Crying in the Wilderness Productions have been inhabiting the new studio space at the Bush this week, doing research and development (R&D) on an adaptation of 'The Invisible Man'. Paul Anthony Morris, their Creative Director, took a few minutes to chat about his impressions of the space and its impact on their work.
We met briefly on Monday--how's the piece now?
It's evolving a lot. We're making changes, especially to the aesthetic--we're making it more surreal, so that's been really interesting. There's lots of stuff percolating in the atmosphere; there's a tangible tension.
We were planning to have lots of projected images in the piece, but now that we're going with a more surreal feeling, so we've got rid of a catalog of images. For the audience, that means more ambiguity, which makes it far more interesting, and gets them to do far more work than images which are telling you how to feel and how to respond.
Your company are the first in our new studio space. What kind of mischief have you been getting up to this week?
I think we've been really good actually--everyone's been really focused. There are literally 12 people in the room, so no one's been playing any pranks, though that might happen tomorrow. We've covered most of the major items by now, so maybe some of the musicians will have more time to lounge around and get mischievous now. The first three days were to work on music and develop the score.
You're one of the first companies to bring instruments into this space--tell me more about that.
Even when we run educational workshops, we're always looking to see where we can be multidisciplinary. For us, theatre is so much more than acting. Language is really important for us, and we're always looking for ways to diversify our use of language. So instruments in this are not just instruments, but are characters in the character's head. That's how we've been playing around.
In some parts of the text, there's straight music, in some parts, it's creating sounds, voices, atmosphere. We've gone down that road much more than the route of creating a score. We've inverted a lot of the sounds and created juxtapositions so that the psychological aspect and features the character are going through are reflected in the sound.
We've also got a British Sign Language interpreter coming in, and our choreographer is partially deaf, so they'll be introducing signing into the piece. We're interested in how they bring that aspect of language into the question of invisibility and marginalization that we're looking at in this piece.
What's happened to the piece in the studio space? Any surprises?
The music, the sounds, the way it works in that space has been really great because initially, when the flaps were all up, the sound bounced off one wall and didn't travel very far. But acoustically it's a really good space. The voice, the instruments don't get lost--they maintain their orginiality. Everything filters in the room really well.
And it's a nice space, it's intimate. It's one of those spaces where you think, I'll do Julius Caesar as a two-hander in that space, or Othello as a one-hander--it's one of those spaces where you could be very explorative. And I think really good actors, the kind who like to 'get naked in their craft', will enjoy performing in that space.
It doesn't feel new, it feels like it's been worn in, like other plays have passed through and left their mark. It used to be a workshop, so maybe that's part of the reason. Maybe that ambiance is very much in there. Also, the floor is very warm--there's that feeling it's been lived in, that it has lots of secrets and experiences it could offload.
Can you describe your project in one sentence?
Invisibility [in this piece] is a metaphor for a whole spectrum of invisibility in our wider society.
And Crying in the Wilderness as a company: what's your focus?
We're very interested in producing theate that's about the exploration of the inner life.
What is it about this project that feels urgent?
In terms of how people feel, in the world we're all very vulnerable at the moment, and that's not just about what takes place in the workplace and at school, but it's infiltrated our homes.
When people feel vulnerable, they feel marginalised, and the play investigates that not just from a political/social stance, but also from a personal one. It looks at sibling rivalries, life outside the workplace, communities with different special needs. Right now, that level of marginalisation is acutely felt, and for whatever reasons, people feel they have to withdraw themselves and reflect more deeply on who they are and what they want from life.
Massive political and economic changes force people to be more introspective, to be more contemplative about what they are doing and what they desire to do. This play asks serious personal questions through the life of a character, and the writing is so wonderful, it would be about anyone. Its universiality is the strongest and most fascinating aspect of the project, and to try and realise that is a really interesting challenge.
To learn more about Crying in the Wildnerness and to follow the progress of the 'Invisible Man' project, visit their website at cryinginthewilderness.co.uk/CITWP or follow them on Twitter @cryingwildernes