Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Steve Lambert: The Flood

By | Published on Wednesday 25 November 2015


Production company Badac are renowned for tackling thorny, angry topics, focusing on human rights issues, and endeavouring to communicate with their audiences through intense theatrical experiences.
In December, they bring ‘The Flood’, their critically acclaimed piece set in WW1, for a short run at the Drayton Arms Theatre. I spoke to writer, performer, and Badac founder, Steve Lambert.

CM: Tell us about The Flood. What happens in it? Where and when is it set?
SL: ‘The Flood’ is set on the battlefields of The Somme. It’s a love story that focuses on the relationship between a soldier and a nurse. It attempts to recreate the horror of the conflict, whilst at the same time following the increasingly passionate love affair that is developing between the characters. We see the nurse become increasingly desperate in her attempts to protect the soldier from both his unfolding insanity, bought on by the repeated battles he endures, and his probable death, whilst at the same time trying to keep a grip on her own sanity. Through a series of dreams we understand her fears and her despair as the inevitable conclusion approaches. It is fairly intense, the audience stand for the duration, are spoken to directly by the actors, and the show includes the use of raw meat to represent the dying and injured soldiers.

CM: What themes does the play explore? Are there specific issues you want to shine a light on?
SL: The play does explore the horror of the soldiers’ experience in the trenches, but its real focus is the story of the nurse. The idea was to look at what effect war had/has on women. How they suffer both during the conflicts and also after, how they cope, what mechanisms they use to comfort themselves and their partners.

In some ways it is based around the experiences of my great aunt, who lost her fiancé in the war, aged 19, but who lived herself until her late 80s. She never married, and when my mum asked her why, she said “I should have got married really, but I never met anyone who I loved as much as him”. That really struck a chord with me. Seemed incredibly sad. Made me think that there must have been thousand upon thousand of similar stories during WW1, but that I hadn’t seen them represented within theatre productions. Just thought there was a story to be told.

CM: Does the show have political points to make? Do you think it’s possible for theatre to enlighten, or change people’s views?
SL: The main political theme of the play is totally anti-war. It highlights that those who suffer in war are those who actually fight, as well as their families, and not those who cause, direct or order them. It focuses on the pain and despair suffered by the ‘ordinary’ people caught up in the chaos.

CM: Why did you decide to write a play about this particular period in time? What kind of research did you do to inform your writing?
SL: I wrote the piece in 2014 to mark the anniversary of the beginning of WW1. It seemed a good time to highlight the suffering endured during that conflict, along with showing that the despair caused by war is actually timeless, especially from the point of view of those left behind. I researched the war very intensively and thoroughly. There is so much material on WW1 that it was very difficult initially to know where to look – it took ages! I read loads and watched lots of documentaries and films. However, the main sources for the play are ‘Testament of Youth’ by Vera Brittain and ‘Harry’s War’ by Harry Drinkwater. Both fantastic books that give a real insight into what life was like for those involved in the war and I can’t recommend them highly enough to anyone even remotely interested.

CM: Do you think the events of a century ago are still relevant, or easy to relate to, for modern audiences?
SL: I do think that historical events can be incredibly relevant for modern audiences. From studying history we can identify past mistakes that are maybe being made again. Certainly when we look at the rush to war that happened a century ago, it could be argued that we are still doing exactly that now. The effects of war, death, loss, pain, despair, waste and catastrophe are universal and timeless. Also, I think that audiences do relate to WW1 because it has been seared, quite rightly, into the memories of successive generations. The numbers of dead and injured, the causes of death and the unspeakable daily horror of the war changed our society forever, and as such have never been forgotten.

CM: Tell us more about Badac. How did the company come together, and what are your aims and ideals?
SL: Badac was formed out of two actors having an interest in human rights issues and believing that those issues could be communicated through theatre. All the work, up till this point, is new writing, is developed using the ideas of Grotowski and Artaud and aims to give audience members an insight, through an intense experience, into the subject matter being explored. So far the company has produced work that has focused on the Holocaust, religious persecution, domestic violence, freedom of expression, teenage prostitution and the torture of artists.

CM: You’ve been around since 1999 – have there been any particularly memorable productions or moments in that time?
SL: Memorable moments? Broken ribs. Torn ligaments. Broken foot. Audience fainting. Audience leaving. Fighting with journalists. Fighting with each other. Penises trapped in zips. Arrests. Car catching fire. Held by border control. Numerous evictions from bars. Locked into the Auschwitz Birkenau concentration camp. Meeting a Chechen warlord. I could go on….

BUT there was also the memorable day we saw our five star review in The Scotsman, the day we won a Stage Award, the times I’ve met some wonderful people, some of whom have contributed to our shows and become part of the Badac team and lifelong friends, others who have opened up about their experiences and inspired our work. And there have been some very memorable times discussing a show, informally in a bar, with audience members sharing their views on what they’ve just seen.

CM: What’s next for you, and for Badac?
SL: Next up for the company is something we’ve never done before, our first foray into producing a scripted play by someone else, someone that isn’t me! A project about the use of solitary confinement that we shall be working on in 2016.

‘The Flood’ is on at The Drayton Arms Theatre in SW5 from 2-5 Dec. For more information, and to book tickets, see this page on the venue website here.

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