Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Dan Ayling: The Trap

By | Published on Wednesday 25 October 2017

Coming up at Clapham’s Omnibus Theatre is the production of a new piece from Kieran Lynn – of ‘An Incident At The Border’ renown – set against the backdrop of a payday loans company, and the economic climate of contemporary times.

To find out more about the play, and all the creatives involved in the staging of it, I spoke to director Dan Ayling.

CM: So, let’s start at the beginning – what’s ‘The Trap’ about?
DA: The Trap is about four employees of a payday loan company who all lose their jobs and, one evening, decide to crack the company safe and steal some ‘employee compensation’. It’s a kind of heist-gone-wrong comedy.

CM: What wider themes does the play explore?
DA: The play deals with a number of wider themes – not just the unscrupulous payday loans industry but, more broadly, debt, finance, gambling, the impact of student loans, high rent and exorbitant mortgage repayments – each one a trap that we are caught in.

CM: What attracted you to it? What made you want to direct it?
DA: Kieran came to me with the play about two years ago and asked me to direct it. I was immediately struck by how prescient the play is. It deals with something so relevant and current; something, sadly, most of us will have experienced at some point in our lives – and I just felt I had to tell this story. The play is also very funny and I like how Kieran has taken a serious subject and allowed us to talk about it using humour and comedy.

CM: Do you think looking at these issues through art plays a role in bringing these problems to wider attention?
DA: I think sometimes it makes it easier to talk about these things when viewed in a slightly different way. Art can sometimes give us a different way in to a subject; another perspective that allows us to think more freely about the issues at hand. Often, because the medium in which the issues are presented is different, this means more people will be exposed to those issues. So, yes, I do think art can play a role in bringing specific problems to wider attention. And hopefully we are doing that with ‘The Trap’.

CM: Many readers will be aware of the work of playwright Kieran Lynn, but for those who aren’t, can you tell us a bit about him? Has he had much involvement with the production?
DA: Kieran trained originally as an actor but quickly moved into writing. He’s had a number of plays produced including ‘Bunnies’ (Bike Shed Theatre), ‘Breaking the Ice’ (Traverse), ‘Pushing Poppies’ (Theatre 503) and, perhaps his most well-known play, ‘An Incident at the Border’, which premiered at the Finborough before transferring to the West End.

Kieran and I have been working on the script since he first came to me with it and, following the world premiere in Texas earlier this year, we have continued to refine the text and hone it for the European premiere at Omnibus Theatre this autumn. Kieran’s also been in rehearsal a bit and we’ve spoken on the phone about little details here and there. It’s been a fun collaboration!

CM: Can you tell us about the cast?
DA: I’m very lucky to have a super talented group of actors on this production. They each come with bags of experience and I chose them because I’m interested in who they are and what they bring to the table.

First up, we have Jahvel Hall, who plays Tom, one of the junior employees of the company. I was particularly struck by Jahvel’s comic timing when we first met and I’m really enjoying what he brings to the part.

Next, we have Sophie Guiver, who plays Clem, the most junior of the employees. Sophie has worked a lot with National Youth Theatre, and I love her energy and enthusiasm. Sophie’s Clem is a funky, free spirit, who I think audiences will really warm to.

We also have Andrew Macbean, as the lovable, alcoholic, gambling addicted branch manager, Alan. Andrew’s great and he brings a rich body of experience to the role, having most recently appeared at the National in ‘Twelfth Night’ and ‘Amadeus’. I’m thoroughly enjoying his poor, put-upon Alan.

And last, but by no means least, we have Wendy Kweh as the no nonsense regional manager Meryl. Wendy is fantastic and brings a wealth of experience to the role, having appeared in ‘Boy’ at the Almeida and ‘Chimerica’ in the West End. I’m truly blessed with a fantastic cast!

CM: And, finally – can you tell us a bit about you? What led you to directing, and what have been your best experiences?
DA: I started off, like most kids, wanting to be an actor but I quickly realised it wasn’t for me. I much preferred the backstage world, in particular, directing (I set up my own little theatre company when I was 16 and directed a number of plays. We even got some Arts Council funding!).

When it was time to go to university, I couldn’t find a directing course that was right for me, so I decided to go into stage management. I was lucky enough to get into Guildhall in London and after three years training, I went to work in Perth Theatre in Scotland. I very quickly took on the role of Deputy Stage Manager, so I got to sit in lots of different rehearsal rooms and watch lots of different directors at work. I think this was a big part of my director training really. Eventually, after a stint at Pitlochry Festival Theatre and two seasons at the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow, under Giles Havergal, Philip Prowse and Robert David Macdonald, I was accepted on the then newly established MFA in Theatre Directing at Birkbeck. And the rest, as they say, is history.

My favourite directing experiences so far include the first London revival of Martin Crimp’s ‘Fewer Emergencies’ at The Print Room in Notting Hill. It’s such a great text and we really discovered an exciting way of telling the story. Also, ‘Struileag’, which I directed for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. We had four dancers, eight singers, twelve musicians, and a rotating boat – it was amazing! And, for all sorts of reasons, ‘Written on Skin’ by George Benjamin and Martin Crimp – to be so intimately involved in the world premiere of such an important new opera, is really special. I’ll never forget the roar of the audience after the first performance in Aix-en-Provence – a truly spine-tingling moment!

CM: What are you plans for the future, and what’s coming up after this?
DA: Immediately after ‘The Trap’, I’m directing a Christmas show for The Dot Collective – a special little project touring care homes and working with people with dementia. Then in the New Year, I’ll be on Planet Opera! I’ll be Associate Director on ‘Così fan tutte’ at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, assistant director to Katie Mitchell on the world premiere of ‘Lessons in Love and Violence’ at the Royal Opera House, and then director of the world premiere of Emily Howard and Selma Dimitrijevic’s new opera ‘To See The Invisible’, which opens the Aldeburgh Festival in Suffolk. So it’s a busy few months coming up!

‘The Trap’ is on at the Omnibus Theatre in Clapham from from 31 Oct – 19 Nov. See the venue website here for more information and to book.

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