Camden Fringe: Venue: Etcetera Theatre, 265 Camden High St, London NW1 7BU Dates: 16-21 August, 12:30pm (1hr), £10/8
Edinburgh Fringe: Venue: Greenside @ Infirmary Street (Venue 236), 6 Infirmary Street, Edinburgh EH1 1LT Dates: 22-27 August, 4:05pm (1hr), £10/8 Box office: 0131 618 0758 / Fringe office: 0131 226 0026
Doesn’t this sound like an amazing show? I chatted to actor, Arman Mantella and director, Milla Jackson about their forthcoming production.
Tell me about the show and how the rehearsal process has affected the transition from page to stage.
AM: The show is based on Homer’s Odyssey but is told from the perspective of Odysseus’s son, Telemachus. The Poet uses this story to relate to the present day, and show audiences that not much has changed in the last 3000 years. The younger generation is being disregarded in today’s society, and if they had a little bit of support and encouragement they could actually help change the world.
Our rehearsal process was very full on as we only had two and a half weeks to put the show together before the previews, however, it all seemed to fit organically into place as time went on. We had several breaking news stories come out during rehearsals (Brexit, David Cameron stepping down, Theresa May getting into power, terrorist attacks, the Chilcot enquiry, the attempted coup in Turkey, etc.) which really made us realise that this was the perfect time for this story to be told.
MJ: What is great about working with new writing is we were able to keep developing the script to incorporate all these stories – it feels very fresh and immediate and that there’s a strong reaction to events happening right now.
AM: In terms of bringing the story to life Milla and I looked at whether we have a voice of our generation – and if we don’t, what’s important for someone prepared to take up the mantle. So there was a lot of finding the passion behind the story and the real need my character has to get people to listen to his tale in hope of inspiring them and instilling them with his drive to change the world.
MJ: It was really important to me, with a one-man show, that although we were working from a script, Arman felt a sense of ownership of his storytelling character. So in bringing it off the page, we worked a lot on the character of The Poet, why he was telling his story and what he was hoping to achieve by doing it. Why now, why in this way? It evolved in a really collaborative way and I think you can see something of everybody involved in the show on stage – and because of that, the aim is for the audience to see something of themselves there too.
What is your favourite moment or favourite line in the production?
AM: There’s a whole element of Greek philosophy about the world coming from chaos and how sometimes it feels like that’s where we’re heading back to. I think it really sums up why this story has to be told, as we constantly see history repeating itself and not for the better!
But I also have several bold characters that I play within the story which is quite a fun element to the show.
MJ: I’m a classicist, so I love the poetic, very Homeric moments – the swift black ship, the rosy-fingered dawn, sending a following wind singing over the wine dark sea. Moments of beauty in a difficult and frustrating world.
What do you hope audiences will take away with them from this piece?
AM: I hope that audiences will see the links between the story and what’s going on in today’s world and realise that the power of people working together can have an impact on the future of our world. Working on this play has inspired me and changed my outlook on life, so hopefully I can persuade the audience to feel the same way and if I can then I will feel like the show has been a success.
MJ: I agree. I also hope audiences leave feeling like they’re not alone. Theatre and storytelling has always had the power to bring people together. There are other people who are angry, frustrated, sad, but hopeful. At the very least it should provoke some discussion.
How does the space lend itself to the production?
MJ: Our Poet is a travelling poet – he rocks up with a suitcase and nothing else. The aim of the show is that it will fit into any space – so we’ve been able to adapt it to all our venues, depending on what higgledy piggledy lights we’ve got, sound systems, white walls, black box… it works in found spaces, traditional spaces, outdoors, indoors, on the street… Just like traditional storytelling, for its original purpose – to help make sense of the mess of the world around us.
Have you experienced a fringe festival before? What has your experience been?
MJ: This is my fifth time at Edinburgh Fringe, but my first time at Camden Fringe. Festivals are such difficult spaces to bring work to, because you’re sharing all of your technical equipment, your space – I’ve had lights knocked out of focus by flying chairs, been told to stand on chairs to refocus lights, frightening loud sound checks because the faders have been changed, flyered in the pouring rain… But it also means you’re sharing in a really collaborative and creative event, so it’s always a really special thing to be a part of. Edinburgh is a really unique atmosphere.
AM: I have only recently graduated from the ArtsEd acting school, so this will be my first Fringe experience but I am very excited to be part of it.
Finally, sell the show to me, what would you say to encourage potential audience members to come?
MJ: It’s an intimate solo show using poetry, humour and a rock’n’roll attitude – what more could you want? The show explores what’s actually happening right now, just to feel like we’re heard, people are listening and artists are responding.
AM: I would really love members of the younger generation to come along and see it just so that they can know that they aren’t alone in a world that seems spiraling out of control, and that there are people that are fighting their corner!
Thanks to Arman and Milla for their time, break a leg!