At north London’s Lion & Unicorn Theatre, the autumn/winter season launches with the Covid-postponed premiere of James Lewis’ intimate two-hander Lately, running from 7 to 18 September 2021.
The production is helmed by Proforca Theatre director David Brady, who also runs the Lion & Unicorn and whose previous directing credits include James Lewis’ Feel and At Last. We caught up with David about the play and post-lockdown life in Kentish Town. Time to get booking!
What is Lately about in a nutshell?
Lately tells the story of Callum & Alison (Cal & Alf) and is the story of their friendship (and maybe more) as we unravel the course of their relationship in a rubbish seaside town. It’s a story of the places we run away to, the places we can never escape from, and the people that bring us back down to earth again when all we want to do is fly away. The framing of the story is a bit of a spoiler, so I’m going to leave the rest for when you buy a ticket!
Why does the play appeal to you as a director?
Having directed Feel, which outlined the millennial experience of “urban love” in London, and At Last, which really did take us far too close to some of the far-right wing curbs on our freedoms we’ve all experienced through the last year, it was really time for a much smaller, much more “intimate” experience. We’re going back to the basics of flawed, loveable humans, which we’ve come to love over the last few years. Lately really gives us that small-scale “real life” storytelling.
Plus who doesn’t love the seaside, even if it’s rubbish?
Why have you chosen to alternate two separate casts for the show?
Whilst the decision to have two casts is primarily driven by the need to be practical – in the event that one of the casts needs to isolate, the show can continue – I love working with actors in a way that is “bigger on the inside”. Both AAAAA [FiveA] and Feel More all had extra cast members, secret cameos, and special guests. Lately is no different.
I also can’t wait to see some very talented actors give unique insights and interpretations of the play in different ways. Constellations in the West End has proven that approach to be very “on trend” at the moment, so I can’t wait to see the finished product(s).
What have the past 18 months been like?
Highs and lows?
I don’t think any of us foresaw that we’d get taken out by a global pandemic so soon into taking over the theatre. I’m not exaggerating when I say the last 18 months have been the most hostile experience of making theatre I’ve ever seen. Shutting the theatre down, having to be that person that had to break (and keep breaking) the news of shows being canceled really was a soul-destroying part of this journey.
But there have been loads of highs too – working with Jess Barton again and the VERY talented Dan Rainford on AAAAA, seeing our Associate Artists making work again, and seeing all those performers we love soaring high again after lockdown are definite highlights for me.
Meet the shows that make up our brand new season of work @LandUTheatre for Autumn / Winter 2021. Check out this HUGE thread of upcoming new work from some brilliant (& very patient!) theatre companies.
We’ve got some more news up our sleeves coming very soon (watch this space!) pic.twitter.com/uwzORGmxRN
— Lion & Unicorn Theatre (@LandUTheatre) August 11, 2021
How does it feel to be reopening the theatre fully?
The work never stops, but it feels different now. We’re regrouping, planning ahead, and trying to move away from the ”Covid world” where and if we can. It’s been really exciting to see audience members and artists we haven’t seen for a year, and we had our first capacity audiences this past week for Camden Fringe.
There’s risk everywhere now (so much risk) – and always the fear of more lockdowns happening this winter – but there’s a real return on that investment of time and pressure when you get to hear audiences appreciate the work coming out of that little black box in Kentish Town. I love it.
Why have you chosen Lately to launch your new season?
Lately was originally due to premiere before the pandemic hit, and it’s sat there, very patiently, waiting its turn. When we needed to postpone Flashbang, which was originally due to take this slot in September, there was only one candidate for the job. So we’re packing our bags and heading for the seaside – Flashbang’s time is coming, though!
Anything different that audiences will notice when they return?
Everyone’s got their eye (rightly) on safety. We really want to make sure we continue to make everyone as safe and confident to return to theatre . So audiences will continue to notice all the basics (no throwing the masks or hand sanitiser away just yet!). I hope we’re striking a good balance of fun but also keeping everyone safe at the same time.
How are you feeling about the future of theatre in general?
I want to say optimistic. We have to be. Even in the darkest times last year, people got straight onto making digital theatre, even if we all got Zoom fatigue by the end, and there were some brilliant efforts, which not only kept things going but made work so much more accessible.
I just want to call out The Space in particular, who mastered the digital format and made some work I really loved during lockdown. I love fringe theatre (I’m biased), but I think, if the last year has taught us anything, it’s that performers, creatives and fringe theatre companies should demand (and deserve) more support from a government that doesn’t understand them. They are absolutely the future.
And of the Lion & Unicorn in particular?
What have you got planned?
We’re working hard and we’ve got a BRILLIANT autumn/winter season coming. Some really great work from some very hard-working (and patient!) theatre companies, which I hope people will like. We’re also working on some exciting networking opportunities for actors, writers and directors, and I’m hoping to say more about those in the next few weeks. Watch this space!
Anything else you’d like to add?
I think the most important thing is to say “Thanks” really, to a world of brilliant people that have supported us through such a crazy time in our lives: The Proforca Team, The Lion and Unicorn Duty Managers, Jess Barton, Anthony Fagan, who’s off to be a brilliant teacher in September, Melissa Phillips, the Associate Artists at the Theatre, everyone who’s made a show, bought a ticket, said nice things or slung us some spare change, and the Albany Theatre in Coventry who hosted AAAAA on tour.
But a special mention to Phil and his team at the Lion & Unicorn, and Youngs Brewery, who have supported us and our nonsense without question. They’re the true stars of this particular show.
Lately runs at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre, 42-44 Gaisford St, Kentish Town, London NW5 2ED from 7 to 18 September 2021 with performances Tuesdays to Saturdays at 7.30pm. Tickets are priced £12-14. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!