Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Sarah Berger: The HopeFull Rep Season

By | Published on Thursday 7 August 2014

Dirty Promises
King’s Head-affiliated new writing venue The Hope, which opened its doors in November last year, this month hosts the HopeFull Rep Season, a season of four new plays by different writers: ‘Madame Bovary’ by Rosanna Lowe, ‘Flood’ by DHW Mildon, ‘The Long Road South’ by Paul Minx and ‘Dirty Promises’ by Lilly Driscoll (pictured below).

The season has been produced by So And So Art Club, which brought together the four pieces via its rehearsed reading programme. I asked the company’s founder Sarah Berger about the upcoming events.

CM: Tell us about the HopeFull Rep Season. What’s happening, and how did it come about?
SB: The HopeFull rep season is a season of four new plays by four very different writers. The aim of the season was to give a voice to emerging writers of all ages and backgrounds. It is very hard for new talent to find a platform and we are proud that we can use the huge talent pool of our club to put together a classy company to give theses terrific new plays a proper production.

CM: The plays in the season are all by emerging writers. How did you go about finding them?
SB: Each of the plays was part of an ongoing rehearsed reading programme that the club presents once a month at Samuel French’s bookshop. The last Thursday of every month a group of actors and a director get together for two days to rehearse a brand new piece. These have included plays by the editor of the Village Voice in New York, first plays by young writers and new work by more established playwrights. We chose these particular plays because of the diversity of the casts and subject matters. We wanted to appeal to a broad audience showing that we could bring work of real excellence to the fringe.

CM: The season is produced by your company So And So Art Club. Can you tell us something about the company, what it does, its aims?
SB: The aim of the company is to help artists to help themselves. We felt that there was a real need for a supportive, proactive community run by artists where they could meet across work, help each other generate work and support and promote each other’s work. This club is unusual in that it has members from all across the performing arts, actors, agents, directors, producers, writers, filmmakers, casting directors. The support has been enormous and in under two years it has grown to a membership of 1200 with members in nine different countries. Is a tough and competitive business it really helps to feel that you are not alone. We have produced two festivals, eighteen paid rehearsed readings and four productions. Hopefull Rep is our most ambitious project to date and we are really proud to say that everyone involved is being paid.

CM: Can you tell us something about the new studio space at The Hope?
SB: The new studio space at the Hope Theatre is intended to help nurture new work. Their ethos is that everyone who performs there must be paid and that is something we at So and So wholeheartedly concur with.

CM: Everyone has heard of Madame Bovary, of course, but can you tell us something about Rosanna Lowe’s adaptation of the book?
SB: Rosanna Lowe’s adaptation of the Madame Bovary is a witty, inventive and wildly entertaining take on the book which brings it all vividly to life . Holly Maples and her company led by Sarah Lawrie use the bare stage and a handful of props to recreate all of the characters and each of the actors plays at least four parts. I laughed out loads and wept at the end and it has made me want to go and reread the book.

CM: ‘Flood’ by DHW Mildon is about love and old age. What other themes does it address?
SB: The Flood is a delicate examination of love and loss. Not just the story of dealing with the ravages of age as Grace is slowly losing her battle with dementia, but also her husband Arthur is faced for the second time in his life with losing someone he loves. We flip between the present in a flooded London and the second world war where Arthur was a P.O.W building the Burmese railway. He faces two very difficult choices.

CM: ‘The Long Road South’ by Paul Minx is set in 60s Indiana against the backdrop of the civil rights movement. What is the central narrative of the show?
SB: The central narrative of the show written by the American Paul Minx is the turning point in one family’s life, when the realities of the civil rights movement finally knock on their door. A dysfunctional family sends that their world is about to change for ever as their two servants Andre and Grace leave to join Martin Luther King on the long march south.

CM: ‘Dirty Promises’ is a love story, but it sounds a bit different… can you tell us what it’s about?
SB: Dirty Promises is the first play of a young Londoner Lilly Driscoll. It is about the growing culture of sexual and physical abuse in our young people, and through the eyes of three young people takes a look at the dangerous interdependence in abusive relationships with an extraordinary mixture of poetry and naturalistic scenes.

CM: What’s next for you? Are there plans for more such seasons?
SB: This is the first rep season we have produced and I am already planning a festival themed around the idea of Alienation called “Alien” which will be held at 93 feet east in Brick Lane in November. This will be an international festival and we have people from Australia, America, Canada, Italy and Germany coming to take part. If HopeFull is a big a success as I think it will be then we will make this an annual event. We are passionate to show people that new work in the unsubsidised theatres across the country is exciting, professional and flourishing.

The HopeFull Rep season is on at The Hope Theatre, Islington, until 30 Aug. See this page here for more info on the shows and on which dates they can be seen, and also to book tickets.

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