How has a piece for four actors expanded into a universe of new writing and performing opportunities? We catch up with Proforça Theatre Company artistic director David Brady as he prepares to bring his “All the Feels” season – comprising Feel and spin-off monologues Feel More and Beyond Feel – to The Space ahead of a short tour and transfer to the company’s brand-new home at the relaunched Lion & Unicorn Theatre. Time to get booking – and submitting!
“One day, maybe even tomorrow, and maybe only once, I want to wake up and feel it. Feel like today is the day when I’m not going to feel so bloody awful and alone all the time…”
Jamie and Naomi collide on a weekend that will cause them to question everything they ever thought they knew about themselves. Nick meets Karen and their lives will never be the same again. In a world where love can be swiped on a whim and the path of your whole life is determined by the delay of just one train, is there ever the right time to say what you really feel?
Feel, is written by James Lewis, directed by David Brady and stars Gabrielle Nellis-Pain, Anthony Fagan, Colin Hubbard and Emily Costello. The season at The Space also features brand-new material from a selection of writers presented in Feel More and Before Feel.
Feel runs from 5 to 17 February 2019, with performances Tuesdays to Saturdays at 7.30pm, and performances of Feel More on Saturdays at 2.30pm and Sundays at 6pm. It’s at The Space Arts Centre, 269 Westferry Road, London E14 3RS. Individual show tickets are priced £14. A joint “All the Feels” is discounted to £20. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!
Talking to… David Brady
David Brady is the founder and artistic director of Proforça Theatre Company and also the co-creator and director of Feel.
What inspired you to create Feel?
Feel was our second original piece of writing, and we wanted to create a piece of work that would grow the company, really challenge and test our production skills, but also create something that would give us the real “long-term” experience of producing a major piece.
Feel doesn’t tackle big themes. It tells the story of two couples, the tempestuous first six weeks of their relationships and how they pan out, changing the lives of all four forever. We wanted to create a piece that spoke to the audience, engineer some opportunities for our actors to give some standout performances, but most of all write a love letter to the big city and the urban millennial experience.
Tell us about your process of collaborating with writer James Lewis.
We’re surrounded by passionate and brilliant actors and creatives who inspire us and help influence our storytelling. Whilst Feel isn’t autobiographical, it’s really the result of us listening, watching and absorbing the stories of the people we love around us who are funny, flawed and brilliant humans with hopes and ambitions of their own.
It was really key for us to keep the storytelling simple and effective, and as we developed the piece, we looked at how the two stories in the main show intersect with each other. We wanted to make sure that all the focus was on the story and the characterisation, which is so important to making the show relatable.
What did you learn from 2018 performances of Feel?
Performance-wise, we learned all about how different audiences see the piece, and we were able to work out what they found funny, what they found sad or challenging and where the acting performances needed to be at their best. I think the new version really benefits from that first run – and we know it inside out now.
I’d also say that making a substantial show is a little bit like running a marathon – you have to prepare and run a production in an entirely different way to a short run. I’ve seen every performance of Feel, no matter where it’s been, and from a directing and producing perspective, you live through the highs and the lows of the production experience. You have to pace yourself and make sure you keep up the energy, pace and enthusiasm!
After that, I’d say I’ve learned to maybe take a step back once the initial run is completed, continue to take stock of how the show is performing, and take time to be present in the real world a little bit.
How have audiences responded to Feel?
We’ve been thrilled. Feel is a relatable show about experiences and characters people can really engage with, so the audience appreciation for the piece has been brilliant.
Critically, we’ve had some lovely and game-changing reviews, and this is a massive morale boost. You sometimes need that validation to prove you’re not just making work for friends and family. We got four- and five-star reviews, and we were also named in the “Top 10” of Shows for 2018 by London Theatre Reviews. This support has given us some great momentum for the new run.
What was the thinking behind complementing Feel with Feel More & Before Feel?
Both incarnations of Feel More have been a joy. We wanted to create an opportunity to work with some brilliant writers to see how they would respond to the themes of Feel. These characters are all “connected” to the main piece, either directly or thematically, and they inhabit the same world. So, whilst you don’t need to have seen both pieces for them to make sense, we hope there’s a real pay-off for a double trip to our expanded universe.
This year we’re also touring Feel to a few locations outside of London. A new monologue called Before Feel makes its way to those touring locations and sees an actor and director from each local venue take on a new part of the Feel universe in the ten minutes before the main show starts. It’s going to be exciting to give our work to someone and see what local flavour they can bring to the world we’ve created!
How did you find the material for these additions?
We’ve had writers recommended, but we also did a call out and we’re so thrilled with our current writing team – they’re very strong. The pieces are warm, sad, funny and clever, and they all “fit” into the Feel universe.
Last year we told stories like the Uber driver that took our main characters home, a barista who serves the main character’s coffee, and a “what if” take on one of the pivotal scenes from Feel. This year’s Feel More goes even further, and amongst others, we see a version of “the morning after the night before”, Naomi from Feel’s sister and her story, and even an unseen character from Feel (the not so mysterious Brenda from UKIP). It’s such fun to create new and brilliant characters and have them live in a world you created.
When & why did you found Proforça Theatre Company?
We’ve been formed for three years now. We’d always wanted to do something that helped be an antidote to the corporate jobs we were doing at the time. In the last three years, we’ve been on such a rollercoaster ride and worked with some properly brilliant people. We’re learning, and growing, all the time and it’s been such an adventure. What started as a small creative venture has turned out to be something much more life-changing, and we’d really like to thank everyone who’s helped and supported us.
What’s next for Proforça?
We’ve got such an exciting few months ahead. Not only will Feel be travelling to a few venues on a short tour, we’re also thrilled to be taking over the management of the Lion & Unicorn Theatre in Kentish Town in early spring. It’s been a bit of a dream since we started to have a venue of our own. It’s our aim to establish a “destination” fringe venue which showcases the best that London has to offer in terms of fringe theatre programming, but also to create a fantastic experience for our audiences as well as opportunities for all the brilliant people who make fringe theatre in London such a wonderful place. We’re thrilled to be creating a new home above the Lion & Unicorn Pub and can’t wait to get started.
Can you tell us more about your programming plans?
We’re so excited to open submissions for our new seasons of programming – anyone interested in bringing their work to the theatre when it reopens should apply now. We want people to have a warm, friendly and successful experience so we’re taking steps to make sure we give as much support as possible to the companies coming to the theatre. We want to make sure we give space to the limitless imagination offered by the hugely talented and inspirational creatives who inhabit our brilliant city and give them an amazing platform to make some really great work.
Our ethos behind the new space is to let people “Be who you want to be” – and we want to programme an awesome range of fringe theatre experiences that give artists and creatives space and freedom to make fantastic work with support from people who make work themselves and understand the challenges we all face. We’ll also be creating opportunities for writers, emerging companies and also for resident companies to have a space of their own as well as some in-house productions. We’ll announce more details shortly.
For more information visit the new theatre website at www.thelionandunicorntheatre.com and follow us on twitter @LandUTheatre. There’s such an exciting adventure ahead, and we really hope that people will come along with us for the ride of a lifetime!