Nottingham New Theatre Interview – ‘Doubt’

In the first of a series of interviews with the cast and production teams of Nottingham New Theatre’s 2014 Autumn Season, Impact Arts talks to Jake Leonard and Harriet Lowe, director and producer of this week’s show, ‘Doubt by John Patrick Shanley.

Firstly, what is ‘Doubt’ about?

Jake: The play is set in a Catholic school run by Sister Aloysius in New York, 1964. Aloysius believes that Father Flynn, a priest she works with, is abusing the first negro student to go to the school. She doesn’t have any evidence, but she decides she should investigate it.

So what is it about ‘Doubt’ that works for student theatre in particular?

Jake: it’s interesting because it’s not something that’s particularly usual in student theatre. It’s a very rich script, it’s got very rich characters, and it allows people to think for themselves and engage with it critically.

Harriet: What we liked is the ambiguity of the script; the fact that when you go away there is no clear conclusion. Within a lot of student theatre your decisions are made for you, so it’s really nice to have the freedom to go away and think about what you feel and how the play relates to your own beliefs. That’s something really unique to student theatre.

That notion of ambiguity seems to be really key, and  a theme embodied by the character Father Flynn. How did you go about approaching such a complex character?

Jake: We decided we wanted to keep whether or not he is guilty a secret from the rest of the cast. I wanted to put the cast in the same position as the audience, so myself and Dan (who plays Father Flynn) basically sat down and worked out how we wanted to play it. Nobody knows apart from myself, Harriet and Dan.

Quite a lot of people will be familiar with the film version of ‘Doubt’, how have you gone about handling this? Have you drawn upon it at all during the rehearsal process, or treated the two mediums as entirely separate entities?

Harriet: The latter. There are elements of the film we appreciate, but we didn’t want the cast to draw on any of the characters at all. I feel like the film undermines the uncertainty of the play that we really want to focus on, because it makes assumptions about Father Flynn that we really want to steer away from.

Jake: [The film] loses the pace and the ambiguity that is central to the play. It’s a decent film, but it’s not what we wanted to do with the story and it’s not how we responded to the story.

And finally, if you could sum up ‘Doubt’ in three words?

Ambiguous, stimulating, and moving.

Charlotte Van Rhee

‘Doubt’ runs from Wednesday 12th-Saturday 15th November at 7:30pm at the Nottingham New Theatre, with a 2:30pm matinee on the Saturday. For more information, see here.

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