Producer, writer and director Andrew Bruce-Lockhart talks passionately about What’s Driving You?, the improv drama about the impact of speed on driving he has co-devised with A G Anderson, running at London’s Applecart Arts from 28 February to 4 March 2023.
Directed by Julia Stubbs and presented by Blueberry Goose Theatre Group, What’s Driving You focuses on Ted (played by Bruce-Lockhart) who is giving a multimedia talk about the effects of speeding on our lives. But underneath the surface Ted is struggling with the dark memories of past events which threaten to overwhelm him.
The piece cleverly combines facts with fiction, bringing the audience in on the action by involving them in observation tasks and interactions on facts and figures, inspired by real speed awareness courses.
Ted’s talk highlights the importance of being aware of your speed and the effect speeding can have on you and others, and may possibly encourage you, as Ted would say, to “drive like it matters”. You can even check out Ted’s website HERE.
In the interview below with My Theatre Mates Bruce-Lockhart describes how the concept behind What’s Driving You? came about, his dedication to the drama’s road safety message, and what led him to tackle his first acting role in a drama that has no script.
You devised What’s Driving You with AG Anderson, how did the project come about?
As these things sometimes do, when we were talking about other things. Following on from the successful short run we did of AG’s play 1:2:2192 Retribution Day at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe last year, we were chatting around what to do next with it. Finances, as ever reared their head. Taking a two hander to Edinburgh is expensive from just an accommodation point of view – with cast and supporting crew. In chatting about it, I said it would be great to a do a one hander with minimum props and crew, AG then mentioned his idea of What’s Driving You? I loved the idea. AG then said they weren’t writing a script. They wanted it to be improv.
Was it originally conceived mainly as a talk about driving/speed awareness?
In that first conversation AG said the subject matter could stand on its own as an immersive play. The drama was in the realities and horrors of the damage to lives speeding causes. With 50 million people a year being injured or disabled worldwide due to Road Traffic Incidents (RTIs), speed and poor driving choices is clearly not a small problem. As it happened, I agreed with AG. However, when I spoke to a couple of actors and a director I’ve worked with, they suggested the drama might be enhanced if it came from something happening in the play as well. AG and I agreed this might be an interesting route to explore and so this version of the play was born.
You have said the project has a meta element to it (there is even a separate website for what the main character does for a living). Then a whole other drama comes into play, what was it like combining those different elements?
It’s a serious subject matter, that should not be approached lightly. At the same time the play is fiction. It is interesting to blur the lines with the meta element and imagine what Ted’s (the character delivering the talk) world might be like, without trivialising the subject matter. The play is packed with facts and observations based on real stats and figures. People have told me – having sat in a rehearsal a week before – they still remember some facts from the piece and I think to me, that means the piece is working. The fiction is enhanced by the facts.
The site has real stats, figures and information in. In the future, if the play has legs and goes on tour, goes to Edinburgh and other fringes, or goes into schools, it might also offer things like teacher info packs, quizzes t-shirts or merchandise promoting road safety, links to other safety organisation and donations to charity.
The piece is described as an improv drama and there is audience interaction and involvement, what aspects that does relate to?
There is no script. Ted delivers his talk using PowerPoint and interacts with the audience from the start – asking questions about their driving. In section called ‘fun facts… ish’ he asks them to guess answers to his questions, related to car speeds and RTIs. They will take part in some observation tasks through multimedia and video as well as activities revolving around car speed and impact of RTIs involving pedestrians.
You are taking on your first acting role in the show. What led you to make the plunge and what has the rehearsal process been like?
I approached an actor I’ve worked with before, about playing Ted. After a friendly chat, it became clear it might be a bit of a big ask, to ask them to ad-lib/improv for 60-plus minutes, with just slides to go on and no script. They suggested I have a go. My first reaction was, I’m not an actor. My place is behind the camera or in front of the stage directing, not acting. But mainly, I can’t learn lines. I tend to learn visually or by doing. I’m also dyslexic so I thought it was a non-starter. I filed the thought away but kept coming back to it, I was tempted to try.
Eventually I started to think that might be an interesting way forward. In my ‘other life’ I work as a transformation and change training specialist – so I am used to not working to a script. I stand up and chat my way through subjects, by learning my way through the subject matter. Sometimes I use slides, sometimes I don’t. But I can talk for hours about things when required – with no script. So, I thought… why not? When I told my brother (an experienced actor and theatre director) and my wife about this development – they were both rather surprised (that would be the understatement of the year). AG was happy with the idea, so here we are. I am a little terrified!
How would you describe your character? What has excited you about playing this part?
Ted’s heart is the right place. He’s an evangelist for trying to keep people safe on the road, trying to help people change their approach to driving. He’s doing what I would want to do, talking about a subject that he is utterly passionate about and is desperate to share with people, for no other reason than just trying to keep road users and pedestrians, safer.
The subject matter is serious and topical, is it important for you to share a moral message about dangerous driving as part of the aims of the production?
Absolutely, but I don’t think it’s about moral choice. It’s about giving people knowledge about what happens if they do speed, or they do hit another car or pedestrian, so they can make their own decision. Maybe actively chose to try driving with more care, to ‘mitigate their risk’ of having a crash, as Ted calls it. I don’t see Ted as someone lecturing on morals or judging anyone. He just wants people to be safer on the road. The fictional developments in the play, and affect it has on Ted, reenforces that message.
I don’t see Ted as someone lecturing on morals or judging anyone. He just wants people to be safer on the road. The fictional developments in the play, and affect it has on Ted, reenforces that message.
What do you want audiences to take away from the play?
To maybe do what Ted asks? Drive like it matters.
What are your plans for the show after the current run?
The play is going to have a longer life. This run is only five days. Part of the reason for doing this run is to allow us to develop a play that is scripted and performable by any actor. We plan to take it into schools for young people to experience (the older students might be learner drivers or new drivers). As an ex-teacher I think the educational value of the piece could be wonderful. We’re planning to take it to the Edinburgh Fringe next year and are looking for other opportunities to spread Ted’s story and simple message.
Tell us more about Blueberry Goose Theatre Group?
We’re a small theatre company based in Kent and are part of The Goose Group. We also make feature and short film under SendCake Films. We try and tell interesting stories about the weird condition that is being human. This is the second time we’ve worked with AG Anderson and are working with them on a play called Skybridge, a dark comedy drama about cannibalism at 58 thousand feet.
What’s Driving You? runs from 28 February to 4 March 2023 at 7.45pm at Applecart Arts, The Passmore Edwards Building, 207 Plashet Grove, London E6 1BX. Running time: 90 minutes. Tickets are £15, £12.50 and £10. Age guidance: 16-plus. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!
Using your mobile phone while driving increases your chances of crashing by 400%#SpeedKills
A #SpeedAwareness talk goes darkly wrong. #improv #theatre #drama directed by @traherne90@ApplecartArts 28Feb – 4March 19:45 (90 mins inc 15min interval)#tickets in profile/#QRcode pic.twitter.com/5vx7kvVwwd
— Blueberry Goose Theatre Group (@goose_group) February 22, 2023