Next week SLT stages ‘Bluebird’, written by playwright Simon Stephens who penned the adaptation of ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ for the National Theatre. We speak to director Siobhán Campbell about why she loves his work and what audiences can expect from her production of ‘Bluebird’.
You’ve directed a Simon Stephens play before. What is it about his work that attracts you to it?
It’s the characters he creates – whenever I read something by him, I’m drawn into it by the characters. They’re very real and I like that. You end up caring about them and reading on to see what happens to them. We’ve had several cast discussions about how realistic the characters are, so that’s been great.
Bluebird has an unusual narrative. Has this affected how you would normally approach directing a play?
For one it has made the rehearsals schedule a nightmare! Jimmy has a story which underlies the whole play- we’ve had lots of chats with Mark (Jimmy) about this – how he would react to things, and what’s going on in his head.
Then the other characters all have their stories and back stories, but of course the scenes all happen in isolation so it’s been very important to make sure that people try to ‘separate’ their scenes from one another.
At the very beginning, we rehearsed separately, so people hadn’t seen all the other scenes until we had effectively blocked the whole thing.
Was it difficult to find such a large cast to play so many different characters?
I was extremely lucky with auditions. For me the difficulty was in getting the balance right, making sure I had people who would really create different characters. I’ve been extremely grateful to the cast as everyone has just been on board and so dedicated. It’s been a real team effort, and to quote one cast member, “there are no small parts”.
You’re presenting the play ‘promenade style’. What’s your concept for doing the play in this way?
The play is a journey. It’s all about driving through London at night, encountering people and social interactions. In an ‘arty farty’ way, I wanted the audience to go on a journey too. I wanted them to have interactions. Going to see a play can be rather solitary experience when actually watching it, as you’re sitting in a room full of people, having no interaction with them and focusing on something else.
By making it promenade, there’s a sense of movement which I hope mirrors the journey in the play, and also the audience will invariably end up interacting, whether it’s a few nods or bits of eye contact, or apologies for standing on each other’s feet! It’s those nuances of everyday interactions which make up the play, so it seemed like a good idea to accentuate that.
What do you hope the audience will gain from experiencing this play?
Again we’ve had discussions about this as a cast. At first glance, it’s easy to say it’s a bit of a melancholic play. From that though I hope the audience take something positive. Throughout the play there are glimpses of positivity, kind gestures, being down but not out. There’s also some great humour in there, and I hope a whole host of characters the audience will recognise and find quite familiar and comforting.
Most of all, I hope that they take away that SLT is trying new things in different spaces and making a show fresh and engaging.
‘Bluebird’ plays in the Upper Hall at Stanley Halls from Tuesday, November 8 – Saturday, November 12 at 8pm. Tickets are available here.
Photographs © Káit Feeney.