One Man. One City. One Night to Remember. Jamie O’Neill stars in Proforca Theatre’s Volcano, co-written by James Lewis and Georgie Bailey, which premieres at London’s Lion & Unicorn Theatre from 8 to 12 March 2022. He took a break from rehearsals to tell us more about it. Time to get booking!
What’s Volcano about in a nutshell?
I’m going to steal this from David Brady, our director: “What happens when you take a normal bloke and boil him like a frog?”. Having had the rug pulled from under him one Friday afternoon, Max becomes embroiled in a battle with his body and mind, in an effort to quell them, he’s taken on a journey through different areas of London. The whole play takes place over the course of 12 hours.
Tell us about Max.
Max is a young corporate type. A lot of his sense of identity is tied up in his work and the social norms he’s become accustomed to. I can relate to him a lot; I think everyone will. He has all the same fears and doubts that people struggle with, but he’s a real fighter and I admire him greatly for that.
How important is London as a setting in Volcano?
Very, there’ll be plenty of places and situations that Londoners will recognise. In many ways, it’s a character of its own in the play.
What first brought you to London?
I was born in London and then moved away at seven. I returned when I went to drama school. When I was younger, London was all I knew. Now, having lived elsewhere, I have things to compare it to, and I have to say I like it here best. There is, of course, a tension in London. But it isn’t just a negative, it gives energy and spark to the capital. I do think that in big cities people are more likely to get sick of each other and take their fellow populace for granted, but the diversity of voices and the coming together of them is what makes London so vibrant.
How important is Off-West End theatre to the industry?
Asides from providing theatremakers way more opportunities to perform publicly, take risks and learn, I think that the Fringe/Off-West-End scene provides great speed. There could be a big news story, and you could devise a piece very quickly and share it with an audience. There’s an immediacy to the scene that bigger-scale shows find it harder to keep up with.
You’ve done lots of classic plays with Lazarus Theatre. How different is it doing a brand-new play? Do you have a preference?
No preference here! It feels increasingly similar these days. Despite being able to understand modern language better at a superficial level, you still have to excavate the text to find what’s lurking underneath, and the desires that drive characters and unsettle them are universal. One of the joys of studying classical texts is that you feel closer to the generations that came before you, deep down they’re no different to us.
What are you most looking forward to about your run at the Lion & Unicorn?
Each audience member will bring a fresh dynamic to the way Volcano is told, I’m looking forward to vibing off of them over the course of the show.
What do you want audiences to take away from Volcano?
Hard to answer this one. But I think if, upon commuting home, an audience member takes a moment longer to consider what people around them are thinking and feeling, then we as a team have done a good job.
Anything else you’d like to add?
If anyone reading this feels like they’ve gotten very good at disguising things over the years, then I think they and Max would have a great conversation at the Lion & Unicorn.
Volcano runs from 8 to 12 March 2022 at the Lion & Unicorn Theatre, 42-44 Gaisford St, London NW5 2ED, with evening performances at 7.30pm, Saturday matinee at 2.30pm. Tickets £14 (concessions £12). CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!