The actor chatted to us about his debut play ‘Adventurous’ which is being produced online by the Jermyn Street Theatre.
Hi Ian, thanks so much for talking to me. For those who haven’t heard about Adventurous – what is it about?
It’s about two single, middle-aged people who have ventured into the world of online dating, just as the pandemic hits. So they have to meet and get to know each other on Zoom. The play then follows the ups and downs of their relationship as lockdown is lifted and they can finally meet in real life.
Where did the inspiration for the play come from?
I was talking to Tom Littler, the artistic director at Jermyn Street Theatre, about writing a two-hander for when they could finally reopen. I wanted to write something for me and my friend, Sara Crowe. We’ve worked together twice before and she’s just such a delightful person and a brilliant comic actor. (It makes life so much easier to have someone in mind, as you can really write to their strengths and even imagine how they might deliver a particular line.) When it became clear that it was going to take a little longer than we first thought before we could actually perform on stage again, Tom suggested we mount an online production.
Could you tell me more about the characters at the centre of the story?
They’re both quite conservative and reserved, so their first meeting is a little awkward to say the least. As one of them says: “It’s quite scary putting yourself out there again.” Richard is a recently separated History teacher: he’s a bit of a fusspot and is a little scarred by his 18-year marriage to Lois, whom he describes as ‘high maintenance’.
Ros, meanwhile, has spent most of her life caring for her older sister, who was a demanding patient with a life-long grudge against Princess Diana. Ros is kicking herself for not taking the plunge into the world of online dating sooner. I thought there was some comic potential to be mined in the story of these nervous, conservative people from Tunbridge Wells negotiating both the etiquette and the technology of a ‘Zoom romance’.
How does it feel to be getting it staged?
It’s very exciting. I started writing scripts about 18 months ago, and last March, I’d just had a meeting with a couple of theatres to discuss scheduling the first play that I’d written. We all know what happened next, so the pause button has been pressed on that particular project for now. I’m very grateful to Tom and Jermyn Street for the opportunity to get something that I’ve created actually out there for people to – hopefully – enjoy. I’ve spent the last year lamenting the fact that I started to write plays, just as everybody had to stop making them!
What do you hope that audiences will take away from Adventurous?
Well, principally, I hope they have a laugh. It is a comedy, after all! And although it is set during lockdown, it isn’t about lockdown, if you know what I mean. I think all creative people have been wondering what their audiences’ appetite would be for productions that are set during the past year. Does anyone really want to be reminded of this hellish experience or will they just want some escapism? But actually, I think it can be quite cathartic for art to explore the pandemic. It’s been such an isolating experience for us all, it can even be helpful to see fictional characters going through similar emotional turmoil as the rest of us.
Do you think the pandemic will change the way that people date and fall in love? I think it kind of has already. I have a friend who ended up moving in with his new boyfriend last year – far earlier than they planned to. Basically that was because Dr Jenny Harries gave people that weird ultimatum last March that couples had to make the decision either to co-habit or just not see each other for the next few months! I think a lot of the guidance and regulations from the government have been based on the assumption that everybody is in a conventional relationship with 2.5 children. Single people – and their emotional and sexual needs – have kind of been ignored. But presumably, when and if life returns to normal, although people may still find each other online and make that initial connection there, the need to be together in the flesh will be as strong as ever!
How would you describe the play? Tom Littler came up with the tagline ‘the unexpected story of two single souls with an unstable connection’, which I thought was rather brilliant. ‘Unstable Connection’ would actually have been a pretty good alternative title for the play!
By Emma Clarendon
Adventurous will be streaming from the 16th to the 28th March.