Producer and director Chris Durnall writes about the journey of the latest production from Company of Sirens by Lucy Gough. Here Durnall tells us about the creation of The Creature.
Last summer Company of Sirens presented The Wolf Tattoo by Lucy Gough, a powerful and vital new play dealing with the consequences of knife crime and the dangers of gang culture among young people. The play concerned groups of youths hunting in packs to survive, young people whose moral compass had either left them or had never been recognised.
What survived in this bleak scenario was love. Love for each other and the creation of their own set of values. They became feral yet by their own standards moral, and comparisons were made with some of the dystopian plays of Philip Ridley and Anthony Neilson.
This autumn we present what might be considered its follow up, The Creature. The play deals with the origins of youth offending and the crucial issue of knife crime in our communities. It explores the effects of family and upbringing and asks if a monster is either born or created. The play is loosely based on Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and concerns the relationship between a boy and his father. The boy has committed a terrible crime and has no remorse. His answer to the question Why? is, “Misery has made me a fiend”.
In January 2019 Company of Sirens visited prisons in South- and Mid-Wales working with inmates and inviting them to contribute creatively to the making of the play. We worked for a week at Parc Prison in Bridgend, and at the beginning of the week there was a natural resistance from prisoners to involvement and a sense of mistrust.
Why were we here? Were they being used only to be dropped like a hot potato at the end of the week?
This resistance slowly began to break down as we formed a rapport with them and when they began to trust our intention the floodgates opened and their opinions and creativity began to emerge. One telling response to script development was “tell me what I have to do and i’ll do it”. The shame we felt was that we couldn’t develop the interest we had started. With the play, however, the work has left a legacy.
Many expressed the opinion that they had been failed by the education system and pointed to school as the time they began to feel worthless. We also worked with Ceredigion Youth Justice Service who were generally younger offenders. Many seemed out of control and it was clear that parents and carers were often at the end of their tether. The play was written in the intervening period informed by this contact with young people. In casting the play we have looked for a combination of experience and actors new to the profession with a variety of backgrounds. The boy is represented by more than one performer showing multi facets of his personality. It is an extraordinary piece of writing that is at times vicious yet lyrical at the same time. It is also against the odds very funny.
It is an important play for our times that raises questions of nurture, parental responsibility and what it is that makes us human. The play features music from outsider musician and artist Daniel Johnston who was a great favorite of Curt Cobain of Nirvana and features an original soundscape created specially for the production.
The Creature by Lucy Gough, directed by Chris Durnall, is at Chapter Cardiff 1st – 10th October 2019 and Aberystwyth Arts Centre 16th October 2019