Lisa Thomas introduces Being Friends/Lost – A Double Bill of plays by Robert Holman.
What attracted you to directing these particular plays? How did you discover them?
I was looking for plays that could be simply staged and that would not suffer from the social distancing we needed to do at the time, and that had something meaningful to say. These plays, the first two parts of a trilogy in fact, seem to fit these criteria. They are both about strangers connecting in circumstances that have brought them together unexpectedly. They both explore difficult situations and emotions in an eloquent way and see the characters finding a new understanding through the course of their conversation. Lost is set during the Falklands war and is about a mother’s feelings about her estranged son, a career Navy officer. Being Friends sees two young men meet in a field in 1944 as south-east England is reeling from a new bomb threat.
Tell us a bit about the characters we’ll meet and the themes that are explored?
In Lost, May (Caroline Beckett), a working class mother from the north-east, hears news about her son Ian from his friend, Geoffrey (Robert Wallis). Her feelings about him are ambivalent and she struggles to understand exactly what she is feeling. Geoffrey, a fellow naval officer, has seen a different side to Ian from that he showed to his parents and the two views create an often uncomfortable dynamic. In Being Friends Eric (Will Howells), an artist and novelist, comes upon Oliver (Jacob Smith), a conscientious objector currently working on a local farm. They discuss their very different experiences of life and shine light onto aspects that the other may not have considered including some quite traumatic events. Both are engaging and thoughtful characters who enjoy the chance to look at things from another person’s very different point of view.
What have been the main challenges of directing this double bill?
As both of these plays are short, directing them as a double bill was not really a problem as they are so contained. The main challenges came out of the uncertainty of how and when we would actually be able to perform. We started preparing for these plays in late September 2020! We rehearsed initially on Zoom – a couple of times from Will’s holiday accommodation even – moving into the theatre in late October. Then, just as we were in our run-up week the November lockdown came and we were unable to perform. With all the uncertainty, we eventually had to wait nearly seven months to start rehearsing again. I was amazed at the extent to which everyone had retained their lines and how they were able to add extra depth to their performances.
What do you hope audiences will take away from these plays?
I hope they will enjoy the way that the characters are able to connect with each other and find some kind of resolution in difficult times. I hope it will make them think about the complexity of human experience and how we deal with what life hands us. I hope they will be moved but feel somewhat hopeful after watching both plays.
Being Friends/Lost runs June 15-20, including a 2.30pm matinee on the Sunday.