With just a week until ROUNDABOUT pops up at Brighton Festival we caught playwright Alexandra Wood to talk all things THE INITIATE, modern day pirates and find out just what it’s like to have your play staged in ROUNDABOUT.
Abdul Salis and Sian Reese-Williams in THE INITIATE – photo by Richard Davenport
So, what inspired you to write THE INITIATE?
Honestly? I wanted to write a play about pirates! It was as simple as that. When I started to research modern day piracy I came across this article about a British Somali man who’d gone back to Somalia to help negotiate the release of British hostages, and I knew I’d found my story. The play didn’t really end up being about pirates of course, although there is still a pirate in it!
And where did you write it?
While I was on attachment at the National Theatre Studio in 2011.
How do you think it compares to your previous plays?
I’m sure there are common themes, identity and belonging are certainly things I seem to come back to. The British characters in The Empty Quarter, for example, find themselves on the edge of a vast desert in Dubai, and try to work out what’s brought them there and why they stay. I’m interested in character: how it’s defined, constructed, portrayed. In The Eleventh Capital we never meet the man about whom the play revolves, a nameless civil servant forced to leave his family and live in the new capital city. We only catch snippets of who he is and things he’s done from other people. In The Initiate, how other people see Dalmar comes as a shock to him, forcing him to question his place and his very idea of himself.
This is the second time PP are producing THE INITIATE, what’s going to be different this time?
Well the obvious answer to that is that there’s a new cast member, Sidney Cole. Not only will he bring something different to the role, but it’ll also change the dynamic with Sian and Abdul. Staging plays in the ROUNDABOUT really does put the actor at the heart of everything, there’s no real set, costume or gimmicks, it’s just actors in a space, so a change of actor will have quite an impact I think.
Speaking of actors – you’ve been sat in on rehearsals over the last few weeks, what’s it been like to watch the ROUNDABOUT company working?
It’s incredibly satisfying to see the commitment with which the whole company’s embracing the play. It’s my first experience having one of my plays being produced for a second time, but any worries about things feeling stale have been dispelled, everyone’s coming to it with more confidence and a renewed energy.
What’s it like to work in ROUNDABOUT?
It’s a brilliant space. The actors, the play and most importantly the audience’s imagination are at the centre of things. It’s intimate and epic at the same time. It’s inherently theatrical as well – it feels like you really do have to embrace the performance element.
One final question – which part of the play are you most excited to see come to life?
I think I’m most excited to see the play as a whole, which might sound like a cop out, but in rehearsals we spend a long time working line by line, scene by scene, and that’s all great, detailed work which needs to be done, but ultimately, the power will hopefully come from seeing it all together.
THE INITIATE is a part of our Roundabout season 2015. Roundabout pops up at Brighton Festival from 2 May and at Southbank Centre from 7 June.
For more info and tickets for THE INITIATE at Brighton Festival click here and at Southbank Centre click here.