It's a play for intelligent grown-ups – witty, well-constructed, gripping – all the surface pleasures are there in abundance, yet it has unexpected layers underneath, The central arguments of the play reverberate outwards to shake up our notions not just of what a family is or how a business ought to operate, but also how our society relates to the rest of the world, as well as our ideas of class, gender politics, sexual morality, the environment.
So to work on it with a group of terrific actors is a daily dose of argument, enquiry, new insight, new angles on the play and the often mischievous fun it has with all those issues.
You've directed plays by Julian Mitchell before. How does this one fit into the sequence?
I directed his adaptation of The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford last year for the Bath Theatre Royal -- a brilliant piece. It had some of the same virtues – Julian knows how to entertain and move an audience at the same time as getting them to think. It was another ensemble piece with really juicy parts for actors. It was also, interestingly, about sexual deceit and the amazing capacity human beings have to live a lie.
How do you think an audience will relate to the story?
It's one of those plays where everyone will say at some point "That's me" – or if not that, then "That's my little brother Pete". Family is the meat and drink of Western drama – it's the starting point for all our notions of human psychology and the great metaphorical base for all the battles and conflicts we fight.
A play about family can be a political drama or a philosophical exploration of illusion and reality, but you can always count on an audience to project themselves massively into what they see happening on stage.
You've directed several notable productions at the Watford Palace Theatre. Has the building any special qualities which appeal to you?
It makes you look forward to going out at night. The auditorium works beautifully - it just nurtures that relationship between the actor and the audience. I think they refurbished it very successfully.
What are your future projects?
I'm revamping one of my hit shows of recent years – Tim Firth's Flint Street Nativity, which was a box office smash at Liverpool Playhouse. It's a lovely Christmas show which we're adapting for Hull Truck. After that I've got another show at Bath on the stocks and one I've just been offered at the Watermill in Newbury.
I'm hoping the next couple of years will feature some big Shakespeare projects – I've been teeing up Othello, Anthony and Cleopatra and King Lear with different big-name actors. I'm turning 50 next year and I think something just clicked inside me and I felt "I'm ready for those big tragic monsters now"!
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