Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Blythe Stewart: The Moor

By | Published on Thursday 1 February 2018

Coming up at the Old Red Lion Theatre is a production of a new play by Catherine Lucie, ‘The Moor’. It’s a psychological thriller with themes of loss and grief, and how we deal with loneliness, and I think it sounds fascinating.
To find out more about the show, and the creative team involved in bringing it to the stage, I arranged to have a quick chat with director Blythe Stewart.

CM: First things first – what is the show about? What story does it tell?
BS: The Moor is a psychological thriller about Bronagh, a young woman who has spent her life living on the moor. When a boy vanishes, Bronagh has to tell someone what she suspects, entangling herself in a murder investigation.

Bronagh lives on the edge of everything, isolated in almost every aspect of her life. She is a new mother, recently bereaved, and in a toxic relationship, but she’s doing the best she can. When Bronagh finds a voice after the boy’s disappearance, her radical act of defiance spirals out of control.

CM: What would you say are the primary themes of the show?
BS: The play is an examination of self-preservation in the face of loneliness, how we cope with loss and grief, and how landscapes shape our psychology.

CM: What characters appear in the show, and who plays them?
BS: ‘The Moor’ is a three-hander focused on Bronagh Sullivan, her boyfriend Graeme Baxter and the local policeman Pat Mitchell. The world of the play is very rich and full, with a great sense of what it is to live in a small isolated community. Our brilliant team of actors include Jill McAusland, Oliver Britten and Jonny Magnanti.

CM: What attracted you to this play? What made you want to direct it?
BS: When I first read ‘The Moor’ in 2014 I couldn’t put it down. It’s a psychological thriller, mysterious, intriguing, a kind of whodunit. Each time I finished it though, I had more questions than answers. I felt unsettled and invested, and each time I felt that differently. I was unsure of what I believed, who I aligned myself with, and what that all meant about my world-view. What I did know for sure – this play was hard. Catherine has written a bold, assured play. Difficult in design, challenging in plot – how do you do this play? I had to direct it. It is its own kind of case to solve.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about the playwright?
BS: Catherine Lucie is committed to telling under-represented stories, through her curiosity for magic realism on stage. What has always drawn me to Catherine’s work is her assured, whimsical, and compassionate voice. This is a person who believes all things are possible, and that the most exciting thing about any story, is that there are no lines of black and white; no person lives in the good or bad camp. In Catherine’s work there is a firmly held belief that we are all doing what we can with what we have.

‘The Moor’ is our third collaboration and marks her first fully supported production and first four week run. I’m so chuffed to be able to help her bring this play to life.

CM: This isn’t the first time you’ve worked with Rive Productions, is it? How did you come to be working with them?
BS: Rive and I first collaborated on the transfer of ‘Skin A Cat’ by Isley Lynn to The Bunker in 2016. The play had had a successful short run at the VAULT Festival, where it won Pick of the Year. But only having had 6 performances, Rive’s producer Zoe and I both felt charged and determined to share this play about alternative coming of age stories to a wider audience. To bring the show back with Rive’s support was incredible. The production marked the opening of The Bunker theatre so it was a really special experience. Zoe and I worked side by side throughout the run of the show, supporting each other artistically and personally. We both are committed to new plays that have a worldly scope. All of this encouraged us to keep developing our work, which led us to collaborating on ‘The Moor’.

CM: How did you end up directing? Was it something you always wanted to do? How did it all begin?
BS: I had decided I wanted to be a director when I was still in high school. I’m originally from Canada, so a stereotypical high school it was, complete with lots of extra-curricular activities and opportunities for performing. And as much as I liked getting on stage, I always liked it best when we got to decide what was going to happen on that stage; when we had the chance to use our imaginations and apply it to all things – lights, costumes, sound – the whole world of an idea, a play.

At university I studied on a theatre course that allowed you to test your artistic muscles in all disciplines and in your final year you work as a director. It provided a wealth of opportunities to dig deep and learn about how everyone works to make theatre – which is crucial for a director to understand. I had known I wanted to be a director professionally and by this point also wanted an adventure so I moved to London to get my Masters in Directing. That adventure took me all over, including studying Russia, and discovering my passion for new writing, which is what I specialise in now on the London fringe.

CM: Do you have any specific ambitions for the future? Where do you think your career will take you?
BS: I have two ambitions I have been thinking about a lot recently. One is to master clowning. Clowning gives a toolbox of skills that is the root of all storytelling; it gives remarkable details and moments of joyfulness and heartbreak. The second is to run a building that can support a company of actors and creatives yearly. I’d love to be able to hone relationships with actors and designers in a long-term, stress-free way. One day I really hope I’m able to be a part of a community where the potential for the work to grow, evolve and get better and better doesn’t stop once the production has finished its run.

CM: What’s coming up next for you, after this show?
BS: After the press night for ‘The Moor’ on 8 Feb, I’m right into rehearsals the next day for the new play, ‘Finding Fassbender’ by Lydia Larson. It’s a one-woman charge through growing up when that’s already supposed to have happened. It’s also about Michael Fassbender. We are performing a work in progress showing at the VAULT Festival, February 14th and 15th. It promises to be equally touching and quirky!

‘The Moor’ is on at the Old Red Lion Theatre from 6 Feb-3 March, see the venue website here for information and to book tickets.

LINKS: | | |