Norris & Cast Trade Market Secrets at WOS OutingDate: 20 July 2006
Whatsonstage.com theatregoers were treated to a unique insight into the creation of Market Boy at last night’s Outing to the world premiere production at the National Theatre. At an exclusive post-show discussion, director Rufus Norris and several members of the cast talked about their experiences with the epic new play.
Market Boy reunites Norris with playwright David Eldridge, with whom he has previously collaborated on Under the Blue Sky and the multi award-winning stage adaptation of Dogme film Festen. Eldrige and Norris have been working of Market Boy off and on over the past four years, with regular development workshops with selected actor in the NT Studio. The piece received its world premiere on 6 June 2006 (previews from 26 May).
In 1985 in Romford Market, east London, a young boy loses his cherry and learns the lessons of Thatcherite economics, against a soundtrack of Eighties pop classics. Market Boy continues in rep until 24 August 2006, as part of this year Travelex £10 Season in the NT Olivier.
In addition to Norris, cast members Claire Rushbrook (Mum), who also starred in Festen, Callum Dixon (Snooks), Gary McDonald (The Trader) and Nicola Blackwell (Thatcher) took part in the Whatsonstage.com post-show Q&A. Highlights from last night’s discussion, chaired by Whatsonstage.com’s editorial director Terri Paddock, follow…
On the relationship between playwright & director
Rufus Norris: Market Boy actually came before Festen, even though that was staged before this. David and I first worked together on Under the Blue Sky at the Royal Court. We met in the pub – we’ve spent a fair amount of time in the pub since – and we talked about our pasts. It turned out David’s was much more interesting than mine. He’s from a Romford working-class background and I’m middle class from nowhere in particular. He told me about working in the market in Romford when he was a boy. In a sense, Market Boy is David.
On how the show developed
Callum Dixon: A lot changed during rehearsals. I was involved with it from the workshop stages so I saw how it developed and there was loads of stuff we had to change when it came to the technical rehearsal.
Nicola Blackwell: I was very much a late addition to the cast. I was given the script when it was a script, they had gone through the workshop process, and Thatcher came in much later on so Callum and I had diametrically opposing experiences in this. You should have it as a prize for good behaviour to be allowed to play Thatcher because she gets so many cheers from the audience whenever she comes on. I mug a lot anyway, but I’m trying very hard not to during the show. Some of the set-pieces are fantastic. It’s scary, people are like “yay, it’s Thatcher”, and old ladies are like “oooh look, it’s Margaret Thatcher”. It’s very funny to hear them all reacting.
Gary McDonald: I was also only involved when it was at script stage, so there wasn’t a lot of improvising for me to do. I did get to meet the guy my character is based on and he’s just a really nice, charming guy. I couldn’t believe he gets up to all the things my character (a Lothario) does in the play. He came across as really nice. He came down with his missus and his son – and he was still at it!
Rufus Norris: We managed to cut about 40 minutes during the nine previews, so that’s about six minutes off each show in the previews. There was a lot that wasn’t decided until right at the last minute. There is a lot of technical work going on in the piece. Ideally, we would have had longer to prepare and rehearse. David and I presented this to Nick Hytner and he said “okay, but you have to do it now”. I said, “I can’t do it now”, but he said, “well it’s got to be now”… so we did it!
On Market Boy – The Musical
Rufus Norris: It is a show more than a play really, because it does have a lot of music in it from the period. We didn’t see it as a musical, though. I think there are some moments when the actors almost burst into song, but it is not really musical material. There are, like in opera, bits that then flow into an aria. Moments of lift-off. The aria about British cheese is one David came up with when we felt the action had reached a point where they might all burst into song.
Claire Rushbrook: I begged Rufus to let me be on stage while they sing “We’re Walking in the Air” – and I am, but in the back of the van! I’ve never been in a musical so I was really keen to do a bit of singing!
On what Market Boy is all about
Rufus Norris: It’s all about growing up and taking responsibility for yourself. We were spending a lot of energy on moving stalls around during rehearsals and working out how the play would come together - we didn’t have time to think about what it is all about. It’s quite a small story in a big show. But really it is just about growing up.
- by Caroline Ansdell