Dark Vanilla Jungle is running at Theatre N16 from 25 March to 31 March 2017. Break A Leg chatted to Director, Samson Hawkins about the production:
Thanks for talking to Break A Leg, tell me about the piece and your vision for it.
Dark Vanilla Jungle’s about trying to find love, acceptance and belonging. It’s by Philip Ridley who has a wonderful skill of taking a universal truth and amplifying it into epic theatrical proportions. The play goes through some horrifyingly grotesque moments, but they are all based on something we relate to, make the production have so much resonance.
My production of Dark Vanilla Jungle is all about intimacy. Bringing the story play and the audience together. N16 is the most intimate of spaces and the audience are going to be surrounding Andrea, giving her no where to escape to.
Did you have initial ideas about casting and what you wanted actors to bring to the piece?
It’s 80 minutes of 1 actor on stage. So you need someone who can carry an audience through that. Someone who has the emotional depth to take the audience on the journey, someone who has the technique to get through the production but also someone who has a bit of showmanship. I needed someone who I could be confident could handle this script, because it is a really hard job for the actor. It’s a 10 day run of bearing unimaginable emotion depths, that’s a hard thing to do, but I’m very thankful to have Emily Thornton, she’s a tough lass from Bradford but she has wonderful emotion depth and is a great ear for comedy. She’s a bit like a young Olivia Colman from Yorkshire.
What do you hope the audience will take away from the production?
I’m not one for defining how I want the audience to react. That’s up to them not me. I just want to make sure they do. I watch lots of productions where the audience are just waiting for the end so they can make it back in time for Match of The Day. I think some people are going to the theatre out of obligation. I think you should go to the theatre to make to feel something. Netflix is great but you can watch that on auto pilot, when there are living and breathing actors in front of you, engine with you, and telling a story you are committed to, you are forced to participate, forced to think and feel and be alive. I’m up for audiences bringing in old vegetables to throw on stage and for people to bring back booing of bad acting, it would liven things up.
And that’s what Dark Vanilla Jungle does, it livens things up.
Have rehearsals altered your initial thoughts, at all?
Emily has brought so many new ideas about her character that it changes day to day. The overall idea and piece are roughly the same, but there are some lovely little moments that Emily has really found. When I had originally read the play I had so many bold, exciting ideas. But I soon realised, many of these where pointless. They didn’t tell the story but where just there for show. The production is stripped back, it’s raw, it’s naked, and it’s honest. Working on the play has confirmed that to me.
What would you say to encourage people to buy a ticket?
Emily is a wonderfully engaging new working class actor performing the work of Britons most exciting living dramatist working today. It’s raw, it’s funny, it’s enlightening and I still can’t work out if it’s more fun or horrifying.
Finally, any advice for budding directors?
Learn a trade. Start earning enough to live on with that, and then concentrate on theatre. The theatre hasn’t and will never be a financially stable life, so don’t expect it to be. Also don’t give line readings.
Thanks to Samson for an insightful interview, break a a leg!