One Last Thing (For Now) runs at Old Red Lion Theatre until 25th March 2017, book tickets here: Old Red Lion Theatre Box Office
Tell me about the piece and your vision for it?
One Last Thing (For Now) was inspired by love letters that were written during wartime across different cultures and languages. Our company Althea Theatre is an ensemble of British and non-British actors and when we started developing this piece in 2014, we felt that reading these letters was a very powerful experience. The biggest discovery back then was that letters from 1914 and text messages from 2014 contained the same words, the same need to leave something behind with your loved ones. It was only the medium that changed and naturally, the context. In the last two years, we’ve expanded the play so it focuses around several main narratives from WWI in Northern England, WW2 in Paris and Germany, the Vietnam war, the civil war in Colombia and contemporary stories from Britain and Israel. Each story connects to the other stories and helps shed light on current events in the UK and the world. When I imagined this play, I imagined how different characters from diverse cultures and heritages create a network, a tapestry of stories that becomes one. Little did we know, but this piece has only become more and more relevant and creates an open, honest dialogue.
The play connects different aspects of war: the difficulty to describe the violence involved, the need to maintain an illusion, conscientious objection in order to reflect on the type of injuries which occur at the front line together with potential emotional trauma to the community on the home front and humanity’s potential to rise above.
Did you have initial ideas about casting and what you wanted actors to bring to the piece?
My initial ideas were more about creating the ensemble as a group rather than individual castings for the play because there was no play. There was only the idea of interweaving stories inspired by love letters. I was just about to graduate and I thought about the actors that I trusted most and would like to be in a rehearsal room with and then met them for a coffee. I suppose what was really important back then was to bring together actors who were originally from different areas in the UK and the world and who were passionate about starting a conversation together. Being a part of a conversation isn’t an easy thing to do. I wanted to write this play together with the actors and so the actors I invited to join me were actors who I knew were deeply passionate about collaboration.
In the last two years, as the ensemble has changed, I have invited new actors to join us. This was slightly different because the play was already written and I looked for actors who could speak certain languages but the main criteria stayed the same. I am always looking for actors who will take this work as personally as all of Althea’s ensemble members do and who understand that by joining the company you become a part of a family. I couldn’t be more thankful to the people I have got to collaborate with over the last few years and couldn’t be happier about the ensemble who’s bringing this show to life at the Old Red Lion.
What do you hope the audience will take away from the production?
I very much hope the audience will be moved by the way we present the various stories in the show. I love the word ‘moved’ because it means being emotionally moved but can also mean being moved to ask questions, to think about how they connect with the themes of the show and to go and find their own letters, their own stories, because as I personally discovered, we all have them. Some of us don’t even know they exist but these letters, and what they stand for, are definitely there. By engaging with them we are opening ourselves to how the reality of conflict was experienced by people, as opposed to how these events are being described by politicians, history books or the media.
When I started working on One Last Thing (For Now) I didn’t imagine my own experiences would inspire a narrative in the show and it is thanks to the encouragement and the support of the ensemble that I discovered that each story should be told and that it has a place within this show. I hope every member of the audience will get to have this experience because it makes you feel like a part of a bigger community and a longer, more expansive history rather than your own local one. And if we can all share that sense of togetherness, and see these connections, even for one evening then maybe we could imagine a future that is about coming together as opposed to breaking apart.
Have rehearsals altered your initial thoughts, at all?
Of course they have, I supposed that’s what rehearsals are for. I’m very lucky that way, because I had a very long period of rehearsals from the original Research and Development sessions in the summer of 2014 and the original sample we performed at The Tristan Bates, through a year of writing and then working on the rehearsed reading which was performed at the end of 2015. Then we had more sessions throughout 2016 which explored the physical and visual language of the piece as well as the musicality of the show (which involves live music) so by the time we started rehearsals we all felt quite ready. But then our recent rehearsals were very insightful too. There’s the saying that goes ‘History repeats itself’ and in rehearsals we have tried to highlight those echoes so that audiences can see the bigger picture, as well as their own personal picture within the bigger picture.
What would you say to encourage people to buy a ticket?
If you ever wrote or received a love letter, or thought about writing a letter, or wished for a message of love then this is the show for you. If you are fascinated by people dealing with the challenges of war and conflict in the UK and around the world then this is the show for you. If you speak different languages then this is the show for you. If you only speak one language, then this is still very much the show for you because you’ll discover that so many experiences can be translated beyond words. If you have a family member or a friend who served and defended a country, any country, this is a show for you. If you’ve never had anything to do with any conflict or war then this is still very much a show for you. If you like to laugh, if you want to feel like you belong somewhere bigger for an evening then come along. I promise you that each show will be presented with all our love for what we do and the stories we tell.
Finally, any advice for budding directors?
Make. Your. Own. Work. Wait for no one. Look within. Find the people you want to work with and who you trust to challenge you and be willing to try everything and then find a room (hopefully one you don’t have to pay a fortune for) and make your own work. The journey takes time and there will be chapters in that journey of waiting and dreaming. The best thing you can do with that time is look around, figure out what you have within you that can address the reality around us and speak out. Two years ago I dreamt of a show that shows how humanity can triumph any act of violence and two years later the Old Red Lion, one of my favourite theatres in London has given us a home. So if you have images in your head that you feel should be put on stage then go and find that stage, that’s the best advice I can give. Make your own work.
Thanks to Lilac for a fantastic interview, break a leg with the production.