A show is truly a collaborative effort: there are so people bringing so many elements to life, be they on stage or off stage. One production with a great creative force behind it is Beetles from the West, a new play about men’s health and the issue surrounding this subject. This interview series explores the different roles which go into bringing a production to life, from page to stage. Last week, I spoke to James Hartnell about writing the play. Today’s interview is with the Director Phil Croft, who talks about approaching and staging this subject .
How did you become involved in this project? What attracted you to it?
I originally met Ryan [Penny, Falling Pennies founder] in our home town of Plymouth about 6 years ago at a Frantic Assembly workshop, and then by chance we reconnected at my Directors Showcase at Mountview Academy of Arts last year. Out of support for a fellow Plymothian I went along to the initial Beetles performance at the Lion and Unicorn and really loved the piece. I am always attracted to work that can deal with big worldly issues/themes and present them on a seemingly small domestic landscape. James’ writing does just this. He manages to express and discuss those thoughts and feelings about cancer and men’s health which cannot usually be put into words. I remember turning to a friend of mine straight after the show and saying: “I would love to get my hands on this”.
While working on the Falling Pennies short play evening On The Night I offered my directing services for their transfer of this play, and as it turned out, they were interested in asking me to do it anyway.
The play deals with a sensitive subject matter and it seems that ones dealing with cancer are rarely staged. How have you found directing a production, which brings this subject to the forefront?
Cancer is obviously a subject which is deeply moving and deeply personal to a lot of people. I probably do not know a single person who has not been directly involved with cancer at some moment in life. This is why I think it is so important that we see it played out in theatre, particularly this production, which as the focus is on the next of kin’s reaction to the diagnosis rather than the patient themselves.
In terms of how I find working on it as a director, I am conscious that I do not want to patronise an audience or present cliched work, I want it to be truthful and clear. I can’t tackle all of cancer in this one play, so all I can really do is focus on the specific story and remain sensitive to the specific subjects addressed within the world of this play.
The show deals with male health. Do you think there is a stigma attached to it and, if so, why?
The root of the show for me is absolutely in male health, specifically it is in male silence around health both physical and mental. I suppose there is a stigma of silence attached to male health, but I feel that with the birth of the internet, social media and a global community of shared information and ideas, this is gradually changing. If nothing else, I hope this show encourages its audiences to think about the effect that masculinity has in silencing men.
Beetles from the West has played at The Lion and Unicorn Theatre previously. How do you think the show will play in the intimate space of the Hope?
Putting a show on at The Hope means you can create work that is not only highly theatrical, but immensely detailed as well. This play is perfect for such a venue as the audience create the very walls of the private hospital room, within which we witness the intimate, personal and extremely human response to cancer.
Why should people come and see this?
This piece of theatre is charming, honest and witty. It is about real life and our real human reactions to grief, loss and the acknowledgement of our own mortality.
Beetles from the West will play from 5th – 23rd July 2016 at the Hope Theatre. To book tickets, visit the Hope Theatre website. Follow Fallen Pennies on Twitter and Facebook for all the latest updates and information.