Guy Jones tells us about No Exit, his directorial debut and our next show at SLT
You’ve been drawn to this play for a long time – what is it that fascinates you?
I saw it on TV when I was a teenager, with Omar Sharif and Cherie Lunghi, and was engaged by the subversion of the notion of the afterlife. As I matured and revisited it though, the themes of identity and power dynamics within personal interactions became more relevant and compelling. The exciting thing about it is that it’s so accessible too. It might have deep themes, but in simple terms, it’s a story about three people meeting in a room for the first time. And who hasn’t been there?
Tell us a bit about the philosophy that underpins Sartre’s play.
Existentialism is Sartre’s abiding philosophical belief and it effectively shines a denuding light on everything we construct for ourselves in life as a society, stripping everything back to the only certainty which is that we somehow exist as human beings. Everything else is perceived, conceived, constructed or manufactured, and as such can be subject to misconception, distortion or reinvention by the perceiver or by others. Sartre’s perception is that any denial of this somewhat chaotic truth is ‘bad faith.’ This applies to everything from the physical, to the metaphysical and our notions of identity and sense of self.
When the world comes loose from its moorings in such a way, life can feel frightening or even absurd. The characters in No Exit gradually reach this conclusive feeling, through simply meeting each other and being forced to co-exist, and it’s a compelling journey to go on with them. It also connects with many resonant themes arising now in daily life, such as fake news, identity politics and even reality television.
How’s it been so far directing your first play?
It’s been absolutely one of the best things I’ve done. Ever! I was fortunate to secure the time and efforts of a superb cast including three familiar talented faces and a great new member, plus an Assistant Director who has ensured I stay on track and been truly invaluable. They’ve all made the experience a dream. I have loved being on the outside of performance and shaping the theatrical product ready for an audience.
Tell us about your cast
As I say, they’re exemplary and have never given me a moment’s doubt that this would be a show at least worthy of rapt anticipation and I do hope some acclaim for their performances. They have put such effort into creating four complex characters with the interdependence the play demands. Even the smallest part – which I originally considered making an offstage role – has been performed to such a high standard that to deny an audience an unblinking eyeballing of it would have been truly diabolical.
No Exit runs 19 – 23 June at the Old Fire Station. You can buy tickets in advance here. We look forward to welcoming old and new members back at our refurbished West Norwood home, but please be aware that we can’t admit latecomers so do plan to arrive early and take advantage of our lovely bar.