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How to Disappear Completely and Never be Found – the Director’s Preview

Director Barry Heselden introduces his next production, which wins this season’s prize for the longest title, and opens on Tuesday 5 November.

What attracted you to directing this play?

The title, it’s as simple as that! Scanning the shelves of the old French’s bookshop about five years ago, this title jumped out at me. Then, as I started to read this amazing play, my imagination was fired with so many ideas about the staging of this very modern and important story. The writing is incredible and even before it was performed, it won the 2005 Arts Council’s John Whiting Award.

The themes in the play certainly spoke to me but also the flexibility of the script. It’s not set in one location and moves from moment to moment without taking a breath. it’s also beautifully written with limited stage directions, leaving us free to interpret the text more freely.

What themes does it explore?

A few years ago, at a particularly low point in my life, I was walking to work across Tower Bridge and I stopped, frozen to the spot, unable to continue my journey. I looked along the river knowing something had to change.

In this play we meet Charlie, a successful marketing executive but his ‘perfect’ life is starting to unravel. He needs to escape, but can he turn his back on his life? Can he just disappear and become a different person? Throughout his journey we explore the stresses of modern urban life, the need to succeed and the lengths people go to stay at the top of their game. Our materialistic existence is echoed in the objects we discard “The detritus of our sad little lives” on which we place such high importance.

And if you were wondering what happened on Tower Bridge, I returned to the one constant in my life – my love of theatre, and within a year I performed in my first SLT show. Not a full stop by any means, but certainly the start of a new chapter.

Tell us about the characters we’ll meet

If the above all sounds a bit dark, don’t let that put you off coming to see our play. It’s not all doom and gloom. On his journey, Charlie encounters a rich wonderland of diverse people. Our brilliant cast bring to life over 35 colourful characters, including a prophetic underground lost property guy, a sassy Scouse passport office clerk, a no-nonsense company doctor hell bent on getting Charlie back to work, a drug dealer from Peckham whom you really should avoid, and the mysterious Sophie – who is she and why won’t she leave Charlie alone?

What kind of directing and staging challenges has the play presented?

This is a technically difficult show, but we have a wonderful set created by Rebecca Vincent and Chaz Doyle, with a crew of amazing talented people who have been working on this production before we even had a cast. I don’t want to give too much away and spoil the surprises, so you’ll just have to come along and see the show.

Click images to enlarge

How to Disappear Completely and Never be Found runs nightly from 5 – 9 November at the Old Fire Station, and tickets are on sale here.

Rehearsal images by Mat Hill