This week, Impact Arts speaks to Gus Herbert, director of the New Theatre’s latest in-house production: Orphans by Dennis Kelly.
Tell us a bit about Orphans – what is the plot?
Helen and her husband Danny are having a quiet night in, celebrating the news that Helen is newly pregnant with their second child, but are interrupted by Helen’s brother Liam, who arrives covered in blood claiming to have found a young man who has been stabbed on the street. However suspicions are aroused when Liam’s account of the event begins to change under questioning, followed by increasing concern that he may have been more involved than first thought. The play follows the three of them as they try to keep themselves out of trouble and maintain their rocky relationship with one another.
What was it about the play that appealed to you and made you want to direct it?
What I immediately loved about this play was the way it is written. The way Dennis Kelly writes naturalistic dialogue is the type of writing that always draws my attention because it is so exciting to work on and is a great challenge for actors. There are three fantastic characters in an incredibly tense situation and the themes that the play brings to light are very unnerving.
The play brings to light important questions about violence, race, family loyalty and the capabilities of mankind. Has it been challenging to deal with such emotionally charged themes?
It certainly has been challenging but we have all relished in it and it has been a real joy to see my actors cope with the extreme themes and emotions. They have taken on all the ideas I presented and we did plenty of exercises to try to keep them in the moment, which will hopefully help them access these extreme emotions during performances.
How does your interpretation portray those themes to a largely student based audience?
We have made the set small and intimate and have kept the action fairly static so that the audience focuses primarily on the actors. What was very important to us was to focus on the humanity of the characters and how whatever they do is always for someone. They aren’t selfish people. The decision making of all the characters is what we want the audience to think about and how important, or unimportant, you view family to be.
How would you summarise your production of Orphans in three words?
Unsettling, charged and dynamic.
‘Orphans’ runs from Wednesday 25th – Saturday 28th February, with performances at 7:30pm each night and a 2:30pm matinee on the Saturday. For more information see here