American playwright Madeleine George’s acclaimed 2009 three-hander Precious Little gets its UK premiere at Brockley Jack Theatre, where it’s now running until 15 June 2019. We caught up with artistic director Kate Bannister about why she wanted to bring the play to London. Time to get booking!
“Wanna come with me to the zoo?”
Brodie, a gifted research linguist, is expecting her first child. When she receives unsettling news about the baby she carries. Her girlfriend is unsympathetic and the medical profession provides few answers. Brodie’s search for guidance leads her to two unlikely sources: the elderly speaker of a vanishing language… and a gorilla at the zoo.
Madeleine George’s irreverent, witty and startlingly original play reveals the beauty and the limits of human language. Precious Little was first produced in 2009 by New York’s Clubbed Thumb Theatre. The Brockley Jack production stars Jenny Delisle, Jessica Kinsey and Deborah Maclaren.
Talking to… Kate Bannister
Kate Bannister is the artistic director of London’s Brockley Jack Theatre, which she runs with designer Karl Swinyard. The two were awarded the 2011 Fringe Report Award for Best Venue Directors. They’ve also worked together to present other recent, hit Brockley Jack in-house productions including The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Kes and Lifeboat.
How did you come across Precious Little?
I’d already read Madeleine George’s play The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence, which was shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize in 2014. It’s a brilliant, witty, time-travelling drama. This prompted me to look for other plays by the same writer and I came across Precious Little.
Why did you want to direct the play?
I felt an immediate connection with the play, as a director and as a mum. I love the writing and the three different stories that are woven together around the themes of communication and choice. A passion for language runs throughout the play, engaging with how we use language, how language defines culture, and how, on occasion, words can fail us. It’s funny, and it’s very moving.
And it’s a real joy to direct a play for three women, with such unusual and challenging roles for actresses. I’ve enjoyed working with three brilliant performers on this production.
— MyTheatreMates (@MyTheatreMates) May 31, 2019
Who plays the gorilla in the play?
Deborah Maclaren plays The Ape, alongside two other significant roles. The Ape is a physical part, but also sensitively written and portrayed. It’s been exciting working on a character who interacts quite differently with the audience and the others in the play. There is no gorilla suit, but there has been plenty of celery and popcorn in rehearsals, which are The Ape’s favourite foods.
Precious Little follows your success with Kes & Lifeboat. What do these choices say about your taste as a director & of the theatre?
Kes, Lifeboat and Precious Little are fluid, imaginative and somewhat unconventional pieces of storytelling, with moving and powerful performances at the heart of them. Kes captured Billy’s poignant coming of age, Lifeboat told the true story of two courageous young girls surviving against the odds in the Atlantic Ocean, and Precious Little brings together a linguist and a gorilla, in the search for answers to a very difficult situation.
And they take us to some really interesting places on stage too, which create worlds for designers to have fun realising – all the productions at the Jack have collaborated with incredibly talented set, light, costume and sound designers.
Show photography by Tim Stubbs-Hughes.
Precious Little runs from 29 May to 15 June 2019 at Brockley Jack Studio Theatre, 410 Brockley Road, London SE4 2DH, with performances Tuesdays to Saturdays at 7.30pm. Tickets are priced £13-£16. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!