Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Maya Lindh and Vala Fannell: The Wild At Heart

By | Published on Wednesday 18 November 2015


I feel pretty sure that most readers will recognise the greatness of US playwright Tennessee Williams, though they may not be aware of many of his short pieces, however well acquainted they might be with his major works.
I was therefore interested to hear about this triple bill of his plays, especially as the team behind it are going to do their darndest to transport you back to the American 1940s with music, cocktails and just the right sort of décor.
To find out more about the show, I put some questions to its creators, Maya Lindh and Vala Fannell.

CM: The show comprises three less well known one act plays by Tennessee Williams. Can you tell us a bit about each one?
ML+VF:’A Perfect Analysis Given By A Parrot’ is a delightful comedy following Flora and Bessie, members of the Women’s Auxiliary of the Jackson Haggerty Post of the Sons of Mars in Memphis, who are in St. Louis for the annual convention. But, in their search for “boys” and a “high old time,” they wind up separated from their party, drinking beer in a third rate bar.

‘Hello From Bertha’ is a drama which tells the story of a prostitute on the verge of being evicted from a low-class bordello. In a series of delusions, she revisits her past loves while being confronted to take a decision about her life. It is a vignette about human existence, and a very powerful yet subtle story.

‘A Portrait Of A Madonna’ tells the story of a woman losing her grip on reality. It features early versions of elements and themes that show up very prominently in his major full-length plays such as ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ and ‘Summer and Smoke’. It is a very powerful and beautiful story, combing vulnerability and depth with lightness and charm, Tennessee Williams at his very best.

CM: Are there any significant themes that connect all three pieces?
ML+VF:These plays all feature some of Williams’s trademark themes of desire, isolation, madness, sexuality, fading Southern belles and the ugly truths behind society’s façades, and they all contain a good amount of both light humour and heavy drama. But more importantly, they all give voice to a number of very fascinating female characters, and allow for time and insight into their lives and minds.

CM: Williams wrote a fair number of short plays – what made you choose this particular trio…?
ML+VF: With regard to the recent media coverage about the many layers of sexism in our industry, we thought it a fascinating and an inspiring challenge to stage these three plays – since they all contain complex, lead female roles – and explore the effect this might have on various elements of the process. These three plays all contain a lot of detail (especially considering how short they are) about the characters and their lives.

CM: Why Tennessee Williams? Are you fans of the playwright? What appeals to you about his work?
ML+VF: He has written tremendous pieces and great roles, especially for women, which all really capture the essence of human existence in a very uncensored manner. Even the smallest character or element in his work contains a huge amount of detail and depth. He was brilliant and prolific, breathing life and passion into so many memorable characters and stories that we can all relate to; his work is timeless, very raw and human. So yes, we are huge fans!

CM: Where does the title ‘The Wild At Heart’ come from?
ML+VF: When we had established what plays we were doing and why we were doing them, we thought of ways to capture it in a title. As we were working on it we remembered a quote by Tennessee, one of our absolute favourite quotes, which applies to most of his characters and the essence of many of his stories: “A prayer for the wild at heart, that are kept in cages”.

CM: It sounds as though you are going all out with all the jazzy 40s stuff – can you tell us what to expect from this night at the theatre (in addition to the actual performances!)?
ML+VF: We are staging this at the iconic HTH Arts Centre, which is a huge building with intact 1940s interiors in Crouch end. The whole venue will be dressed up to resemble New Orleans in the 1940s and there will be a bar both upstairs and downstairs with themed cocktails, and of course our live band playing throughout the evening and in between the plays. It is very much a southern US experience, allowing you to completely immerse yourself in the world of Tennessee.

CM: Tell us a bit about the companies behind this, Simple Life & StepByStep – how did the two come together and what do you aim to achieve?
ML+VF: Simple Life Productions and StepbyStep Productions are two companies made up of young theatre and film professionals, both with roots in Scandinavia, who have combined their skills and ambitions to create authentic theatre and film by asking bold questions about life, people and how the human being behaves and thinks. We want to bring unique, distinctive and powerful stories to global audiences and to give the young, gifted and destitute in this industry a chance to work within fair professional circumstances.

CM: What’s next?
ML+VF: We recently finished a successful run of a new Icelandic play called ‘Moments’ at the Drayton Arms Theatre, so we will be taking that production on tour around Iceland in early 2016. We are also working on some other exciting projects involving Scandinavian writing in the new year and in addition to that, we are looking into furthering the concept of ‘The Wild At Heart’, but it’s all still in very early stages.

‘The Wild At Heart’ is on at HTH Arts Centre from 21 Nov-4 Dec. See the venue website here to book your tickets.

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