Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Harry Darell: For The Sake Of Argument

By | Published on Thursday 23 January 2020

Headed for a run at the Bridewell Theatre this week is a new play from Harry Darell, which is inspired by the real life experiences of Christopher Hitchens. It deals with the divide between those who observe and comment on issues from afar, and those who are dealing with the reality.

Harry is directing the play as well as having written it. I spoke to him to find out more.

CM: Can you start by telling us the premise of the play? What’s the story and where does the narrative take us?
HD: The idea for the play came from a chapter in Christopher Hitchens’ ‘Hitch 22,’ in which he described finding out that a young US soldier called Mark Daily had been convinced to fight in the 2003 invasion of Iraq by his writings. Daily was subsequently killed by an IED in Mosul and Hitchens made contact with the family. I thought this was a really interesting premise for a story and rewove it into a UK-based tale. The narrative explores a family’s different responses to a fictional journalist who finds herself in the same position as Hitchens. I’d say she is different to Hitchens in many ways though.

CM: What themes does the play explore?
HD: The key theme is disconnection. I want to show the divide between people who ardently comment on issues and the issue’s naked reality. It can be dangerous when people take very strong and superficial positions on serious topics when they have a platform.

CM: Would you describe it as political?
HD: Although the subject matter of the play is extremely politically charged, it doesn’t take a fixed position on anything. It’s political in that it deals with a very sensitive and controversial topic. However, one of the key attributes of many of the characters is that they don’t particularly believe in anything. They’re in love with argument and making a case, rather than trying to push a certain point or political objective. Much of act one is taken up with debates on a range of issues from Putin to Ken Livingstone and the GLC. Both sides are always presented, and it’s made clear that they would happily argue the other side given with the opportunity.

CM: What would you say are the aims of the play?
HD: I’d like people to be entertained but also to think about the issues that are raised in the play. It’s divided into two quite different segments – act one/three and act two. I’d like the audience to recognise the flaws in the characters but also to understand how they developed. I certainly don’t want to change anybody’s mind about the invasion of Iraq!

CM: What inspired you to create a piece about this subject?
HD: Again, it was really that Hitchens story. I didn’t set out to write a war play and only began reading a lot about the invasion after I decided to make the play, so it wasn’t initially shaped by the conflict itself. I was eight when we invaded Iraq. I remember it very well but it wasn’t exactly something I was able to understand or form a strong opinion on. I am, however, interested in how it has affected the present climate.

CM: What made you want to direct it yourself?
HD: I have always directed my own work but I think by 2021 I’ll be handing over some of these scripts to other directors. I get a lot from other people’s suggestions already in rehearsal, and I’d be excited to see someone bring a completely different vision to the table.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about your cast?
HD: I have a wonderful cast who have been a pleasure to work with. Paula Cassina plays Maria Bradley and Matt Weyland her husband Piers Bradley, who are mother and father to Mark Bradley, played by Georgie Farmer. He is the young soldier who is taken in by the writings of Eleanor Hickock, played by Ashleigh Cole.

Georgie started his career very young at Disney and I’m interested in his portrayal of Mark as a different kind of soldier, which will perhaps challenge some people’s standard perception of what it is to be in the army. Ashleigh’s is the only character who is seen across the three acts and she has done a remarkable job exploring some difficult scenes throughout the story.

Harry Farmer plays Georgie’s brother Billy. The two of them are brothers in real life which is exciting! They are also separated by around the same number of years as the characters in the play.

Lucia France, Arthur Velarde and Henry Eaton-Mercer play Eleanor’s friends and offer up all sorts of debate in act one. That act takes place in a run-down London pub, managed by Nelson Walsh – played by Greg Snowden – and the loud and sometimes obnoxious Liz, played by Ella May.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about you, too? Did you always want to write?
HD: I’ve always wanted to make productions and I’ve always written, directed and produced the shows. I really like that arc from being alone with the script to bringing on twenty plus people to make it happen. I’ve written about ten plays, made five of them, as well as a short film called ‘Industrious’, which was based on my stage play ‘The Gift’.

CM: What artistic aims do you have for the future?
HD: To make plays, put them in front of an audience and if they’re received favourably, adapt the plays for the screen. This will all be done through my company Admission Productions. I’m very inspired by what Tyler Perry is doing over in the states. He’s had such an extraordinarily successful career bringing characters from the stage to television and film. This is what I’m aiming at as I think it’s such an incredible journey.

CM: What hopes do you have for the play following this upcoming run at the Bridewell?
HD: Let’s see what people think! I’ve had a great time on this project. If we do twelve performances at the Bridewell and people enjoy the show, I’ll consider that a success. Anything further to that would be an amazing bonus.

CM: What’s coming up next for you after this?
HD: I’ve got two more plays called ‘Talent’ and ‘Joybringer’ ready to go. I’ll probably stage ‘Joybringer’ in 2020 and ‘Talent’ in 2021. I’m also about halfway through the screenplay for ‘For The Sake Of Argument’ and will make this across 2020 into 2021. My company is also accepting short film submissions so I’m going to direct a couple of projects that aren’t my own writing for the first time.

‘For The Sake Of Argument’ is on at the Bridewell Theatre from 28 Jan-8 Feb. See the venue website here for details.


Photo: Charles Flint