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David Toole On...Beyond The Front Line

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David Toole has performed Shakespeare, earned rave reviews in The Fall Of The House Of Usher and recently starred in Slung Low's innovative piece They Only Come At Night. He is about to act in their latest promenade production, Beyond The Front Line which opens at the Lowry next week. We caught up with him to find out more about this outdoor Slung Low/Lowry co-production.

Beyond the Front Line is a sensory experience that breaks away from conventional theatre can we still expect a narrative?
Erm... Yes. I think the best way of describing it is that your audience is taken on a journey.  Although the journey does tell a story, there’s a part of the piece where the audience do get different experiences. As far as narrative goes, I guess you’d say there is a set theme and an idea behind the show.

The audience’s role is not simply of observer in this piece. As UN Inspectors are they immersed in the action in the same way as the performers?
They are involved in some of the action, naturally by being there. They aren’t just passive in this piece.

What did Slung Low find appealing about The Lowry when they were considering suitable location for the production?
The director chose the location. It’s a great place for this piece because it’s got such a large scale.  This takes up the whole building, as well as some of the buildings across the way!

The piece is performed outside, do you find there are any limitations?
Logistically it can be a bit of a nightmare. You honestly don’t know what your audience is going to be like until you get them. You can plan for certain things, and as much as many want to get involved, there is always the odd member that decides they don’t want to be. We’ve got most contingencies covered. In terms of weather (without being derogatory to Manchester!), we take rain as a given. Anything other than rain is a bonus!

From your previous experiences of interactive theatre do you find that the performance changes depending on the participating audience?
Yes. It’s been strange- when doing They Only Come At Night, which was also a promenade piece, the audiences were always different every night. Audiences are always different anyway, but when they are sat down you have them under control- in theory they aren’t going to do anything silly. In an environment like this you just never know.

Comprising of seven artists from diverse backgrounds, how do you collaborate and select all your ideas?The director, Alan, will come up to us and say ‘this is what the idea is, and this is how it is going to work.’ It’s all very new to us. You have the usual lines to learn, but on the other side of that you have to get used to the fact you are in a confined space with an audience and technology.

Finally, what mindset do you want an audience member interested in watching Beyond the Front Line to have?
That’s an interesting question- this whole show is linked to the connection between the army and the civilian population, and our duty to them once their job is done. Going back hundreds of years, it’s our responsibility to take care of soldiers, and I’m not sure how many people understand that. You see it on the news every day and we’re hoping people go away and think about that and have a bit more understanding of what it’s actually all about. Especially around the North West, we’ve seen a lot of stories recently and we’re focusing on that link between ‘us’ and ‘them.’

Dave Toole was speaking to Rebecca Cohen.

Beyond The Front Line runs at the Lowry from 6 -17 October. For more information, visit the Slung Low website.



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