The first question to the cast was mine; what was it like to have a male director? This is the second production I’ve seen that has been directed by a man, did the cast feel this made any difference to the productions in comparison to if it was directed by a woman. The entire cast have worked with Gari Jones before, not only is he a friend, he is one of the girls. Maybe he was under more pressure, as a man, to produce something that women could relate to and enjoy which is what makes the production so successful. That can also be put down to the collaborative process, each of the actors got involved in decision making, resulting in this modern take on a classic.
The next question was in regards to the first act, how difficult was it to stage and practically do. There is no naturalist context to the meal and was not written in a naturalist way. The script is full of overlays which were certainly a challenge as the actors were all far too polite to speak and shout over one another. Each character is important and they know they are which is why they want to be heard, because they think their story is better than everyone else’s, more heroic and more tragic. This had to be clear to the audience even if they couldn’t follow the individual stories, they could understand the purpose of the act.
The drama is defined as absurdist, but what makes it absurdist? It is the extreme behaviour of the characters, historical characters from different time periods in the same room at the same time. Shuna Snow notes that Marlene is trying to celebrate her promotion and in walks, in her words, ‘a bloody great pope.’ She’s written the first act in an absurdist pen, with the overlapping and the play is back to front. But the fact that the characters speak over one another is actually naturalist, we do that in real life. It is the characters that made it absurd.
The question and answer session began quite formally, but because there was so few of us, it became more of a debate; the audience gave opinions and answered questions with the actors. All of the actors, except for Marlene played by Gina Isaac, had more than one role. The next question asked if the actors made a link between their characters in the first act, to their characters in the second act. The links were discovered in rehearsals, the playwright Churchill placed these links in the script and by using the same casting structure as the original play, the Mercury cast discovered these links. For example, Clare Humphrey plays both Dull Gret and Angie, both are not naturally intelligent but they are observant of what is happening around them. But there is also an irony in the pairing, Kristin Hutchinson plays the adventurer Isabella Bird and the stay at home that’s never left her county, Joyce. There were some questions left unanswered, it was a shame the director wasn’t present but insightful nonetheless.