I spent a very 70’s induced lunch time in the local caf with the delightfully creative, Liz Bacon, director of one of this year’s MA Shows, 1972: The Future of Sex. From first watching this play performed by the creators, The Wardrobe Ensemble, I was excited to discover what Liz and our MA cast would bring into the mix!
T: Hi Liz. You are currently at the early stages of rehearsal and you are devising extra scenes for 1972: The Future of Sex. What is your process for that?
L: We’ve already decided our three devised storylines, and we got to this point by playing around with pieces of the script and then worked out where our big questions were. In the play, there are big question marks that need not be answered, because it’s the audience’s job to go away and answer them. But there are still some storylines and characters that need more exploring, which was only enhanced by the research we did into the era. Our big question was: Why are we putting on a play about 1972 in 2018? What do we want to say about it? What do we want the audience to go away thinking? What actions do we want them to take? How can we pull out more threads from the story to serve that purpose? But from a more practical angle, devising gives everyone the chance to have more of an equal part in the play, so it’s come from the casting process as well – who naturally fits into the roles. We decided to work on the characters already in the script, as the thought of devising new ones was a bit too much in the time given, so instead we have focussed purely on expanding the storylines.
T: Ultimately, this is a very physical piece; what has inspired you when it comes to physical direction?
L: I honestly don’t know how to work any other way. The reason why I love working physically is that it creates a breadth of possibility and freedom that allows us to make decisions about the play. For me, the fact that we have a really tight ensemble of twelve people, it’s such a moving and engaging thing to watch. 1972: The Future of Sex is about adolescence, it’s about sex, it’s about physical bodies and beings, so to tell that story in a passive way would be nuts! In the reality of the play, there’s a band made up of seventeen year olds. These teenagers are probably not very strong musically, but they have the soul to perform something raw with energy and guts, and I feel like that’s how the whole play should be told.
T: How are you finding tackling the comedic dynamic coupled with the serious themes of sexuality?
L: My main focus, after reading the script was creating characters that the audience could connect with. I’ve been working on the authenticity of the piece, so I think the comedy will come naturally with that. The play is unexpected and surprising in its format, which really lends itself to the comedic side of it. It all comes back to play – throughout the whole rehearsal process, we’ve been playing around, and I think that joy will show.
T: What are you enjoying most about working with our MA students?
L: They’re so enthusiastic and they’re so hungry to learn stuff and try new things. The positivity and support that they give one another is incredible. Also, the fact that MA students are a bit older really helps with discussions in the play around permission and identity, because they bring their life experiences into it. They’re a really smart group. Their real challenge is trusting themselves – the MA course is only a year, but it’s important that they give themselves permission to move onto the next step and trust that they’re qualified enough to move into the industry.
T: What are the main challenges you have faced so far?
L: Devising the new storylines has been a challenge, as they need to evolve at the same pace as the rest of the world within the play. It takes a lot of faith, timing wise – it is one thing rehearsing a play that’s already been written, but when you’re adding new devised scenes to it, it suddenly becomes a much longer process. We’ve also got a live band on stage, so we have to compose and create songs; it’s a lot of fun, but timing crops up again as a challenge!
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