarchal power and double standards which felt straight from heart, and sadly is not a monologue that has lost its poignancy. She gives a performance throughout the show that beautifully balances strength and sensuality with moments of touching vulnerability.

Not to be left out is Debra Penny (Mum), whose monologue was my favourite part of the show. It’s hilarious and vulgar and I’m not going to forget it in a hurry.

Jessica Lazar’s direction is energetic and vibrant, youthful and clever. The action is physical and slick, while also being layered and engaging.

I felt a little alienated by the play however, and struggled to connect with the piece and its characters outside isolated moments. This surprised me, since I enjoyed all the elements of the performance individually. I suspect it owes something to my being a recent immigrant and not quite understanding the many British references. Some of the biggest laughs went right over my head. Still, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the show as a great one to see with a drink and a mate.

 

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Programme B, The One Festival @ The Space

9 January – 27 January

The One Festival – Programme B

 

One Festival – Programme B

 

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending an evening of plays at the One Festival currently playing at the Space in Canary Wharf. I saw Programme B, a night of short, darkly comic pieces, all written and performed by women. Though the pieces feature four very different characters in very different situations, there is an overarching impression of being at a sort of confessional. We’re seeing all of these characters in moments of brutal, revealing honesty, and hearing them say things they can’t say in their normal lives.

 

Perfect by Rachael Claye, performed by Carianne Dunford
Directed by Danielle McIlven

In Perfect, a drunken substitute storyteller (Carianne Dunford) tells a group of children (the audience) a thinly veiled tale of depravity and greed. At lights up, we are greeted with the familiar sight of colourful plastic children’s furniture. But the warm feelings of childhood familiarity quickly dissipate as we get to know our storyteller. By framing us, the audience, as children entrusted to the care of the librarian, writer Rachael Claye and director Danielle McIlven create a sense dread as we come to realise just how honest our narrator is going to be. As the ensuing tale of sex, revenge and fairy-tale trickery unfolds, we begin to feel more and more like children seeing something they don’t really understand but somehow know is wrong. Dunford, Claye and McIlven have done an admirable job of reminding us what it might have felt like if, when we were children, we were to see an adult in a moment of inappropriate and uncomfortable weakness. Perfect is small, strange and intimate, like a flash of a long-suppressed memory.

 

Motherland written and performed by Naomi Joseph
Directed by Ellie Simpson

By contrast, Motherland feels big. Writer and performer Naomi Joseph paints a vivid picture of a young English/Indian woman’s day at a rugby match: we hear the crowd, we see the stadium, we meet all the different characters between the station and her seat. But beyond the day itself, we are shown how sports acts as a nexus of family, sex, race, death and, above all else, identity. As Naomi shares with us this great web of connections with intelligence and humour, we are shown a portrait of a young person staking a defiant claim to their identity. In giving us a snapshot of Naomi’s life, we are shown how constant that fight for identity is. She must reaffirm her Englishness to the man searching bags at the gate, assert her ability to keep up with her brother and her father, even defend her own name to the guy at the pasty shop. She meets every encounter with wit and strength, and crafts an unassailable case that she has as much a right to call herself English as anyone else in that stadium. It is her motherland, after all.

 

It’s Not a Sprint written and performed by Grace Chapman
Directed by Rachael Black

If Motherland shows us a young woman who is mature beyond her years, It’s Not a Sprint does quite the opposite. Grace Chapman plays Maddy, a woman who is celebrating her 30th birthday by running a marathon, and seemingly also by running away from all her problems. It’s Not a Sprint is full of wonderful surprises and twists, which I will be careful not to spoil. I will say that it’s hilarious, and deeply touching, and absolutely worth seeing. Chapman plays and writes Maddy with wit and love, as she goes on a journey that is oh so much more difficult than simply running twenty-six miles. It’s Not a Sprint explores and celebrates the challenges of learning to change, in all their painful glory. With this piece, Chapman and director Ellie Simpson have crafted a moving and funny piece about how growing up often has very little to do with age, and more to do with the decision to just keep going.

 

A Sweet Fade written and performed by Charlotte Powell
Directed by Orlando James

A Sweet Fade, the final piece of the evening, is striking in its authenticity, energy, and passion. Writer and Performer Charlotte Powell plays Abby, a barber as sharp and bright as her scissors. In many ways A Sweet Fade feels like a love letter, a love letter to barbering, to men, and to women, particularly those working in male-dominated trades. Abby is a beautifully drawn character, and it’s so easy to get completely lost in her funny stories and poetic insights. But underneath her charm and intelligence is a woman in struggle, desperately fighting for the freedom and respect she has earned, but held back by the misogyny of the men around her. A feelingly drawn piece, about pride and love and work, I recommend it heartily.

 

Overall, I was very impressed by what I’ve seen so far of the One Festival, and am looking forward to seeing more. Programme B, which seems to be an evening built around women in moments of darkly comic confession, was a moving, entertaining and enlightening experience. Though the pieces are short, and can occasionally feel a little bit rough around the edges, overall I find Programme B to be a very successful set of plays and a diverting and intimate evening of theatre.

 

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The Crystal Egg, Old Lamp Entertainment @ The Vaults

6 – 13 January

Based on a story by H. G. Wells
Directed by Elif Knight
Adapted by Mike Archer
Produced by Luisa Guerreiro, Rebekah Harvey, Mike Archer & Old Lamp Entertainment

Miryana Ivanova 1

Photos by Miryana Ivanova

In this chilling adaption of the H. G. Wells’ short story, the author is confronted by a man with a strange story to tell, a tragic and twisted tale that spawns from the inheritance of a seemingly innocent crystal egg.

The short story from the mind behind The War of the Worlds and the Invisible Man is a brilliant one, and the adaption is wonderfully staged. Walking down the long corridor entrance in the Vaults is like strolling back in time, suddenly you’re being jovially greeted by a plodding copper or being bustled by woman in a 19th century dress, and from there you’re seamlessly plunged down the rabbit hole. The immersive elements are wonderful, you’re beckoned into their world and the actors do a fantastic job in making you feel involved.

Alas, this lasts all too briefly and as more of an introduction to the main meat of the show which is more classically staged, albeit with incredibly elaborate set and multimedia design work. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the elaborate set and design work, but it felt like a missed opportunity after the ensemble was so well introduced to have them so thoroughly snatched away.

The show was still immensely entertaining, the story is gripping vintage sci-fi, and the performers are an utter pleasure to watch. Desmond Carney (the woe-begotten Charley Wace), Edwin Flay (H. G. Wells), and Mark Parsons (Mr Cave) all bring powerful, characterful and earnest performances.

The same can be said about Jessica Boyde (Mrs Cave) and Carolina Main (Ann-Jacoby), while Vincent La Torre gives a particularly memorable and charismatic performance as the mysterious foreigner Bosso-Kuni.

The shows intensity is a problem. It occasionally encounters the trap that most dark work has, and the unrelenting grimness can lose its edge and become a grind. As Cave’s madness grows we are given little respite or change in dynamic within the slow decent. Parsons’ performance is convincing, nuanced and likable (at least at first). However, the madness began to drag for me. I found myself impatient for the next plot point, perhaps a problem that might be expected when expanding a short story to a full-length show.

It didn’t help that the chair I sat on was not kind to me. To future viewers, see if you can find one with a cushion!

All in all though, I thought it was bloody terrific.

A wonderful first show of my 2018, and worth seeing!

 

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