Katie Mccullough Talks and Writes

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Over There April 9, 2009

Filed under: London,theatre,Theatre and writing — katiemccullough @ 12:52 pm

Again I can only apologise, I seem to be hop, skip and jumping months as they whizz by. I’ve been extremely busy with new projects popping up all over the place, lots of networking and an unhealthy bout of illness.

Tonight I went to go see the much anticipated, “Over There” at the Royal Court directed by none other than Ramin Gray and Mark Ravenhill and starring identical twins Luke and Harry Treadaway.

On a side note I had the very unexpected sensation of being the first in the auditorium to take my seat. Nothing to write home about but it was severely peaceful seeing as I was the only one in there. Sure I could heard the nasal buzzing upper classes scoffing at whatever and the hissing radio of the attendant imploring people to take their seats but for those short few seconds I was singular in my silence staring at what seemed to be a brightly lit stage full of random packaging detailing food stuffs. It got me thinking about the decisions an audience member already develops before the play has even begun. What ever form the set takes will inevitably tell us something, possibly hoodwink us but we cannot avoid everything having a meaning in the theatre. What could be deemed the smallest of decisions can alter, hinder and adapt a piece. From seating arrangements to the idea of already having the cast onstage as the audience enter. As a playwright you’ve crafted a world on the page and it’s the directors puppeteering to further that more on the stage.

Which then brings me onto another idea to ponder on which is stage directions. How much should a playwright stipulate? And to what purpose are they helpful? I hold my hands up and admit that I am forever leading my scene directions with emotions and stage matter which debatably should be explored by the actor and not dictated within the text. I for one never include exits, stage areas and entrances in their standard format because I find it alienates the reader; I want them to be completely submerged within the narrative and not disrupted by exit stage lefts and punched by dramatically blunt entrances. But that’s just me. Another possibility is that because I come from film and television training I ignore them which does make my theatre scripts cinematic but for those who have read both formats of my work will agree that I don’t hasten to overwrite directions. A friend recently read my latest piece of work and admired the idea that I always had my characters busy with stuff to do onstage; an idea that I try to incorporate into my scripts because I find it natural. Most of the times I find myself not noticing that I’ve put things in but upon re-reading my work find it reassuring that I can trust myself to litter them around and not make them too planted and obtrusive.

I’m at a point in my creative career where I’m forever questioning the idea of things having a set agenda and how I fit in. What pleases some people can irritate others and you as a writer have to know what makes people tick and adapt to their suitability. I’m in the process of looking at Literary Agents, on a very good friend’s advice, and the depth of research you have to put it before you’ve even considered printing work out to send is phenomenal. Some agents won’t touch you unless you’re published (taunting I know), others want to have phone contact then invite you to submit a selection of work and others welcome full manuscripts. Just looking at my directory gives me a headache and makes me consider sending a blanket covering letter just so I can get rejected and say, “at least I tried”. That of course would be foolish and unproductive. I’ve yet to write anything below my address on any letter I’ve attempted to send to an agent… I’ll keep you updated if I progress to at least the first introductory line.

Righto, so back to, “Over There”. I walked out of the theatre with an unsteady view of it. I didn’t instantly adore it yet I didn’t have a distaste for it. Because of all the hype surrounding the names attached to this piece I wanted to walk away with at least a soundbite I could jabber at myself. It’s simple, I think that’s why it’s thrown me. It’s stark with Luke and Harry Treadaway never leaving the stage for the duration of 1hr and 15mins. It’s a brightly lit stage with stilted dialogue that sometimes never finished fully… but it worked. Where I found the narrative a tad confusing the majority of it was crystal clear.

Karl and Franz are two identical twins that have grown up either side of the Berlin Wall divided to live with their separate parents. They feel each other’s thoughts, they finish each other’s sentences, essentially they are one person just a fraction of difference leading a life either side of the Wall that separates them. After the collapse of the Wall their worlds collide in all manner of the word. Karl becomes a permanent fixture in Franz’s life now that their moments aren’t snatched by permits and curfews. What once was illicit is now the norm and the excitement is slowly wearing one of them down. With drastic results things go from fun to fearsome.

Luke and Harry Treadaway are beguiling to watch, enchanting and extremely physically profound. They do spend a large chunk of the piece semi-clad and throughout the piece certain events happen that are humorous and bold but it never once breaks the spell. The humour lifts the characters higher, giving them further to fall and the intense performance that both the brothers give just underlines the hidden intimacy within the text. At first the dialogue comes across as awkwardly delivered, at times gibberish and often multi-layered (with the brothers riffing off each other’s thoughts and speech and gaining dizzying cuebite) but it doesn’t seem out of place within the world on the stage. They attack the piece with sincere ferocity which is a given because if treated any differently the piece would fall down, the forth wall collapsing painfully. Their advancing intensity as the piece progressed was too strong for some of the audience, I saw five people walk out (with one lady objecting to the last five minutes exclaiming as she stood up in full view, “this is preposterous”). I can’t give anything away as it is the last five crucial minutes from suffice to say that one of the brothers in question directed his last few moments at the disgruntled audience member and drew humour from such a poignant act.

It’s a whirlwind of an event, a strange one but full of interesting avenues that sometimes weren’t fully explored but alluded to. Face value would lead anyone to think that (in the words of the Lady Leaving) this is preposterous but if you can stomach to delve into the absurdity and just run with it you might just clap extra hard at the end.

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2 Responses to “Over There”

  1. James Flower Says:

    I saw Luke Treadaway in a Philip Ridley play called Piranha Heights last year, he was very very good. And he’s in Ridley’s new film.

  2. I really wanted to see Piranha Heights but I think it was around the time I was gearing up for Edinburgh, Soho Theatre wasn’t it? They were terrific in “Over There”, really honed in on the dual thought process. When’s Ridley’s new offering expected?


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