Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Jay Taylor: The Acedian Pirates

By | Published on Wednesday 26 October 2016


The latest play to go up at the brilliant Theatre503 is ‘The Acedian Pirates’, a piece exploring war and mythology which asks some pertinent questions about the causes and morality of armed conflict, and how we justify it.
It’s a debut play from Jay Taylor, who is currently better known for his acting work, on stage, TV, film and radio. I spoke to him, to find out more.

CM: Can you start by telling what happens in the play? Where does the narrative take us?
JT: The play is about conflict and mythology. It takes place during a fictional war that has been raging unresolved for many years. The narrative explores mythology, military propaganda, recruitment and the moral conundrum of intervening in another nation’s conflict.

CM: What’s the setting…? It seems like some kind of future dystopia? What made you choose this?
JT: The play is set in a lighthouse. I chose a lighthouse because of its transitory nature, the coming and going of people and vessels. Also, because I think lighthouses are very cool!

The dystopian setting gives the play a timeless and placeless feel; neither the future nor the past. This felt right for a play that is dealing with the cyclical nature of war.

I considered setting it in a very specific location, but I wanted the play to have broader relevance and not be tied to the politics of one particular country or conflict.

CM: What themes does the show explore? Is there a political element to what you want to say?
JT: I want the play to investigate mankind’s fascination and apparent dependence on conflict. It provokes questions about the moral conundrum of intervention and occupation, and if it is ever justified to intervene in another nation’s affairs. I want the play to explore the justification of atrocity in the name of ‘liberty’.

CM: How involved have you been with the production? Have you stepped back or are you a regular in the rehearsal room?
JT: I’ve been quite involved, but inevitably there comes that time when you have to relinquish control and leave the play in the hands of your director and cast.

I think it’s useful to have the writer around to offer suggestions about interpretation or context, but being an actor as well is difficult as you run the risk of becoming a control freak!

CM: Can you tell us a bit about the cast and creative team?
JT: Bobby Brook and Tara Finney (director and producer respectively) have been with the project for well over 18 months and they are partly the reason it’s happening at all.

Bobby and I knew that we spoke the same language creatively when she directed a short play of mine. She understands and appreciates the darker elements of my writing and she pushes them even further than I could have imagined.

But neither Bobby nor I knew much about actually getting a play put on, and the project really only started to materialise when the brilliant Tara Finney (of Tara Finney Productions) came on board. She has worked on some highly acclaimed shows and that experience was invaluable to us. She has been a wonderful driving force on the project and we couldn’t have done it without her.

The cast have been brilliantly inventive and receptive in the rehearsal room, and continue to teach me things about the characters that are extremely helpful and add an extra dimension to the play.

CM: This is your first play, isn’t it? What made you want to write something for the stage?
JT: This is indeed my first play. I wanted to write because I feel like I have something to say. But pretentious assertions aside, I just really enjoy it and it gives me a wonderful creative outlet when I’m not acting.

CM: Do you see yourself continuing to write, alongside your acting career?
JT: Absolutely. I’ll always do both and I enjoy both equally. The two jobs complement each other perfectly, and rather than one detracting from the other I think they inform and enhance one another. I think I have become an infinitely better actor since I started writing and acting has helped shape and define my style of writing.

CM: You’ve appeared on stage, TV, film and radio – do you find any one element more satisfying?
JT: Nothing will ever beat theatre. I love being on TV and film sets, watching all of the amazing work that goes into creating even the tiniest of moments, but I have never done any television or film work that is as fulfilling as a play.

CM: Is there anything else you’d like to do? Any unfulfilled ambitions…?
JT: I’d like to write or perform in a musical. I did Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins at drama school and loved every minute of it. Unfortunately I can’t read music, which presents something of a problem…

CM: What’s coming up next for you?
JT: In the inimitable words of the genius that is David Brent, “More of these…”

The Acedian Pirates is on at Theatre503 from 26 Oct-19 Nov. See the venue website here for more info.

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