Caro Meets Theatre Interview

David Brady: At Last

By | Published on Friday 6 September 2019

Opening at the Lion & Unicorn Theatre this week is a fascinating sounding piece of work that explores the notion of what would happen if a totalitarian right wing government took charge of the UK, and what effects that would have on the individuals and families living under it. Which is interesting given the current political climate, in which I know many are convinced we’re in danger of heading in exactly that direction.

To find out more, I arranged a chat with David Brady, Artistic Director of Proforça, the company behind the play and director of the show itself.

CM: Let’s start with the format of the show: From what I can gather, it’s a collection interconnected monologues? Is that how you would describe it?
DB: Stylistically the monologue storytelling was definitely the basis for the show. Since we started the rehearsal process, however, we’ve been able to meld the monologues together to create something that is brave and new. We were talking today about how we’ve almost created a “theatrical documentary”, a retelling of a story through the first person experiences of the characters with flash backs and forwards which help to add more depth to their stories.

CM: It’s also described as ‘verbatim style’ – what is meant by that?
DB: It’s probably more accurate to say that the show is “almost-verbatim” in style. Whilst the stories are made up and curated for this show, we wanted to use a style that felt authentic and real and so we present the stories as almost as if they are delivered in the first person. Hopefully this means the play is interesting and dynamic for the audience to watch, whilst at the same time capturing a more naturalistic style of character, which I love to direct.

CM: How has the format affected your approach in directing the play?
DB: There is a real sense of immediacy to the way the characters present their stories and react to event they experience. ‘At Last’ is set almost in a court room or ‘tribunal’ type setting so it was important to me in directing the play that we gave the opportunity to present the stories in a real and immediate way which the audience could engage with easily.

One of the best things that we’ve done for the show is to create the show in an almost an ‘in the round’ setting. This means that we can present a more three-dimensional version of the story which helps enhance the portrayal of the three-dimensional characters that we are trying to create.

CM: What is the show about? Does it tell one story? Or different stories? Where does the narrative take us?
DB: ‘At Last’ tells the story of the end of a totalitarian right-wing government in the UK. We hear the stories of seven people summoned to a tribunal to relate their experiences of what happened during the government’s rise to power and what happens to them as that government falls. It climaxes in a storyline which brings all of the characters together in an event which is very similar to the fall of the Berlin Wall and portrays the aftermath of that experience and those characters coming to terms with their lives and the people that they lost along the way.

CM: What themes does the play explore?
DB: It’s easy to look at the show as a political piece of work but actually it’s more about the relationships between different peoples in families and how those relationships are tested by oppressive outside influences. ‘At Last’ explores the story of a family living through the end of this oppressive regime and several of the other characters have their experiences of loving and losing family members shaped through the course of the story, which has been really interesting to explore.

CM: Does the show have things to say about our current political climate, though?
DB: The show has at times been very close to our current political climate. It’s actually been interesting to see how our story parallels with events in the real world. During our rehearsal process there was the proroguing of Parliament and protests in Central London which are spookily similar to some of the storylines in our production. It will be interesting to see how audiences react in this current climate of the rise of populism, far right governments and extreme political views to a show which could show us a possible future if we’re not careful about protecting our democracy!

CM: Do you think it’s possible for art and culture to have an effect on politics, or society?
DB: I think it’s massively important that both art and culture reflect the times that we live in and provide audiences with the opportunity to think and reflect about the world in which they exist. Particularly in the very polarised world we live in. ‘At Last’ is our most political work to date, and for the first time I think we are engaging with our audiences on a more challenging and confrontation level in the real world and hopefully making them think about the times in which we live and the consequences for future generations of our actions.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about the cast?
DB: As a director I’m very lucky to have a very strong cast to support the show, and many of whom have been in previous Proforça productions. We were able in some cases to create characters directly for the performers and this has really helped to shape some brilliant characters. They’re all really talented fringe theatre performers in their own right, and they have a real sense of professionalism, camaraderie, and fun to the rehearsal process. It’s always been really important to me that these performers get recognised and I hope that people can see the great work that they’re capable of creating.

CM: Have the writers of the play been involved in the staging of it?
DB: All of our creatives are intrinsically involved in the formation of the show. We are very lucky to have a brilliant pool of talent to help to create the words that make up the experiences of the characters in ‘At Last’. Writers Alex Knott and James Lewis both have a really great understanding of how we make our work and have created something which is really relevant, pertinent to, and angry about the world in which we live today. We’re also very lucky to have on board the brilliant Hannah Bates, who has provided a brilliant companion peace in ‘At First’ with a strong piece of writing which ties brilliantly into the world of the main production.

CM: Can you tell us a bit more about ‘At First’, and the creator of that?
DB: ‘At First’ is our spin-off production which plays out before the main show at specific performances and is a response piece to ‘At Last’. The show has a very direct causal link to the main show and almost acts as a piece of “expanded universe” storytelling. Hannah Bates, the writer, has done a great job of creating a universe that is directly tied to the main show and Ciaran Lonsdale is doing a fantastic job of bringing that interesting new character to life, with a direct and really interesting link to the main production.

CM: Are there any further plans for the play after its London run?
DB: I always think we should wait and see how the main show is received before we make plans to take it further afield and away from home. I think it’s important sometimes as a director to get through the first run and learn from how it’s received before you plan to take it further. We’ve had some really positive experiences of bringing our work to other locations and I would hope that audiences respond to ‘At Last’ to give it a bit of a legacy for the company.

CM: Does Proforça have any other new work in the pipeline?
DB: We are very lucky to be the managing company in charge of the Lion & Unicorn Theatre in Kentish Town. Proforça’s plans are now very closely tied to those of the theatre and we’ve got some very interesting and exciting new plans for the year to come. It’s been an absolute pleasure to be the Artistic Director of the venue and I can’t wait to see what comes up for both the theatre as we make our plans for the future!

‘At Last’ is on at the Lion & Unicorn Theatre from 10-22 Sep, with accompanying performances of ‘At First’ on 13, 17, 19 and 20 Sep. See the venue website here for more information and to book tickets.

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