I was delighted to be invited to interview the Director of The Wild Party which is going to be staged at The Hope Theatre from 10th to 28th January. Her fantastic insights can be found in the article below, but first – here’s the press release for the production:
Writer: JOSEPH MONCURE MARCH
Director: RAFAELLA MARCUS
THE WILD PARTY 10th – 28th January 2017
At The Hope Theatre, Islington, N1 1RL
PRESS NIGHT: 7.45pm, Thursday 12th January 2017
Duration: 80 minute (no interval)
Grimy Jazz Age masterpiece THE WILD PARTY is the lust-fuelled story of an affair between two cabaret stars, and the final, fatal party they throw in their seedy Hollywood apartment.
Queenie dances twice a night in the vaudeville, and Burrs is the clown who goes on after her act. In the apartment they share Queenie toys dangerously with Burrs affections, but when they throw a party they drag everyone into their ugly games. Brothers Phil and Oscar play the piano while Jack eyes both of them from the corner, and Queenie’s best pal Kate arrives late with a handsome new man on her arm.
Brought to life by just two actors, the syncopated rhythms and rhymes of Joseph Moncure March’s classic poem weave in and out of live music, songs and dancing in this new production that’s served soused in gin, jazz and sex.
“The Wild Party? … It’s the book that made me want to be a writer” – William Burroughs
Mingled Yarn Theatre return to The Hope Theatre following 2015’s The Window/Blank Pages with a lascivious tale of the Roaring Twenties.
Producer David Ralf
Director Rafaella Marcus
Set & Costume Designer Minglu Wang
Lighting & Sound Designer Will Alder
Casting Director Gabriella Shimeld-Fenn
Anna Clarke Queenie and other roles
Joey Akubeze Burrs and other roles
Company Information From Penelope’s loom to Charlotte’s Web, stories have been strung and woven for thousands of years. Mingled Yarn aims to continue the tradition in which drama began by taking old stories and new-minting them for our times. In exploring the oldest and most fundamental stories and plays, we have produced renovations and re-imaginings of classical texts, new plays devised from old tales, and adaptations of myths and books. Our work has taken place all over the country in a range of theatres, workshops and sitespecific locations. Working mostly with small, young casts we aim to create theatre that captures the thrill of being told a tale.
Artistic Director Rafaella Marcus trained in Theatre Directing at Birkbeck. She has directed at theatres across the country including Theatre503, the Arcola, Southwark Playhouse, the St James, Sheffield Theatres, and the Oxford Playhouse. She was long-listed for the JMK Award 2016.
Associate Producer David Ralf is a Stage One producer, an Associate Producer of The Hope Theatre and a recipient of the 2016 Michael Grandage Company Futures Bursary.
Hi Rafaella, thanks for talking to Break A Leg. Tell me about The Wild Party and your vision for it
The Wild Party started life as a long narrative poem by Joseph Moncure March published in 1928 – it was made into two musicals, which is how most people know it but they’re very loose adaptations – we’re going right back to the original text. I heard it read out loud a couple of years ago and it just got stuck in my head. It has this fantastic opening line, “Queenie was a blonde, and her age stood still”, which you have to drawl in an American accent – the whole thing demands to be read out loud, which is really where the idea for a show came from. I started to think about how you could perform the poem as something more than a poetry recital and still get across the giddy sexiness of it, and the darkness, the wildness of it.
I wanted to keep the original text as whole as possible but bring in a physical and a musical aspect to it. I took my cue from the poem’s references, which are silent movies, jazz, boxing etc – it’s not particularly interested in being a “literary” poem – and our production is very wrapped up in the same popular entertainment of the time, vaudeville and music hall, but with a few contemporary nods thrown in as well.
Did you have initial ideas about casting and what you wanted actors to bring to the piece?
I knew I wanted it to be a two-hander from the beginning. I love working with pairs of actors because the chemistry has to be spot on – it’ll only go right if they’re in sync and if something goes wrong they have to be able to save each other. I wanted to cast a duet of actors that were going to hark back to the great double acts from film, music hall, vaudeville and slapstick: Laurel and Hardy, Hepburn and Tracy, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, even Tom and Jerry.
We found two brilliant actors, Anna Clarke and Joey Akubeze, and their first audition together just fizzed with energy. They have great chemistry together but they’re also not afraid to be silly or grotesque or clownish.
What do you hope the audience will take away from the production?
I never expect audiences to take any one particular idea away with them as the way everyone watches is so individually shaped by what they’ve brought to the production. But I hope we can play a bit with expectations of what the 1920s were like – it’s a very aesthetically appealing era and that makes it instantly familiar, and anything familiar is begging to be made strange.
In a more timeless sense, I think the poem is about how closely linked sex and violence are, and how transactional both can be. The poem is very blasé about things we take incredibly seriously: it touches on domestic violence and rape without batting an eyelid. There’s a great bit about the party guests being “hardened”, people who just lived with violence and cruelty as part of their everyday lives. But it’s sexy and exciting too, and the poem treads a very fine line with it.
Have rehearsals altered your initial thoughts, at all?
Rehearsals have been much more playful than I was expecting, which is wonderful. A lot of our initial work on creating the party guests was just pulling up YouTube clips and bits of music and all three of us doing silly impressions that we built into little stories about who each guest was, how they moved, how they spoke, etc etc.
Anna and Joey are both fantastically physically agile performers as well, so there’s a lot more lifting and spinning and flinging and dancing than I first anticipated.
What would you say to encourage people to buy a ticket?
A lot of people have asked me how you adapt a poem for the stage, and the answer for both me and the audience is “Let’s find out!” Whatever you’re imagining, forget it because it’s not going to be like that at all. It’s an extraordinary bit of writing – you’ll come away with big spiky shards of it lodged in your brain – performed by two funny, brilliant, surprising actors. There’s some cracking music too.
Finally, any advice for budding directors?
Be bold, be smart, and above all, be kind to others and yourself. Support other young creative, they are your allies and your collaborators, not your competition. You have to make the work that only you could make, and you have to work out how to support yourself practically and emotionally in order to do that.
Huge thanks to Rafaella for a great interview, I look forward to watching this later on in the month!