Serenade @ Antalya is the first production of newly launched 2Magpies Theatre. Impact spoke to co-founders and co-directors Matt Wilks and Tom Barnes, producer Nicola Fox as well as cast members Ginny Lee and James Pardon about the company and the site-responsive production which has already been coined; ‘The ultimate people watching experience….with some amazing Turkish food.’
Hi guys! Tell us about the formation of ‘2Magpies Theatre’?
MW: We co -directed at the Edinburgh Fringe, for Nottingham New Theatre, after knowing each other for a long time! 11 years! ( TB: Too long! ) We thought we worked well together at the Fringe and so 2Magpies happened quite naturally…
TB: We just loved it! We thought why can’t we just do this?! What if this was our job? And there are no jobs in theatre, nobody employs people to do this. What’s stopping us from doing it ourselves, backing ourselves and just going for it!
You’re both currently doing MA degrees, what’s the plan after graduation?
MW: The rest of this year, until the end of our Masters, is a sort of soft-launch of the company to get a pot of money together, to concrete some shows, get some funding, prep a website etc, whilst this isn’t our job…but come September that will all change!
MW/ TB: The project is currently self funded, but we don’t have any massive outgoings. Other than the legal fee for registering the company. The show budget is zero because its in a restaurant, its a good business model, we can’t really lose. There’s no risk that we won’t be able to feed ourselves if we’re not as successful as we hope. Next year will be a different matter though!
Site responsive theatre – what’s that all about?
TB: I think its interesting doing things in different places, from another perspective. We don’t have to hire a theatre. We don’t have a space that we can hire for free so how can we produce shows that will be financially profitable? Do them in places that already exist! We discovered the restaurant and thought about creating an experience rather than a show.
MW: And the point of it being site responsive rather than specific is that, yes, it’s set in Antalya, this amazing Turkish restaurant, but it doesn’t have to be set there, it could be set in any restaurant.
So if the site is transferable is this the same for the roles? Do you think that your devised roles would be transferable to other actors?
MW: We’re devising these shows in order to have a stock of shows that we can direct, but then sell the scripts and rights of. 2Magpies theatre then becomes a production company; two directors that own the rights to scripts. The beauty of having access to fantastic student actors is that it gives them the opportunity to do something outside the confines of student acting, however students have other commitments, years abroad for example, and so transferring roles may be necessary. It would drastically change the production, but it would be doable.
What can you tell us about future plans? Touring? Next project?
MW: Touring wise, if Serenade is successful, performing in different restaurants nationwide would definitely be on the cards. The concept is so strong and so financially beneficent to the restaurants that we can’t imagine many saying no! We could be doing Serenade once a week in four different cities! We’d hand out flyers to the restaurant in advance, they could publicise and sell tickets and then we’d turn up and perform the show.
TB: We could hit Sheffield, for example, and perform Serenade over dinner time and then people could come and watch another 2Magpies performance in the evening in a different location..we have ideas all the time, for different productions or we’re suddenly inspired by a location.
There’s clearly much excitement ahead! Let’s talk Serenade @ Antalya
Firstly, what would you say about the devising process? What advantages and challenges has it presented?
JP: It’s been.. a lot of fun. Something very different to what I’ve done before; a very interesting experience, challenging but in a very good way. As an actor, whether you want to do this professionally or for fun, it’s something you relish; you have to challenge yourself otherwise you go nowhere.
GL: It’s a scary concept. Someone says, ‘We’re going to put on a show that we haven’t got a script for.’ There’s a trust between us, and Matt and Tom. We know whatever we are doing, games, foundation skills – is adding to the end result because so much of what we do comes from the truth, funny stories for example.
JP: After the first week of rehearsals, there was a sense of what have we actually done, achieved? But it is based on us, there is a very personal connection with what we’re producing.
MW: They’re not playing characters, they’re playing versions of themselves. We tried to project into the future, we looked at that job application question, ‘Where do you see yourselves in 5 years time?’ and took that to the nth degree! We imagined what would happen if these two were a couple in five years time, how would things have changed. How would James get on with Ginny’s dad for example. (JP: Not very well was the conclusion….)
They’re using their own names in the show as well and you react to your own name in a certain way, you don’t get this with playing characters. There are lots of layers to it, it’s very natural.
Tell us about the first rehearsal!
MW: We got James to turn up at a restaurant in town, Nicola provided him with an envelope containing the address of a restaurant. We gave Ginny the same instructions, but to turn up later. So James was sat there for a while on his own…
I wanted it to be weird. I wanted them to analyse their own situation and think about the assumptions that other people were making about them! I was pleased with messing around with their minds!
JP: The couple next to me were looking at me questioningly, I didn’t have my phone, there’s only so many times you can read and re-read a menu and yes, I did smash a glass whilst waiting…!
Can I ask about casting? How did you choose actors if you didn’t know where you were heading?
MW: From watching shows at the Nottingham New Theatre and knowing these two as actors. There was no casting process, I sat down and said to myself that I wanted two actors who look like, you know, they could be a couple. They both very kindly said yes to go along with the concept, trusting in me, as at this point there was no title all we knew is it was in a restaurant. It was liberating in a way, but daunting at the same time. Its very difficult to audition for this sort of thing, I needed to know I could work with these these people and that they were capable of giving the performances required.
JP: Its nice to have the confidence and trust from Matt, Tom and Nicola but there’s pressure as well. Ginny and I have spoken about it, there’s pressure to deliver, we need to step up.
GL: Yes, there’s a mix of fear and excitement. I struggled with playing myself at the beginning, I’m used pulling myself away from myself, who I am, to play a character.
MW: And they’ve both got their parents, boyfriends and girlfriends coming to watch, and they feature, indirectly, in the performance too. Members of both their families are either mentioned by name or there are stories about them which appear in the course of the dialogue between the actors. For the show to work, everything has to be based on a significant element of truth. In fact, when we tried to add something in that wasn’t truthful it was so obvious, you might as well have had sirens going off!
JP: Our homework after most rehearsals was to remember any interesting stories we heard, even from friends, because we could then translate them to ourselves. There will be points when my parents realise that, actually, they’re in this!
MW: You tell an anecdote very differently to a group of people than you tell it when you’re on stage as a character. As an actor, it’s very difficult to make a story yours. Neither of them monologue, they’re in constant dialogue, they both have control of the conversation and can change it an any time, without warning the other!
TB: The same can be said for the chef, he has no idea how much power he holds over this performance!
MW: …they’re eating the very same meal as the audience. We’ve deliberately not controlled the kitchen, so the performance could reach a really emotional point and the the waiter could appear with a plate of food, which will have to be conventionally received with thanks, before the drama continues.
So there is no script whatsoever?
JP: No.We know we’re going from A to B to C to D but we don’t what know what could happen on that journey. So when we’re rehearsing we might do the same scenario two or three times, and then Ginny might say something that makes me laugh. When that happens, your instinctive reaction is to feel that you’re corpsing, but then you realise that its ok, because its natural and you would laugh in everyday life!
We know both nights are now sold out, congrats, but we’re still going to ask: Why should people come and see this play?
NF: It’s the the ultimate people watching experience! When you go to a restaurant, you’re constantly trying to overhear what other people are saying, to find out the relationships between them. Serenade is exactly this!
TB: …. With the addition of incredible Turkish food!
Are you aiming at a particular audience?
MW: Anyone who has ever been to dinner with a person of the opposite sex. Anyone who’s ever been in a relationship will recognise lots of this. It will encourage of self-reflection on the part of the audience.
GL: The audience are going along with us. They’ll be eating the same food, be served by the same people, same atmosphere, same room. They won’t just recognise the situation they’ll be experiencing it too! The ticket sales have been good, and not just within the uni….
MW: ….It was really important that we didn’t just sell to our friends and family. We deliberately chose the Easter holidays because many students go home and we’re still having to go to the restaurant to ask them if they can increase capacity!
Great! And finally, can you offer us any clues about what the plot might involve?
MW: A nice surprise gone horribly wrong. He’s taken her for dinner and misjudged the surprised. We’ve kept it general because we don’t want the audience to go in with preconceptions. We want people to look at Ginny and James and think, ‘What is the relationship between those two?’
Annelies Baneke and Lauren Wilson
Serenade @ Antalya has SOLD OUT completely for this run. For more information about the production go to: https://www.facebook.com/events/221390941338920/?fref=ts
For 2Magpies Theatre: http://www.2magpiestheatre.co.uk/