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Brief Encounter with... Told by an Idiot's Paul Hunter

Paul Hunter is co-artistic director for the company Told by an Idiot. His production of You Can't Take It With You at the Royal Exchange was a Christmas hit for the Royal Exchange in 2011/12. Told by an Idiot's next show - the comedy Too Clever By Half by Alexandr Ostrovsky, plays at the Royal Exchange Manchester from 10 July to 17 August 2013.

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Can you tell us what the play is about?
The play is basically about the problem of honesty in a lying, hypocritical world.

What attracted you to the source material?
What I liked about the play was its combination of cynicism, humanity and really strong characters and comic situations.

Told By An Idiot play fast and loose with the adaptations but they remain respectful. How do you get the balance right?
At Told By An Idiot, whenever we are working on material that is not our own e.g. adapted from some other source or a script that already exists, we always start from the same premise: to be both respectful and irreverent to the source material at the same time.

When we are working from a script we always acknowledge that the words on the page are not the play. A piece of theatre only comes to life when something genuinely begins to happen in the rehearsal room. When adapting material from another medium e.g. a film or a book one has to accept that things have to change. You can't just put the same material on stage in the same way.

You performed You Can't Take It With You to great reviews and appreciative audiences. How was that experience?
Performing You Can't Take It With You at the Royal Exchange was one of our most rewarding experiences in twenty years of making theatre. The space is genuinely extraordinary and in many ways making essential what lies at the heart of Told By An Idiot's work i.e. the relationship between performer, the audience and the material.

If that play is an audience member's only experience of your work, how does it compare?
They will find a much more cynical piece on offer this time, but fueled with the same energy, anarchy and physical comedy, hopefully resulting in a really accessible fun evening at the theatre.

What is it about the Royal Exchange space and the company that makes you pleased to come back?
Coming back to the Royal Exchange it feels like another really joyous collaboration. It reminds us that the best theatre is always collaborative.

How has this one been to direct?
Too Clever By Half has been a thoroughly enjoyable show to direct. I am surrounded by really creative people with the best possible attitude, taking the work seriously but not themselves.

Where does the comedy come from in Too Clever By Half?
A lot of the comedy in it comes from the gap between how the characters see themselves and how the world sees them being enormous.

Why should audiences see it?
Audiences should see this Idiot production of Ostrovsky's play because hopefully it will be a genuinely spontaneous, theatrical experience, not trying to emulate film or television, but reveling in it's liveness and the fact that is will be different every night. Oh and it should be very funny!