Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Trevor White: Thebes Land

By | Published on Thursday 14 September 2017

You might already have seen ‘Thebes Land’, during it’s hugely acclaimed run at Arcola back in 2016, but I’m willing to bet that if you saw it then, you’d be up for seeing it again. Those of you who haven’t seen it have something amazing to look forward to, now that’s it’s back as part of the CASA Latin American Theatre Festival.
To find out a bit more about the play, and the creative forces involved with it, I spoke to one of the show’s two stars, actor Trevor White.

CM: Can you begin by telling us about the premise of the show? What’s the story, and how is it presented?
TW: A huge part of the fun of this extraordinary play is not giving too much away. At its heart, this is a story about storytelling, but if I had to sum it up in once sentence, ‘Thebes Land’ is an impossible love story about a real-life patricide. Did that get your attention?

CM: The press release talks about multiple realities, meta theatre, the mixing of fact and fiction… can you explain a bit about how all that works…?
TW: It’s as if Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Anomalisa) took the story of a young man who had killed his father, and then set that story in front a live audience. To explain ‘Thebes Land’ does it no justice – you genuinely have to experience it!

CM: What wider themes does the show explore? How obvious is the link between the play and the story of Oedipus?
TW: The show explores many things, from the telling of myths and stories, to the relationships of fathers and sons. Oedipus (and his famous story), certainly feature throughout, but it is the unfolding dynamic of the relationships on stage that is really the central focus of the play, and that’s the ride we want to take the audience on every night.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about the playwright?
TW: Sergio Blanco is a prolific Uruguayan playwright that currently resides in Paris, and his plays, including ‘Thebes Land’, have been performed all over the world. In fact, ‘Thebes Land’ is still running in his native Uruguay, some four years after originally opening!

CM: Who do you play? What attracted you to this role?
TW: I play “T”, the creator of the piece, and the ringmaster of the proceedings. From the first moment I read ‘Thebes Land’ I fell in love with the play. It’s very rare to come across writing as good as this, and when you do, it’s not a question of whether you’re going to do it or not, but how.

CM: It sounds like the set design is quite interesting – can you tell us what to expect?
TW: Again, I don’t want to give too much away, but there is most certainly a cage, for reasons that will become very obvious moments after the play begins. Security cameras and screens also surround the space. The Arcola is perfect for ‘Thebes Land’, as the audience surrounds the cage on three sides, and are only a matter of feet from the action.

CM: The show previously ran at Arcola in late 2016, of course, to much acclaim. Will the show have changed in any way for this return?
TW: One of the joys of returning to a brilliant piece of writing, is that there is always so much more to discover. Plus, having had time away from something inevitably offers a new perspective. Myself, Daniel, our director, and Alex, my fellow actor, have brought countless new ideas and thoughts to this revival, but we won’t really know what we’ve got on our hands until we put it back in front of an audience again. And that is both scary and exciting, as it should be.

CM: What’s next for you, after this?
TW: A child! I know that’s not really what you’re asking, but that is very much the next thing that will be taking over my life, a month or so after Thebes Land closes. (We don’t know if it’s a girl or a boy, but you can be certain that if it’s the latter, we won’t be calling it Oedipus).

‘Thebes Land’ is on at Arcola Theatre until 7 Oct, see this page here for info and to book.


Photo: Alex Brenner