After our first production, The World of Work, I realised that comedy was something that interested me much more than I initially anticipated: the format, the risks and the boundaries are something that gave me a real buzz. Like grief, humour is different for everyone and for me; it’s embracing these eclectic preferences and painting a very colourful picture…with sections of black and white, for those who edge on the darker side of humour. The spectator’s role was something I wanted to fully explore with Alix in Wundergarten so I gave myself free reign to write what I think will appeal to a wide range of audiences and experimented with awkward silences, full involvement and on the flip side, at times gave the characters complete disregard for the live crowd who, in our setting are there as competition winners.
As an actor in the piece too, I’m really looking forward to the improvisational aspect and how we negotiate this with the script as well as the danger this brings in rehearsal and performance. I have no doubt however, that it will be a very fun process as we embrace ‘being in the sh*t’. One of my favourite quotes is from the wonderful James Joyce when he said ‘Mistakes are the portals to discovery’. I concur.
As the title insinuates, Lewis Carroll also plays a huge role in the development of the script thus far and his ethos couldn’t fit closer to mine when it comes to his views on the world. I can’t pretend to have an ounce of his intelligence but his grasp on ‘unreality’ has always fascinated me and helped me mould the world I have created in Alix, with the help of course of an incredibly talented team of performers and creatives. Not forgetting The Other Room who have utterly embraced our way of working and whole heartedly giving us the platform to play and produce. It’s very encouraging when someone such as Kate Wasserberg notices your potential and gives you complete freedom to express yourself and trust plays a massive part in this, especially when you are potentially dealing with humour that is unconventional and will hopefully be controversial.
You don’t often associate controversy with Christmas but it is something I feel sits firmly under the surface. There’s so much pressure on this seasonal celebration that I think a lot of the time people’s pains and grievances are brushed under the carpet so as not to ruin such a magical time of year when everyone HAS to be happy, often exploiting those who serve it. It’s Christmas’s control over society that is so dark it’s almost hilarious. For example, last year a well-known TV advert completely exploited the unjustified suffering of thousands of British soldiers in WWI by sensationally romanticising ‘The Christmas Truce’, all with the aim of enticing us to visit the unnamed store (Marks & Spencer) to spend money. I chose to set some of Alix in Wundergarten in the oppressive, bleak and vigorously controlled Eastern Bloc for this very reason. What could be funnier?
Alix in Wundergarten opens at The Other Room at Porter’s on Tuesday 1 December and runs until Saturday 19 December. For more information and to book tickets, visit www.otherroomtheatre.com
Read TOR Creative Producer Ben Atterbury:
Rehearsal photogaphy: Aenne Pallasca